“You go in with the intel you have, not the intel you want.” –Jason Hudson
With the evidence Bell collects and solves following his assignments, Mason is sent out to take out two targets believed to be assets for Perseus. In Operation Chaos, Mason heads to a desolate stretch of highway near the Colorado-Mexico border, where they’ve spotted a convoy of Spetsnaz soldiers protecting Robert Aldrich, a former CIA agent began working for the KGB. After Mason and Woods fight through the Spetsnaz forces, they reach a motel where Aldrich is hiding and shoot him dead. Mason quickly photographs Aldrich’s corpse to confirm the kill before fighting their way back to the extraction zone. Later, Mason is sent to the frozen, snowy mountains of the Uzbek SSR to assassinate Major Vadim Rudnik, who has secretly been working to install sleeper agents in positions of power within Europe. Mason investigates a Soviet communications base to locate Rudnik before he escapes and manages to find him hiding inside a bunker. Mason summarily shoots Rudnik, confirms the kill with a photograph and then holds out against attacking Soviet forces before his ride arrives. Cold War‘s side missions act as an additional piece to the game in which exploration is encouraged: in order to successfully complete these side missions, one must locate the evidence within the main missions, and then solve a series of puzzles. This represents a novel chance of pace to Cold War: if memory serves, previous Call of Duty games only required steady aim and swift reflexes to solve, so the inclusion of puzzles in Cold War that test a player’s logic ended up being very enjoyable, speaking to how narrative and novel gameplay elements can be seamlessly incorporated into a genre whose success usually hinges on delivering consistent and satisfying gun-play.
In order to have the optimal experience with Operation Chaos, where Aldrich must be found and neutralised, players must first allow Qasim to live in Nowhere Left to Rin, which produces a code. Then, photographing a map in Red Light, Green Light will unlock a newspaper clipping, and finally, a numbers station broadcast found in Brick in the Wall will yield the final piece of the puzzle. With these three items, one can work out the passkey and passphrase using a numerical pattern in the coded message needed to get into the floppy disk: solving for the four-digit numerical code and the name of the city as the passphrase will allow one to properly take on Operation Chaos. For Operation Red Circus, players will need to find Franz Kraus’ ledger from Brick in the Wall, a cassette tape in Echoes of a Cold War and a wristwatch containing a list of dead drops in Desperate Measures. With this information, players can then work out, using invoice dates and their locations, the identities of three persons of interest, which makes Operation Red Circus possible. The patterns for both Chaos and Red Circus are easy to spot: the remaining code for the former can easily be derived by solving a mathematical series, and a little bit of lining dates up will enable one to work out their suspects. Having a physical piece of paper handy could make working out the answers a little faster, and in this moment, one does feel like a cryptographer trying to work out some pattern that could help them to achieve their goals. The puzzles themselves are easily solved (asking players to implement SHA-2 would, while being a more realistic experience, be completely outrageous), but it adds a newfound level of immersion into Cold War: the last time I had such an experience would’ve been with Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, where I similarly had fun putting my love for solving logic puzzles to use to unlock intel needed to hunt down the various Übercommanders. Cold War has, time and time again, proven to exceed expectations by incorporating elements that aren’t usually present in a first-person shooter, and in this way, demonstrates that there is plenty of opportunity for single-player campaigns to excite and challenge players in unexpectedly fun ways.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Operation Chaos opens with Mason and Woods touching down on a lonely desert highway in the middle of nowhere under a crescent moon. Mason starts this mission with the M60 (equipped with a Hawksman holographic sight) and the Hauer 77 (with a Milstop red dot sight). Call of Duty traditionally gives light machine guns poor handling traits – they’re ineffective in close quarters situations, but their higher damage and large ammunition capacity makes them better suited for handling larger groups enemies at moderate ranges.
- After reaching the gas station, I immediately swapped out the Hauer 77 for an XM4, a precursor to the M4 Carbine with strong all-around characteristics. Cold War fully captures the aesthetics of buildings in the Sonoran Desert, with their tacky designs and flimsy-looking constructions. No expense was spared for details, and the interior of this gas station convenience store looks well-stocked with the sorts of things one might expect to find at these roadside stations.
- Making my way through a trailer park, I engaged with multiple enemies concealed in the darkness. Previously, in Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2, I had access to IRNV goggles and the AN/PEQ-2A laser module, which, in Price’s words, made things too easy. Since I’m striking on a moonlit night here, the lack of night vision becomes less of a challenge, and I stayed in cover, used the enemy’s muzzle flash to determine their position and returned fire accordingly.
- Motels are often the best choice for lengthy road trips, especially where one is less concerned with the quality of accommodations and simply need a place to kip for the night. When I was younger, motels were our choice of accommodations for road trips – despite their reputation, some motels are well-maintained and provide a clean and inexpensive place to settle down for the night, even offering some services to make things easier for guests: when I was travelling years earlier, I have particularly fond memories of a motel that offered a complementary continental breakfast, for instance.
- After reaching the motel Aldrich is hiding out at, I quickly identified him, aimed down the XM4’s sights and double-tapped him. Once Aldrich and his guards are down, the only thing left to do is verify Aldrich’s identity. I’m actually not too sure what happens in this mission if I fail to decrypt the floppy disk ahead of time – a cursory Google search doesn’t yield anything, and most results simply deal with how to decrypt the floppy drive so that this mission can be completed correctly. I’d hazard a guess that either Aldrich gets away, or one would encounter more difficulty in finding him.
- Once Aldrich is neutralised, the Soviet forces will shoot down one of the UH-1s intended to be the team’s exfil, and converge on the hotel. Fortunately, there’s a M79 handy for destroying the convoy of vehicles that show up: the grenades are very powerful and will turn the entire group of vehicles into smouldering husks on very short order. The M79 brings back memories of Far Cry 4‘s grenade launcher, which was classified as a sidearm and could be used to utterly devastate enemy vehicles.
- On the topic of Far Cry, I’m not too sure if I’ll pick up Far Cry 6 just yet: on one hand, the game looks very ambitious in its mechanics and world-building, which would be a great single-player story-based experience of the sort I’m looking for, but on the other, I’m never too sure how much time I have these days to sit down to a full-length campaign, and my computer might not be able to handle the game. For Far Cry 6, then, it looks like the logical thing to do is wait and see: once I’ve had a look at the gameplay, I’ll be able to make a clearer decision. On the other hand, Halo: Infinite is a no-brainer since I know precisely what to expect, and after seeing the E3 for Infinite, I can say with confidence I’m excited to see how this one turns out.
- Owing to their simple layouts, motels aren’t often featured in first person shooters, but Cold War does an excellent job of utilising the setting fully to create a fully-fleshed out, if somewhat shorter mission. Before heading back to the exfil, I grab another M60 and take a look at the motel’s swimming pool, which is rendered well, before heading back down the road into town, where the backup extraction point is located.
- I’ve never been particularly fond of deserts in video games or film and will make it a point to skip them where possible. The reason why deserts are a big deal in science fiction seems to stem from 1965’s Dune, and Star Wars really popularised it owing to the symbolism deserts supposedly have. I appreciate that deserts can be beautiful for their ecosystems, and Les Stroud’s desert survival episodes are always good, but as far as a setting for film or video games go, the overuse in Star Wars means I tend not to like them as much.
- After clearing enough of the trailer park out to secure a landing zone for the helicopter, I take one quick look back at the settlement before boarding to end the first of the side missions. The simplicity of the mission speaks to how Cold War is able to take a straightforward objective and adding enough of a build-up to really create the sense of urgency surrounding wet work.
- The second of the side missions, Operation Red Circus, is set in a location more befitting of the Cold War setting: for one, it’s set in the Soviet mountains under a fresh snowfall. Unlike Operation Chaos, Red Circus happens by day, and there’s a hard time limit on how long one has to actually locate Rudnik before he escapes. Mason starts the mission with the Pelington 703 bolt action rifle and the XM4. Neither weapons are suppressed, so the moment Mason fires that first shot, finding Rudnik means dealing with the armada of Soviet soldiers defending the base.
- Players must search for Rudnik inside the various buildings in this installation, and my familiarity with first-person shooters means that I had a gut feeling that the game would require I search all of the buildings before locating Rudnik himself. To prevent players from blazing through such missions, the game will spawn assets and trigger corresponding events in response to the players’ actions: in Bad Company 2‘s Sangre del Toro mission: players could visit the relays in any order of their choosing, but all three needed to be visited in order to set the stage for what’s next.
- Having the XM4 makes dealing with soldiers at closer ranges easier; the Pelington 703 isn’t suited for close quarters combat at all. However, with its VisionTech 2x sight, the XM4 in this mission is kitted out as more of an intermediate range weapon, suited for engagements between 20 and 50 metres. Having said this, the XM4 remains satisfactory in close quarters because it’s equipped with a laser sight. Laser sights are portrayed as increasing hipfire accuracy in most games: in reality, they project a beam onto a target to give a clearer picture of where one is aiming.
- Laser sights, being electronic equipment, have the downside that they require a power supply, reveal the shooter’s position and aren’t particularly useful at long ranges (or in bright conditions). This usually isn’t a concern in games, and the increased hipfire accuracy is a reflection of how having the laser speeds up target acquisition times by providing a shooter with a good indicator of where they’re aiming. One study in law enforcement also finds that laser sights act to intimidate targets: fiction is particularly fond of using this as an element, especially in high stakes hostage situations.
- Of course, much as I don’t expect fiction to line up with reality, I am okay with the application of different weapon attachments to alter gameplay mechanics. My general tendency to give fiction a high tolerance for realism comes from the fact that I experience stories to learn something, not to be a harsh critic on how realistic something is. This is, unfortunately, something that not everyone respects: today, the latest Super Cub episode aired, and while I had fun watching it (I’ll aim to get a review for the past two episodes for Friday), the thread at AnimeSuki has seen one “serenade_beta” consistently making sarcastic, patronising remarks about the show and its characters.
- With Super Cub‘s tenth and eleventh episodes, these remarks escalated to wishing death on Koguma. “serenade_beta”‘s behaviour is, quite frankly, disgraceful, and I’m hoping that reporting him will, at the very least, get those remarks stricken from the forum. While for now, no one’s agreed with him, allowing them to exist would set a bad precedence for what anime discussion entails. While people are permitted their opinions of anime, what “serenade_beta” has been doing is immature and callous, undeserving of consideration; one wishes that removing him from the conversation would be as straightforward as dealing with Rudnik and Aldrich.
- After clearing out all three of the structures, Mason will find no sign of Rudnik. I ended up switching over to an AK-47 off the XM4 for variety’s sake; in most Call of Duty games, the starting weapons for a given mission will be more than enough for the task, although this also means not being able to try out the different weapons, all of which have different traits and can be fun to use in their own right; this is one reason why I have plans to revisit Modern Warfare 2: Remastered at some point in the future, especially since the game allows one to dual-wield certain weapons, and I never tried this on my original play-through last month.
- As I did with Aldrich, after entering the room where Rudnik is hiding out, I blasted Rudnik with headshots to finish the assignment and then took a photograph of his corpse for the kill confirmation. It always did strike me as a little hasty that the photographs could be seen that quickly by Mason’s handlers, since this is before the age of digital cameras and the ability to transfer data wirelessly, but this is something I’m willing to live with since it accommodates the game’s progression.
- After Rudnik is six feet under, a horde of Soviet soldiers will converge on Mason’s position while he awaits for his ride. The Stoner 63 LMG joins me for this fight, along with another conveniently-placed Type 66: I ended up hunkering down on the roof of the bunker and fended off the soldiers using a combination of precision fire from the Type 66, which has become one of my favourite weapons of the Cold War campaign, and then using the Stoner 63 to lay down suppressing fire. While it’s only rocking the standard seventy-five round belt here, this is enough to work with.
- I realise I’ve been writing a great deal about Cold War over these past few weeks: I’ve been advancing through the game at a breakneck pace, certainly faster than I usually do, and I am aiming to finish up Cold War very soon so I can turn my attention to other things. Before then, I plan on writing about Super Cub before the week is out (and give a proper talk on things), but I have noticed that my talks on Super Cub are poorly received despite my effort to ensure a useful and comprehensive post for readers; if there’s any feedback on why my Super Cub talks are substandard, I wouldn’t mind hearing them. In the meantime, readers have my word that after today, there will only be one more post about Cold War‘s campaign.
Once the puzzles themselves are solved, the resulting missions players go on as Mason are run-of-the-mill vignettes, both of which entail a familiar pattern of entering the target area, neutralising the army protecting the HVT, and then beating a hasty exit before retaliation can follow. However, these side missions also allow players to shoot their way through new locations that are otherwise not seen anywhere else in the campaign; these locations are stunningly rendered and highly atmospheric. From the seedy desert motel in Colorado, to the frigid Soviet military installation, level design creates a very convincing backdrop for players that adds to the campaign experience. Overall, the inclusion of these smaller items in Cold War serve to encourage players to explore: previous Call of Duty games included things like intel or weapon parts that could be found in the campaigns, which, when unlocked, allowed for things from having more loadout options for the single-player modes, to even introducing cheats for creating a more exotic experience. Call of Duty games have long been derided for popularising the short campaign trend, but the reality is that the campaigns are designed to invite replay. For folks whose priority are the multiplayer modes, they’re unlikely to give too much thoughts on the story, but players who enjoy campaigns will find that they can be very well-crafted and convey a more meaningful set of ideas. In the case of Cold War, the game also encourages creative, lateral thinking, which is to the game’s credit and creates a much deeper, more immersive experience than the first-person shooter genre otherwise suggests.