The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War- Part II Review and Reflection, Behind the Iron Curtain, Returning to Yamantau and The Cicada’s Memories

“You knew Manual 34 was from Hinamizawa and didn’t tell us! What else are you hiding? Maybe I can knock the truth out of you!” –Frank Woods

Information from Volkov confirms that Perseus had been smuggling nuclear weapons as a part of an enigmatic Operation Greenlight. This leads Adler and his team to a Spetsnaz training facility in deep in the forests of the Ukraine’s Zakarpattia Oblast. Bell and Woods fight through the facility, discovering a mockup of the average American town’s main street and finding themselves amidst a live-fire drill. After reaching a control centre, Bell gains access into the computer systems and acquires a printout of Operation Greenlight, which had been a top-secret contingency President Eisenhower had approved in 1958. In the event of a Soviet invasion, Eisenhower ordered nuclear bombs placed in major European cities and would detonate them to cripple the Soviet advance as a last-ditch effort to stop them. By 1974, the nuclear bombs were exchanged for neutron bombs, which had a lower blast yield but emitted up to ten times the neutrons compared to a standard fission weapon, reducing their impact on infrastructure. Upon learning that Perseus has infiltrated the programme and Hudson had known about it, Woods confronts Hudson back in their West Berlin safehouse. However, with the threat that Perseus poses, there isn’t a moment for the team to bicker amongst themselves; Perseus is seeking information from Nikita Dragovich’s old facility at Mount Yamantau. Despite infiltrating the base and extracting the entire mainframe computer, it turns out that Perseus had wiped the mainframe’s memory banks clean of anything. With no other options left on the table, Adler enlists help from double agent Dimitri Belikov and prepares for an operation cladestinely enter the Lubyanka Building and retrieve the prize: a list of sleeper agents Perseus is interested in. I’m now roughly halfway through Cold War, and with more of the narrative unveiled, it becomes clear that Cold War is falling back the a familiar threat of nuclear weapons being used against their originators. However, unlike most stories, the stakes in Cold War are much higher owing to the single fact that instead of losing a single nuclear device or several, the whole of Europe could potentially be lost. This underlies the team’s determination to thwart Perseus before he has the chance to erase millions of lives.

The nature of Operation Greenlight is strictly fictional: while NATO had been concerned about a possible Soviet invasion of Western Europe, and the Soviets did indeed create a simulation of what such an invasion would look like with something called Seven Days to the River Rhine, there is no evidence to suggest the United States ever would’ve considered placing nuclear weapons in European cities as a contingency precisely because the risk of such weapons being discovered, or even stolen, would’ve created a political nightmare for NATO. However, the audacity of plans during the Cold War have always appeared to come out of works of fiction, and while Operation Greenlight might not have  ever existed, it is named after the Green Light Teams, special forces which were trained in a top-secret programme to deploy low-yield tactical nuclear weapons behind enemy lines should the need arise. Cold War‘s missions at the halfway point therefore become some of the most enjoyable levels to play through. These vividly-designed maps striking a balance between gameplay and storytelling, creating a highly immersive experiences. Of note was the return to Mount Yamantau: Hudson originally visited in 1968 to locate NOVA 6, and fifteen years later, the facility largely remains intact. With Mason returning to the site along with Woods to secure the mainframe, Yamantau is presented in all of its glory, with the latest visual effects and textures of a game was made ten years since its predecessor. Despite the decade and a half that has passed, Mason still retains lingering memories of his past mission, especially after opening a weapons cache and spots a photograph of German scientist Friedrich Steiner. Ancient conspiracies are very much a part of Cold War, and this clever callback to the original Black Ops brought back a thought I had: when I first played through Black Ops in 2015, I was captivated by the setting and storyline, which I felt to hold an inexplicable connection with Higurashi: When They Cry. Both series, after all, shared in common the idea of evil rising where it was once buried. Much as how Black Ops created an unsettling portrayal of hidden plots in the Cold War, Higurashi‘s 2006-2007 anime series proved to be a compelling, gripping tale of a group of students in Hinamizawa racing to sort out their home village’s darkest secret. Both Black Ops and Higurashi ended decisively, but would return in a big way in 2020, with Cold War and GOU both picking up where their predecessors had left off. Both works began slowly, but over time, would come to act as a meaningful entry in their respective series by simultaneously exploring new directions with a renewed vision while at the same time, remaining respectful of the original’s aesthetics and themes.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The massive Spetsnaz facility is reminiscent of the sort of thing that one might see from Wolfenstein: Bell and Woods are tasked with infiltrating the structure and seeing what’s inside a building that is reluctant to give up its mysteries from reconnaissance photographs alone. Over the radio, Park suggests that Bell and Woods be efficient with their time, leading Woods to jokingly remark that he was hoping to perhaps sightsee a little and check out the gulag. While Cold War might be all business, it’s got its moments of humour, too, and this works in the game’s favour.

  • After clearing out guards at the entrance with the suppressed Norinco Type 63, a battle rifle with solid accuracy and stopping power, I enter the facility’s grounds under the light of a full moon. I imagine that most operations of this nature would be timed with a moonless night where possible to increase stealth, but given the fact that stopping Perseus is time-sensitive, Bell and his team don’t have this luxury. Sneaking around the guards to reach the entrance is preferred: one could just use the suppressed Type 63 and kill every guard in sight, but the door’s lock then subsequently becomes harder to pick.

  • Seeing small details like reflections in the puddles on the road act as a reminder to why Cold War is DirectX 12 only: advances in graphics technology means that contemporary games are almost photorealistic, and even at lower settings, still look phenomenal. Because I ended up going stealth-only and took out three guards during my run, I had an easier time getting to the door leading into the training facility proper. Regardless of one’s stealth, Bell will be ambushed at the door, but Woods will show up and save him in the nick of time.

  • The gargantuan proportions of the training facility become apparent once Bell and Woods are inside: gigantic steel trusses and girders keep the building up: the building’s design suggests a cavernous interior. A handful of guards will be found patrolling a corridor, and once Woods is in position, Bell is free to engage them. The Type 63 is a great choice here, as well-placed headshots will neutralise the entire group without risking a protracted firefight. Weapons in Cold War sound and feel great, with headshots from the Type 63 feeling immensely satisfying.

  • I’d also swapped out the suppressed M1911 for a Krig 6 assault rifle, which is modelled on the Ak 5, a Swedish assault rifle based on the FN FNC that entered service in 1986. As an assault rifle, the Krig 6 is a solid all-purpose weapon with moderate damage, accuracy, firing rate and reload speed. Here, Bell and Woods cut through a 1980s arcade blaring Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Woods takes down a mannequin, and in embarrassment, warns Bell never to mention it to anyone else. The arcade games can actually be played, and while on my current run, the mission was the only thing on my mind, it would be worthwhile to come back in the future and try everything out.

  • It turns out the massive structure was built to house a course modelled on an American town, indicating that the Soviets had at least some plans to invade the United States in Cold War‘s timeline, if they were willing to invest this heavily to recreate an environment they’d expected their special forces to fight in. However, as Wood remarks, the Soviet special forces are no match for the two operators: I used the Type 63 to pick off distant foes and mopped up the remainder with the Krig 6. The heavy, powerful weapon sounds in Cold War makes each gun feel lethal, and psychologically led me to fire in controlled bursts. This in turn made my experience feel all the more authentic.

  • Here, I pass by yet another Burger Town: it would seem that Burger Town is a recurring brand in Call of Duty, and while I’d been playing Call of Duty for almost a decade, it was only really with Modern Warfare 2: Remastered that I began noticing this fictional fast food joint. Entering the Burger Town here, I notice a menu not unlike that of A & W’s or McDonald’s: both places similarly serve a variety of burgers and even breakfast items. Earlier today, to mix things up, I ended up throwing together a Buffalo chicken-and-cheese sandwich with Frank’s Red Hot for lunch: the last time I had one of these was back in January, when Yuru Camp△ 2 was airing, and under different circumstances, I was really able to savour the sandwich, which was as every bit as delicious as I remember.

  • Back in Cold War, there’s not time to really look around, since the Spetsnaz forces will be keen to wipe Bell and Woods off the face of the planet. After dropping some soldiers on a railing leading to the command room, I picked up the M82, a .50-calibre anti-materiel rifle that deals an incredible amount of damage in exchange for a slow aiming down sight time and heavy recoil. This weapon can down ordinary foes with a single shot anywhere to the body, and for the fight against a heavy trooper, proves invaluable: the .50-calibre ammunition will knock off the trooper’s helmet in as few as two shots, allowing one to be downed very quickly without an inordinate ammunition expenditure.

  • After taking an elevator up to the command room, Woods will begin exploring the room while Bell works off a terminal. There’s a trove of information here: while the goal is to quickly get a printout of the Operation Greenlight files, there’s actually no rush to do so. Security won’t be tripped until one gets the files, and exploring the different files on the computer is a fantastic way of learning a little more about the state of the world in Cold War. When the Operation Greenlight files are retrieved, Woods is angered to learn that Hudson was involved with the project, but with the entire base alerted to their presence, it’s time to beat a hasty exit.

  • While powerful, the M82 won’t be enough to stop the armoured vehicles from firing on Bell and Woods, so the only real option is to sprint through the next segments of the game, ducking and weaving to elude heavy fire. The M82 stops being useful in these hectic quarters, and I would switch back over to the Krig 6 for its usefulness in closer ranges. Some of the Krig 6 rifles are equipped with a forty-round magazine and a red dot sight, while others have a standard thirty-round magazine and an ACOG sight. Which one players go with is strictly a matter of preference, and I stuck with the 40-round variant simply to have more versatility at close ranges.

  • Woods and Bell end up reaching a garage guarded by a pair of heavy troopers. The logic of keeping the M82 handy becomes apparent here, although folks who’ve dropped the M82 can pick up the CIGMA 2, a modified FIM-43 Redeye MANPAD that can lock onto enemy vehicles or fire unguided projectiles. The presence of the CIGMA 2 makes it considerably easier to deal with these behemoths, who can absorb magazine upon magazine of heavy fire and still remain standing. These heavy troopers are usually armed with an LMG of sorts and can lock players down.

  • Purely for my own amusement, I ended up switching off the Krig 6 back over to the M16: while it does seem outwardly strange to have American weapons readily available here at the Spetsnaz training facility, it makes sense in retrospect to have American weapons around so the Spetsnaz know what weapons their adversaries are using handle like. Since their cover’s blown and the entire facility is on them, the time for stealth has passed, and there’s nothing left to do except clear the area and then steal an APC.

  • I imagine that the CIGMA 2 was chosen purely for aesthetics: Cold War‘s weapons aren’t always true to their real life counterparts in terms of performance or when they should appear. The FIM-43 Redeye forms the basis for the FIM-92 Stinger, and in most games, Call of Duty titles being no exception, this has been a strict anti-air weapon that requires a lock on before it can be used. I imagine that Cold War simply needed an anti-vehicle solution, and the writers decided that since the Redeye pre-dates the Stinger, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to allow it to fulfil both an anti-ground and anti-air role.

  • I’m not too sure what model and make the APC is, nor what the machine gun I’m using is called, but what I do know is that having unlimited ammunition makes it easier to provide cover for Woods while he starts the APC. Once Woods gets the APC going, players return to the mock-up of an American town and will have a chance to destroy the APCs that were firing on them and Woods earlier: the fact that the mounted machine gun can deal appreciable damage to the other APCs suggest to me that it’s at least a heavy machine gun, probably the NSV, which fires 12.7 mm rounds.

  • With Woods at the wheel, all Bell needs to do is hold down the trigger and shoot at whatever stands between them and an escape. This chase segment was entertaining, although one can imagine that, with the ruckus caused and whatnot, Perseus would likely be made aware that someone is onto them and make the appropriate arrangements subsequently. Here, Woods and Bell tears through a segment of the map with neon lights, creating a visually-pleasing effect as the two escape the facility back into the cold winter night.

  • With Perseus known to have an interest in Operation Greenlight, Mason and Woods head back to Yamantau. This mission puts players in Mason’s shoes, and he starts with the LW3 Tundra with a suppressor, as well as a suppressed Diamatti pistol. The Cold War revisit lacks the same emotional tenour as the original Yamantau mission from Black Ops, during which players get to play the mission from the perspective of an SR-71 pilot and camera operator, as well as Jason Hudson himself, and instead, does outwardly seem a ways more modest in terms of design.

  • However, this is not the case, and the Yamantau mission, Echoes of a Cold War, proved to be remarkably fun in its own right. Cold War has particularly nailed the way sniper rifles handle in the campaign: the LW3 Tundra (L96A1) is a solid bolt-action rifle that has a lower ADS time and firing rate compared to the Pellington. While being slower, the LW3 deals more damage, and so, the weapon is better suited for scenarios where one can be assured time to pick their shots. This primarily applies in the multiplayer. In the campaign, the Pellington and LW3 will both get the job done.

  • Returning to Yamantau brings back memories of Black Ops, which in turn reminds me a great deal of Higurashi: When They Cry. I picked up Higurashi: When They Cry durnig 2014 at the request of a friend and found the series an excellent one on account of its transition from supernatural murder mystery to a Cold War sci-fi thriller. The nature of Hinamizawa Syndrome was not so different than Nova 6, and immediately, I felt that Black Ops was what Higurashi would be if guns were allowed. Speaking with Dewbond on the matter during a collaborative post, I was finally able to put into words what had eluded me seven years earlier.

  • Higurashi strove to convey that even in the face of an unyielding foe, violence is not the answer. Higurashi KAI made this explicitly clear: when Keiichi took a route of negotiation and indirect action, reaching out to people and winning hearts and minds, he was able to save Satoko more decisively and gave Rika hope that breaking the cursed fate was possible. Higurashi could’ve ended with KAI, much as how Black Ops could’ve ended once Mason stopped the numbers broadcast, but reality is hardly so kind. Cold War reminds players that of this fact by sending Mason back to Yamantau, and GOU indicates that happy endings don’t necessarily leave everyone happy.

  • While GOU appeared to struggle in the beginning, once Satoko is introduced to the deity known only as Eua, and she accepts a deal with the devil, the series hits critical mass and raises all sorts of questions. Dewbond has made it clear that the supernatural aspect of Higurashi always remained the more intriguing of the two (over the Cold War aspects that I’m more familiar with), and given Eua’s enigmatic presence and goals, coupled with her claims that she serves even greater powers, I would tend to agree. When problems are scaled up so that guns and special tactics can no longer deal with them, a series is invariably going to suggest that force isn’t the answer.

  • Of course, had Higurashi purely been about Tokyo, the Yamainu and Banken, I would be completely in my element, and the solution would simply to send a wet team in to bump off Miyo’s superiors and secure whatever assets might be at the Irie clinic before extracting Miyo herself for questioning. This would be too easy, and with SOTSU inbound, I’m curious to see what the writers have in store for us. I’ll write more extensively about GOU in the near future. Here, Mason and Woods passes through the old command post: despite being damaged by the avalanche that had occurred fifteen years earlier, the facility still appears to be in use.

  • The collapsed catwalk remains intact following the avalanche of fifteen years ago, and while Mason is able to make it over with a jump, its rickety construction does not inspire much confidence, leading Woods to comment on the quality of Soviet construction. Cold War‘s addition of small jokes and minor bits of humour into things is a pleasant touch: Bad Company 2 had excelled in doing this, and while I’ve come to hope that more military shooters would take the Bad Company route of lightening things up with jokes, it is something that’s more situational.

  • Cold War is all serious, but the occasional joke here and there helps to remind players that everyone, despite their skillset and dedication, are still human. Here, as Mason and Woods prepare to rappel over to the next section, they bicker about who goes first on the zip line. In classic manner, the line breaks and sends Mason tumbling downwards. While he manages to land on a catwalk, he loses his weapons in the process, and sets off to link up with Woods. At this point, Mason will only have access to a combat knife, and as he makes his way deeper into the facility, old memories begin resurfacing.

  • The derelict facility is frigid, and with only a knife, the situation does suggest that capitalising on the darkness is a better idea. However, upon reaching a room with soldiers, it is possible to deal with them and confiscate their firearms. The knife occupies a weapon slot, and can be swapped out: beyond stealth, there’s no reason to hang onto the knife once the recurve bow is picked up. I suppose now is a good time as any to mention that after the Modern Warfare series, Call of Duty began using numerals to indicate ammunition counts again, making it far easier to know my status in a firefight: while I greatly enjoyed Modern Warfare, the ammunition indicator was tiny and only gave one a visual representation of how much they had left in a magazine.

  • This would occasionally be troublesome during a firefight, since I would run out of ammunition and be forced into a reload at the worst possible time. Halo never gave me this problem because the display was larger, and I imagine that Call of Duty might’ve been able to use this approach had the ammunition counter been a bit larger, too. Back in Cold War, I found the recurve bow to be well-suited for stealth gameplay; it can kill in a single shot while being totally silent. Moreover, arrows can be retrieved, and one clever touch is that Woods’ dialogue to Mason will change depending on how he chooses to fight through the dark corridors. Off to the side in one of the smaller rooms, Mason can also find a key to a weapons locker.

  • This weapons locker is more of an Easter Egg more than anything: it contains the Redeemer, a double-action six-shot revolver with high damage. After crawling underneath some pipes, Mason links up with Woods and enters a room overlooking a dig site of some sort. After ascertaining that’s where they’ll need to head, Woods jokes that while the Soviets have a crane, they’ve got Belikov and a helicopter. A veritable army stands between Woods and Mason, so the time has come to ditch the suppressed weapons and go loud.

  • Belikov will provide covering fire in his chopper, softening up targets to make the fight to the mainframe computer a little easier. It speaks to the era that an entire mainframe needs to be hauled out; today, picking up intel would entail plugging in a hard drive and pulling data, or having some fancy system like ISAC gain deep persistent access into a system and then upload the data elsewhere for retrieval. The old-school mechanics of the Cold War era allow for the story to add additional challenge to things that, in the modern era, would take the blink of an eye to complete.

  • A quick glance at the history books will find that in the early 1980s, the late Cold War, things were marked by rising tensions again: the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and hard-line stances against the Soviet Union resulted in the deployment of Pershing II medium-range ballistic missiles to Europe, as well as the conducting of Able Archer 83 in 1983. The exercise had alarmed Soviet forces, who assumed that NATO was preparing for an actual nuclear war, bringing the world the closest it had been to calamity since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

  • According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the world today is actually closer to the brink of total catastrophe than even during 1953, when the United States successfully tested the world’s first hydrogen bomb and saw the Soviet Union following suit a year later, or in 1984, when intermediate range missiles were deployed to Europe while President Ronald Reagan announced his intention to win the Cold War, accelerating the arms race. Factors include the withdrawal of both the United States and Russia from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, as well as a lack of action on climate change. I would add to the list the current reverence people have for social media; besides creating an illusion of expertise amongst those with large follower counts, it also amplifies the minority’s opinions and accelerates the spread of misinformation, obfuscating the ability for leaders to make proper decisions.

  • A capable society would set zero stock on social media where politics are concerned, but with this trend looking like it’s here to stay, it does feel like humanity, in choosing to listen to popular people over skilled people, is on the precipice of unprecedented catastrophe. This is a matter for another day: at this point in Cold War, I’ve entered the building where the mainframe is housed. Woods and Mason hit the bottom floor, secure said mainframe and attach a winch to it, then prepare for a harrowing lift back out. To help with this, an AK-47 with a fifty-round magazine is provided. Belikov’s flying allows for the entire mainframe, a “regular-sized” one, as Woods puts it, to be safely brought back to West Berlin. I smiled at Woods’ remark, as it was worthy of Bad Company 2, and found the firefight here as hectic as it was cinematic; one must know where the enemy fire is coming from, or otherwise will succumb while riding the highly exposed mainframe.

It is therefore unsurprising that the seemingly coincidental timing of Cold War and Higurashi GOU can appear to be anything but: while seemingly separated by a dramatically different set of characters with their own unique goals and intents, both Black Ops and Higurashi speak to the depth that certain mysteries have. However, while the conspiracies and enigma may seem bottomless and hopelessly convoluted, one still retains the agency to make the sort of decisions that can leave one in a better situation, and by doing what’s right at the individual level, one’s choices still potentially have a knock-on effect in things that are greater in scale. This is where the commonalities between Black Ops and Higurashi ends; Higurashi had always been about solving problems through winning hearts and minds, while Black Ops, being a first person shooter first and foremost, encourages resilience and an unwavering determination to get the job done. However, Cold War has taken a few steps towards the routes that Higurashi takes: as Bell, players can make decisions that impact the game’s progression later down the line, and as the Berlin mission indicates, there are times where going silent yields results where going loud does not. Cold War‘s shift in direction speaks to the merits that Higurashi had so effectively conveyed in its run, but not to be outdone, GOU takes Higurashi in a brand-new direction, and this is a topic that is sufficiently sophisticated as to warrant a separate post: the choices that Satoko make sends the story heading on a path even I cannot speculate an outcome for. GOU therefore creates an exhilarating question segment that grips viewers and leaves them longing for answers, which the upcoming SOTSU will likely provide. While this is a few weeks away, I’ll have the time to both draft out my thoughts on GOU and continue making my way through Cold War, which has proven to be an absolutely enjoyable ride. Cold War might be about the multiplayer, zombies and Warzone modes for most players, but for me, I’ve always found the stories to be immersive, worthy of consideration, as well. With two excellent missions in the books, I’m very excited to see for myself what comes next.

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