The Infinite Zenith

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Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War- Part V Review and Reflection, Making The Choice and Wrongness From “The Right Side of History”

“We’ll do whatever it takes. Some of us will cross the line, to make sure the line’s still there in the morning. No one’s gonna brand us heroes or villains. They don’t know us. As for me, I’ve been chasing this ghost for thirteen years. That ends now.” –Russel Adler

Despite being wounded from the failed Cuba operation, Adler pushes Bell to recall what happened in Vietnam and administers a drug directly into his cerebral cortex, stimulating memories. The exercise appears unsuccessful as Adler finds no recollections whatsoever in Bell’s memories of Vietnam. After running through several scenarios, Bell begins to vaguely remember meeting Perseus, and that he had plans at a place called Solovetsky. Upon waking up, Adler explains to Bell that he’d actually been a Sovet agent that Arash had shot. Adler’s team had pulled Bell from the Turkish airfield a few months earlier and brainwashed him through the CIA’s MK-Ultra program in the hopes that he would give up secrets surrounding Perseus. Bell thus has a choice here: revealing the location of Perseus’ base at Solovetsky will see Adler and his team arriving in the remote Soviet island and destroying several anti-air guns. This allows the American bombers a clear shot at Perseus’ transmission array, and although Perseus himself escapes, he goes into hiding, his network of spies thrown into disarray. However, owing to Bell’s intimate involvement in the program, Adler deems Bell as being too dangerous to be left alive, and the pair draw their guns on one another before the screen fades out. Should Bell decide to betray Adler’s team, he will send them the the Duga array in the Ukraine. Adler and the team will realise this is a trap, and if Bell had radioed ahead earlier for support, will be able to count on the Soviet forces to arrive at the last moment. Bell defeats his old teammates and shoots Adler in the head, before activating the nuclear warheads. Europe is devastated, the United States is humiliated, and Hudson destroys all evidence that they’d been investigating Perseus, while Perseus himself works to continue undermining the United States from the shadows. Cold War thus becomes the first Call of Duty game to feature multiple endings, and while making the right choice means saving millions, Cold War casts a shadow on this victory with Bell’s ultimate fate; the price of being a hero is seemingly to be forgotten and cast aside when it becomes inconvenient for those writing the history books.

The ordinary ending of Cold War speaks to how doing what’s “right” has a cost: if, after everything that’s occurred, Bell elects to believe Adler and his team by being truthful, the team will head over to Solovetsky and utterly trash Perseus’ setup, thereby saving Continental Europe and tens of millions of lives. However, Bell’s origins as a Soviet agent means that he was never truly a part of the team, and his background could prove problemmatic to those in charge, so it’s easier to just butter Bell up and then shoot him dead. This speaks very poorly to the Free World and its ideals: one hand is extended for a handshake, and the other hand conceals a dagger. Even though Bell’s saved Europe and the Western world, there is little to suggest that Adler and his team won’t just find some other unfortunate individual to subject to MK-Ultra and do their dirty work for them, all in the name of democracy and human rights. In a way, Cold War‘s official ending would suggest that doing what’s right doesn’t mean a whole lot to those in power, as they are more concerned with their own worlds over the world that others live in. This is a haunting message that applies to real life; there are a lot of activism causes out there, some of which are of interest to those occupying the corridors of power, and in a given moment, these causes might be of value, so those in charge see the cause as an ally. However, the moment their aims are achieved, these same movements might be inconvenient to the people in power, who may then see fit to permanently suspend funding and support, or even leave these individuals to their fate. All of that effort and initial support thus amounts to nothing, and the cause ultimately loses. The lesson here is that, if one were to blindly follow a cause without thinking it through, the results could come to cost them greatly. For Bell, this means that despite saving millions of lives and becoming a hero, he ends up paying the ultimate price: a part of me did feel that the alternate ending, which sees Bell take retribution against Adler and his team before being given the honour of ushering in  a new era, was rather more satisfying than the true end, which perhaps speaks to the futility and precipitous nature of contemporary politics. While Perseus hasn’t been shown on screen until this final mission, once he meets with Bell, he greets him like an old friend and properly expresses gratitude for Bell’s work.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Before Cold War gets to the endings, players will have one more mission to go through: a flashback to Vietnam as Adler and the team desperately tries to work out what Bell knows. This mission is set in a different part of Vietnam and was a thrill to play through. After a helicopter crash wipes out everyone but Bell, he disembarks and picks up a weapon of sorts. Players will have the choice to follow Adler’s guidance or not. Some things are relatively benign, such as not picking up the weapon Adler mentions, but others will have a dramatic impact on what happens next.

  • In my case, I ended up picking up an MP5 first, but then went back to grab the M16A1 later anyways: I always prefer having two weapons where possible, as it leaves me better prepared for whatever I might face. There is a legitimate reason, however, for grabbing the M16A1 here: most of the Viet Cong are at a distance where the MP5 is less effective, and after the helicopter crash, Bell is made to recall fighting an entire armada of them. The M16A1 and its burst fire can take a soldier down in a single burst, making it the best choice.

  • By this point in time, I have no trouble at all with using iron sights, and after the firefight concluded, I followed Adler’s instructions of venturing further into the jungle, where a handful of Viet Cong await. This mission and the first Vietnam War mission share the commonality that none of the weapons have any attachments. Engagements in this mission, while fierce, are not overwhelming, and the base weapons will get the job done fine.

  • Upon reaching a mysterious temple, Adler will ask Bell to go right, but instead, I went left. I’ve heard that disobeying Adler is the best way to extend this mission, but in the end, I found that regardless of what choices the player makes, the outcome will always be the same, so players are free to explore to their heart’s content in this mission. As it was, I chose to disobey in the first scenario and then obeyed in the second.

  • As a result of my choices, I ended up in an abandoned village crawling with Viet Cong. To help with the firefight, I ended up switching out my MP5 for a Stoner 63. In reality, the Stoner 63A was a versatile weapon that could be configured as an assault rifle, carbine, a light machine gun or a squad automatic weapon. The light machine gun in Cold War is not to be confused with the Knight’s Armament Company Light Assault Machine Gun, which is a descendent of the original Stoner 63 and seen in The Division 2, where it occupied the throne as my favourite end-game weapon until I picked up Warlords of New York.

  • Looking back, Warlords of New York turned out to be a fantastic decision: I ended up tripling the amount of time I spent in The Division 2, and over time, I accrued a loadout that suited me as effectively as my six-piece Classified Striker setup from the original The Division. For now, the Manhunt seasons are repeating, and I capitalised on this to finish off the Jupiter Hunt for the EMP sticky bomb skill. I haven’t written about The Division 2 for a third of a year now, and with the Schaeffer manhunt now active, I cannot say that I’m too keen on going through things again for the fact I’ve already gotten a highly enjoyable experience. I did hear that The Division 2 is getting new content somewhere this year, so I could return to write about it then, but for now, I’ll stick to enjoying other titles in my library.

  • Back in Cold War, I’ve swapped over to the Pelington 703 for some long-range shooting, but as I made my way past a burning hut, I was nearing the end of scenario one. What followed was a surreal sequence where Bell is trapped in the corridors of some unknown facility, and unable to escape, can only venture deeper until he is recalled into the next scenario. Unfortunately, I learned that Bell’s choices have no impact on the mission length; I imagine this was to accentuate the idea that right now, Bell is most certainly not in control of his situation.

  • The second scenario has Bell starting out at the same crash site, only this time, it’s the middle of the knight, and players pick up a recurve bow. The weapon isn’t totally silent, and firing it will alert the Viet Cong to Bell’s position. Conversely, it is actually possible to sneak around them this time and only use the bow to pick off foes in Bell’s path: the weapon’s properties haven’t changed, and it’s still a one hit kill with reasonable accuracy.

  • The mission becomes increasingly surreal as Bell proceeds through again, as random computer monitors and interrogation equipment lie scattered around the maps. I imagine that the art team would’ve had fun with this mission: the juxtaposition between the humid jungles of Vietnam and machinery belonging in some secret lab somewhere is pronounced, giving players the impression that whatever it is that Adler wants out of Bell won’t be easily retrieved.

  • It turns out that obeying Adler will only reveal that Bell’s missing some of his memories about Perseus, and disobeying Adler will reveal that Adler was involved in brainwashing Bell via the MK-Ultra programme. This CIA-sanctioned bit of human experimentation was carried out under the cover of being legitimate research, but instead, was intended to determine how to control the human mind; its outcomes would’ve been used to extract truth from prisoners in interrogations and potentially rewrite individuals’ personality and memories outright. Unsurprisingly, the more extreme aspects of MK-Ultra were not successful, and today, the revelation that such a programme existed is a sign that despite their claims otherwise, the United States isn’t exactly speaking from the moral high ground on many claims about other nations.

  • The final scenario gives Bell the M79 Grenade Launcher, which is overkill for blowing away the Viet Cong soldiers in the rice paddies. Cold War did tax my machine somewhat: I’m running medium-high settings to maintain a smooth rate, and since my GPU dates before NVIDIA’s RTX line, it means that real-time ray-tracing isn’t an option for me. In spite of this, the game still looks serviceable – the world reflections in the water remain of a decent quality, and having a few of the settings set to high did not have an adverse impact on my frame rates.

  • The level begins turning into a bad movie set the further players go on their final scenario: interrogation equipment is sitting in the open jungle here, and everything seems frozen. Proceeding through the mission, it becomes clear that Bell was never in Vietnam, and something unusual is going on here. This sets the stage for the final interrogation that Adler administers to Bell before the endgame. However, before then, players get one final chance to have a bit of fun with the Pelington 703. There is something immensely satisfying about using this weapon, and I think it is for the fact that the Remington Model 700 (R700) feels like a hunting rifle.

  • I did a little bit of looking around, and it turns out that Meat Eater‘s Steven Rinella uses a custom-built rifle from Carolina Custom Rifles; for 4795 USD, the company will design a rifle from scratch, tailored precisely to one’s preferences and dimensions for maximum comfort and reliability in the field. Rinella cites the reliability and durability of his rifle as dramatically increasing his confidence while on a hunt, and the fact that all of the parts are machined to perfection. His description brings to mind the likes of the Avtomat Kalashnikov Model 47, the world’s most reliable and widely used assault rifle: during the weekend, I ended up watching Kalashnikov, a 2020 film on how Mikhail Kalashnikov ended up designing the weapon that completely changed the face of warfare. However, the weapon is the side-show, and what made the film particularly standout was how it presented Kalashnikov’s journey.

  • While Kalashnikov is presented as on the stubborn and blunt side, no different than Super Cub‘s Koguma, he is also dedicated and humble. It was inspiring to see him succeed, and while he often takes losses very personally (whether it was in his engineering or in his love life), the film suggests that Kalashnikov’s determination would win out. Overall, I enjoyed the film, and one nice bonus was how the film made every weapon sound powerful: like Cold War, the sound of the AK-47 firing on full automatic had a heavy weight to it, giving the impression that the weapon could deal real damage. However, most games do not capture this, and oftentimes, the AK-47 is a commonly found assault rifle with moderate handling and damage. Newer games present the AK-47 as a hard-hitting weapon thanks to its 7.62 mm rounds, but lacks the accuracy of something like the M16.

  • I’ve now skipped ahead to the final assault on Solovetsky – if Bell chooses to side with Adler, Belikov will provide some vehicles and allow Adler’s team to storm Perseus’ base. Bell himself gains access to the War Machine, inspired by the Hawk MM-1, which has a twelve-round drum and a firing rate of up to 30 rounds per minute. The multiplayer features the War Machine as a score-streak, limiting players to the real-world equivalent’s twelve shots before forcing them to discard the weapon, while in the campaign, Bell spawns with a staggering (and unrealistic) thirty-six rounds. Truth be told, owing to how short the duration is for which Bell can use the weapons (typically, to destroy guard towers and other vehicles), I think starting the weapon with twelve rounds would’ve been plenty.

  • Bell’s time with the War Machine is short-lived: a nuclear warhead is used to create an EMP that knocks out Solovetsky’s power, and subsequently, Adler’s team has a limited window in which to storm the base and take out the anti-air cannons. Bell begins the mission with the XM4, outfitted with a VisionTech 2x optic, laser sight and foregrip, plus a Hauer 77 shotgun. The former is set up for medium range combat, but the laser sight makes it useful at closer ranges, while the latter dominates at close quarters. While I’m now kitted out for CQC, wisdom dictates that it’s better to pick off enemies from afar.

  • Cold War‘s mid-range combat is immensely satisfying, and short, controlled bursts from the XM4 will do away with the foes here. When I watched TheRadBrad play through Cold War back in November, he remarked that the sight made it difficult to aim and promptly switched over to a Krig 6 lying around. Overall, the XM4 is less accurate at range compared to the Krig 6, and doesn’t hit quite as hard as the AK-47. However, in Cold War, accuracy is essential (especially in the run-and-gun of multiplayer), and the low recoil of the Krig 6 makes it a solid all-around weapon.

  • I ended up picking off the enemies that I could, entered the courtyard and then used the left flank to close the distance between myself and the first anti-air cannon. Bell and other allied forces only need to take out the anti-air guns so that bombers can flatten the communications array. In order to assure precision, the bombers will be coming in at low altitudes; low-altitude bombing ensures precision, but also puts aircraft at risk from guns. During the Second World War, to avoid flak guns, bombers would fly at high altitudes, above what the flak guns could reach, but the tradeoff here was that the aircraft could be seen by radar, and bombs would be nowhere nearly as accurate.

  • Today, precision guided munitions make it easier on pilots: since 1997, systems such as the JDAM or the Paveway allow bombs to be guided to their targets, but in the 1980s, such technologies were still being developed. I imagine for an operation such as this, then, it was decided to go with tried-and-true methods rather than chance things on a (then) fledgling technology. I was a little surprised that anti-air for Perseus meant using World War Two era Flak 37 88 mm guns; by the 1980s, the Soviet Union had access to anti-air missiles like the 9K33 Osa or S-75 Dvina.

  • It’s been suggested that Perseus is running a rogue operation, which would explain why his support isn’t as extensive as one would expect had he had state backing. Out of curiosity, I did a bit of reading to see where Solovestsky is, and it turns out that Solovetsky refers to a small group of islands in the White Sea, just south of the Kola Peninsula. There’s a large monastery up here, and it quickly becomes clear that this is where Perseus’ hideout is. The original monastery was founded in 1436 and flourished in the centuries following.

  • However, when the Soviet Union was formed, Solovetsky Monastery became a part of the Gulag that was closed in 1939. By 1972, the site was recognised as a museum and nature reserve, and the real Solovetsky is a tourist attraction now, being one of the best-preserved examples of a late medieval religious community. Folks who end up visiting will find themselves greeted by untamed wilderness and Russian Orthodox architecture. Such a trip usually lasts three to four days, and travel guides indicate that visiting Solovetsky by summer offers a superior experience.

  • To get to Solovetski, one must first fly to Moscow or St. Petersburg, and then fly to Arkhangelsk. From here, flights to Solovetsky’s regional airport are offered two to three times a week. Folks looking for a more authentic experience can opt to travel by train and boat, as well: this option is a little less expensive but also gives visitors a chance to really enjoy the Russian landscape. Upon arriving in Solovetski, I’ve read that Solovki Hotel is the best choice; rooms are comfortable, and meals are delicious. Having done the reading, it does seem like a solid vacation spot

  • The rationale for having the M60 soon becomes clear: Bell must fight off a soldier equipped with heavy armour here, and in the absence of explosives or the M82, it will take a considerable amount of effort to beat this one. Technically speaking, players aren’t running against the clock here, so there is the option to use the monastery’s basement columns as cover and blast the heavily armoured soldier until he dies. A look around shows that Cold War is indeed faithful to the real world equivalent’s function; cells can be seen, acting as a stark reminder of the site’s history.

  • Of course, if one were to visit Solovetsky in real life, there is no massive array of radio transmitters here: it’s pristine wilderness as far as the eye can see. By this point in time, Adler’s team informs Hudson that they should prepare for their attack run immediately, and that they’ll deal with the remaining anti-aircraft gun closest to the transmitters. A veritable army of Perseus’ men stand between Bell and the final anti-air gun, and the M60 I picked up proved useful in hosing them down. Moments later, I found myself a man-portable M134.

  • Known informally as the “Death Machine”, the M134 appears as a score streak in the multiplayer, and with 900 rounds available, it proves instrumental in helping Bell to deal with the last few soldiers surrounding the anti-air gun. A countdown timer begins appearing, and as soon as Bell plants the C4 to destroy it, a squadron of bombers arrive and flatten the entire area. The final cinematic begins playing, and this brings Cold War to a close. This is the ending awaiting players who choose to be truthful about Perseus’ location.

  • For players who feel a little retribution is on order and lied to Adler, Cold War will send the team over to Duga, where Perseus has prepared an ambush. This marks the first time I’ve played a game at the Duga array. This Soviet over-the-horizon radar was designed as a part of their early-warning system and broadcast a highly powerful radio signal that could be heard with shortwave receivers. Because the Soviets kept changing the frequency, radio enthusiasts would hear it at inopportune times and come to nickname it “The Russian Woodpecker”, even speculating the array was used for nefarious purposes such as weather or mind control (both of which are untrue).

  • Once Bell signals for the counterattack, there’ll be a chance to shoot Park, Mason and Woods in the head personally. My favourite line from this scene comes from Woods: “We’re gonna bury you, motherfucker!”. The bonus is that if one times their shot correctly, they’ll be able to blast Woods just after he finishes his line. Players report that they greatly enjoyed this “bad” ending: unlike most visual novels, where the bad end is genuinely bad (I’m looking at School Days as my example), Cold War‘s “bad” ending was surprisingly satisfying.

  • The sheer enjoyment I got from fighting the old team at Duga got me thinking. There are considerable parallels in the real world, and especially with all of the movements and causes out there now, I’ve always felt that it was worth looking at the people behind said cause before decisively determining whether or not it is a cause worth fighting for, as opposed to just jumping in. As Bell would find, supporting a cause without giving things a second thought, simply because said cause had flowery promises of a better world and doing what’s right, can cost dearly. This is not to say all causes will betray an individual, but rather, one should always exercise their own judgement on these things.

  • I typically do not share my opinions on politics or current events here; Cold War, however, offers me the chance to write about things. I am generally disappointed with the world’s direction, as people seem to favour social media presence over hard work, and I feel that most of the world’s current ills are amplified by social media. With this being said, I would much prefer to focus on what I can do for the world. Back in Cold War, I follow the trail of blood to Adler and finish my job off. Perseus congratulates Bell for having made the right choice, and offers him the chance to set off the very nukes that players had been trying to stop moments earlier.

  • With this final post on Cold War in the books, viewers have my assurances that the recent storm of Call of Duty posts (and the occasional reflection on what I believe in) will draw to a close. I do intend on playing the Zombies mode, since there’s a solo mode and potentially write about it in the future, but beyond this, I am finished the campaigns in full now. This comes two months after I’d bought the game on a sale, just in time for Steam’s summer sale. DOOM Eternal looks pretty promising, and if the price is right, I will likely pick it up. Finally, with the end of June rapidly approaching, I will also be writing about the finales for both Super Cub and Yakunara Mug Cup mo.

Through Cold War, it becomes clear that being on “the right side of history” is often the wrong choice. Choosing to save Europe will lead to Bell’s death. Honouring Bell’s original mission results in the deaths of millions, all in the name of communism. There is no optimal correct answer in Cold War, only death. This speaks to the pettiness and foolishness of the games that politicians ultimately play with one another; the end goal is not the betterment of the people, but rather, for their own gains. Whether it be leverage over another nation, or the chance to impose one’s will over a system, Cold War demonstrates that oftentimes, it is the everyman that puts in the effort, builds a system and makes a difference, only for those in power to take credit for their accomplishments and reap the benefits. With this being said, choosing one’s allies and fights carefully can mitigate some of the risk: being aware that the “good guys” don’t necessarily have clean hands, and that joining a cause will always have a price attached will help one to keep an eye out for trouble. Strictly speaking, this isn’t possible in Cold War once a player has decided to start the single player campaign, but the real world equivalent of not getting sucked in to a fight that is unwinnable by design is not to play: those who bought Black Ops for the multiplayer, Zombies and Warzone are not beholden to Adler or Perseus, and as such, do not witness the cost that is commanded with picking sides. It’s a rather clever metaphor that reminds players to know themselves, know their enemy, know their history and choose their battles wisely: rather than getting entangled in something without a clear value, one’s time is better spent on something else. Between spending eight hours a day on some insignificant Twitter cause, trying to win over the respect of people who care for none other than themselves and only succeeding in wasting one’s time in the process, I find that contributing to something that makes someone else’s day better is much more meaningful than acting as though cancel culture is synonymous with being on “the right side of history”. For me, this takes the form of my skill in iOS development, but I won’t begrudge the folks who spend more time in Warzone than they should, either: at the very least, these individuals aren’t spending eight hours a day spreading lies and falsehoods on social media for their own validation.

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