The Infinite Zenith

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DOOM Eternal: Opening Impressions and Reaching the Doomhunter

“Against all the evil that Hell can conjure, all the wickedness that mankind can produce, we will send unto them only you. Rip and tear, until it is done.” –King Novik

The Doom Slayer returns to Earth and finds it overrun by dæmonic forces; the UAC’s efforts prove insufficient, and over three fifths of the population have been wiped out. Aware that the dæmonic invasion is being orchestrated by three Hell Priests serving the Khan Maykr, the Doom Slayer has already killed Deag Nilox and travels to a Argent D’Nur and Hell itself to first collect the parts needed to build an apparatus called the Celestial Locator for locating the Hell Priests. With the working apparatus, the Doom Slayer next fights through a UAC facility that cultists have taken over, acquiring his old Super Shotgun in the process and eventually reaching Deag Ranak. While Ranak has successfully reconstructed a monstrosity called the Doom Hunter in a bid to destroy the Doom Slayer, the Doom Slayer defeats these beasts in combat and confronts Ranak; while Ranak pleads for his life, the Doom Slayer kills him and leaves, intent on killing the remaining Hell Priest. DOOM Eternal, sequel to 2016’s DOOM, thus returns in a big way. Upon hearing about a new DOOM game, I’d been excited until said news also entailed the fact that there’d be DLC. Suddenly, it became more prudent to wait; previously, I bought Ace Combat 7 shortly after launch and felt shafted that there’d be a DLC campaign; the Deluxe Edition would feature the additional content on top of the base game, and during a sale, could be had for considerably more reasonable prices. I thus elected to wait for DOOM Eternal to go on sale and determine what the Deluxe Edition would entail. This patience was met with reward, and during the summer sale, I ended up picking up the Deluxe Edition for a mere 40 CAD, where it normally goes for 120 CAD. Besides the base game, DOOM Eternal‘s Deluxe Edition also comes with both instalments to The Ancient Gods. Considering I’d bought 2016’s DOOM for 48 CAD, suddenly, it became clear that I was getting a considerable deal here. With DOOM Eternal purchased, I immediately set about making my way through the campaign. The first mission was admittedly underwhelming; ammunition was scarce, and I found that I was running out after almost every firefight. Punching enemies had no impact, either, and the lack of a pistol meant I was forced to waste limited shotgun ammunition dealing with individual zombies. However, I was merely an hour into DOOM Eternal, and so, I persisted, eventually picking up a chainsaw, heavy assault rifle and plasma rifle to help things along. As I made my way through the early levels, my arsenal grew: the Doom Slayer adds an ordnance launcher and shoulder-mounted flame-thrower to his load-out, along with the highly lethal Blood Punch.

With increasing tools to utilise, and a deepening sense of understanding of what DOOM Eternal intends for players to do, it becomes clear that DOOM Eternal is a straight upgrade over its predecessor in terms of combat. In DOOM, it had been sufficient to gain an understanding of one’s map, and then continue moving around while engaging enemies with whatever weapon one had on hand. DOOM Eternal, on the other hand, is more unpredictable and unforgiving. Certain weapons work better on certain monsters, and starting a firefight without an understanding of one’s tools is highly punishing. Attempting to attack a Cacodemon with the heavy assault rifle will simply waste one’s bullets, and Arachnotrons initially are mini-boss fights in their own right, requiring almost all of one’s shotgun ammunition to handle. However, enemies in DOOM Eternal now have distinct weaknesses that can be exploited: Cacodemons are particularly vulnerable explosives, and if they should swallow a round from the explosive shotgun mod, they are instantly staggered, rendering them open to a glory kill. Similarly, Arachnotrons possess a plasma rifle on their scorpion-like tail, and if this were destroyed by explosives, or sniped from a distance, they’re suddenly less threatening. DOOM Eternal thus encourages players to pick their fights accordingly, switch weapons appropriately and manage their resources well during each firefight, actively reacting and adapting to whatever the situation calls for. Every firefight requires thought going in, but if one is caught unprepared, with the wrong weapon and mod in hand, creativity can still get them out. Not having explosives against a Cacodemon, for instance, is forgiven by the fact one can still use their grenades to briefly stun one. The addition of weak points and resource management transforms firefights into a thinking man’s game: while map knowledge, smart movement and swift reflexes remain as essential as ever, this additional layer adds depth to each encounter, making every victory feel more rewarding. This is where DOOM Eternal excels in its combat, and having now spent six hours learning the basics, I feel confident in using the mechanics in DOOM Eternal to prevail over my foes and stop Hell’s invasion single-handedly.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • According to the blog’s archives, it’s been five years since I’ve last written about DOOM. Back then, I’d just finished graduate school, and after joining a medical visualisation/data collection startup, I began learning iOS development in Swift to complete a project for a computational oncology company in the States; prior to that, my work had been using the Unity engine to do cancer visualisations using similar techniques that I’d developed for my thesis, but the world of startups is very fluid, so I ended up picking up Swift so I could work on a mobile app that would be used to collect survey data from patients. Unfortunately, that particular company suffered from a lack of dedicated in-house mobile developers, and my first-ever commercial app was never properly maintained, eventually becoming obsolete and removed from the App Store.

  • I took those learnings to build several more-successful apps for the start-up I was with, and with my coworkers, we chatted at length about DOOM and its revolutionary design. I enjoyed my work, but this startup ended up kicking the can two years later from a lack of interest in the concept and the corresponding angel investors. The apps I released were pulled from the App Store, since no one was around to pay the Apple Developer program fees needed to keep the apps up and running. However, despite this disappointing outcome, I would leave my first startup with a better command of what app development entailed, and now that I knew where the gaps in my knowledge was, I was able to vastly improve these skills with my next position.

  • In this way, I was able to become very confident, and more competent, with things like UIKit, protocols and delegation, auto-layout, completion handlers, network calls and NSNotifications, to name a few – at present, I am able to build an entire app from front to back, from laying down the first storyboards and setting up build configuration files, to creating pixel-perfect UI elements based on what designers provide. Of course, my knowledge is constantly changing, and what I am working on now is learning more SQL and database design, as well as JavaScript, so that I can eventually build my own databases and the endpoints to communicate with my apps. This is about the gist of what can happen in five years, and it’s clear that for the developers at id Software, their craft over the past five years have improved dramatically, too.

  • For DOOM Eternal and future gaming posts (barring Halo Infinite), I have decided to switch over to hosting my images through Flickr – I’d previously hosted all gaming images through WordPress so that readers can see my exploits in higher resolution, but after nearly a decade of blogging, I am finally beginning to run out of space. Flickr’s image hosting solution has proven to be the most robust and versatile, and I’ve had no trouble with anime screenshots, so for the future, this is going to be the approach I take – while the gaming screenshots won’t be as crisp or sharp as they previously were, they should still get the job done.

  • DOOM Eternal‘s first mission entails fighting one’s way through a ruined city on Earth as Hellspawn continue to tear the place apart. The level of destruction is apparent, and the world we call home is unrecognisable, and indeed, this first level is reminiscent of DOOM II: Hell on Earth, which was similarly set on Earth. However, this is about the only similarity: in DOOM II, humanity had constructed spacecraft with which to flee the planet, and ends up venturing into Hell itself to fight the Hellspawn’s leaders. Conversely, by the events of DOOM Eternal, even the UAC are unable to slow the onslaught.

  • One of the aspects about DOOM Eternal that I really liked was the fact that the game sent players to locations with a distinct high fantasy feel to them: the second mission is set on Argent D’Nur, an Earth-like planet with coniferous trees, snow-capped mountains and moody, overcast skies. In DOOM, the Doom Slayer was sent off to a more hellish part of the planet that was corrupted, and here, the goal is to repair the device needed to track the Hell Priests. The Warcraft-like castles belong to the Night Sentinels, a warrior group who existed to protect the Wraiths, powerful beings who granted them the capability to oppose Hell’s worst.

  • By this point in time, I’d unlocked the Dash and Blood Punch abilities, as well as the Flame Belch. Initially, I found DOOM Eternal‘s HUD to be a shade too cartoonish for my liking, and the colours were quite distracting. However, DOOM Eternal offers extensive customisations, including the choice to alter HUD opacity, colour schemes and crosshair settings, among other things. While I’d not modified anything initially, at the time of writing, I’ve since changed the HUD colours to the UAC default, making it resemble the colour scheme from DOOM, and with this single modification, my screen feels like it has less visual clutter.

  • The second half of the mission sends the Doom Slayer to Hell itself; the Doom Slayer is in search of the Betrayer, a Night Sentinel who was briefly mentioned in DOOM and had committed the crime of striking a bargain with a Hell Priest in order to resurrect his son by allowing him an audience with the Wraiths. The Hell Priest deceived him and ultimately was able to mount an assault on Argent D’Nur, and returned to the Betrayer his son in a hideous, monsterous form. Upon meeting the Betrayer, the Doom Slayer promises to help him lay his son to rest and in turn, receives the Celestial Locator.

  • Hell is defined by grotesque surroundings, with blood, organs and skeletons from vast beasts lying scattered about. The massive scale of monsters in DOOM and DOOM Eternal bring to mind Lovecraftian horror, where cosmic beings beyond comprehension and the inability to know them creates terror and madness. While DOOM and DOOM Eternal don’t use Lovecraftian principles per se (the monsters are, after all, in a form players are familiar with), a part of the horror in DOOM comes from seeing the sheer massiveness of these long-defeated monstrosities.

  • With the Celestial Locator in hand, the Doom Slayer prepares to return to the exit portal. The last portion of the mission entails some careful platforming in order to pull off, and here, a special power-up that instantly refills the dash is visible. Having access to the dash gives players the ability to create a great deal of forward momentum very quickly, and in conjunction with double jumping, allows for perilous chasms to be cleared. Flaming chains reminiscent of those seen in Super Mario can be seen: as a child, the fortress levels terrified me owing to the fire-bar hazard, and seeing a modern equivalent brought back memories of these times.

  • The next mission sends the Doom Slayer to the Arctic, where the cultists have converted a UAC research facility into a base for the Hell Priest Deag Ranak. The facility itself might be a cutting-edge research centre, but it bears the Gothic architecture characteristic of high fantasy settings, as well. Here, the Doom Slayer will fight Mancubi for the first time: unlike their DOOM counterparts, whose dual flame-throwers are completely natural, the Mancubus of DOOM Eternal more closely resembles its DOOM II counterpart, and its powerful flame-throwers are vulnerable to fire. Once destroyed, the Mancubus can be dispatched with relative ease. The alternate for engaging Macubi is to hammer them from a distance using the rocket launcher.

  • I ended up unlocking the precision bolt for the heavy cannon first and picked up the micro-missiles attachment after, while for the plasma rifle, I opted for the microwave beam purely on the virtue that it looks cool, and generally found the plasma rifle in DOOM Eternal to be a superb close to medium range weapon, capable of staggering enemies in a few shots and vapourising them outright when killed. I tend to use the heavy cannon for weak enemies like zombies and imps, while Hell Soldiers, I prefer using the plasma rifle for.

  • The architecture in DOOM Eternal is contributing greatly to my enjoyment of the game, and I am constantly reminded of an old friend from high school who was very much into this sort of world back in the day: he’d contributed to my enjoyment of Nightwish and got me into Half-Life 2 at a time when none of my other classmates or friends had a computer powerful enough to run Half-Life 2 and its episodes, although we drifted apart in university, and it’s been a shade under a decade since we last spoke. With this being said, I’m certain that DOOM Eternal would be right up his alley.

  • The first segment of the third mission has the Doom Slayer ripping and tearing his way through the UAC Cultist facility in search of his old property. The Super Shotgun is an old-school double-barreled shotgun capable of obscene damage, but it gains a new utility in the form of a grappling hook called the “meat hook”, which allows for the Doom Slayer to latch onto an enemy and pull himself towards it. In this way, it is possible to, in conjunction with double jumps and dashes, traverse large distances very quickly. The utility is reminiscent of Agent Under Fire‘s Q-Claw, which was a superbly flexible tool in multiplayer, and I’ve heard that in Halo: Infinite, Master Chief will be equipped with a grappling hook, as well: in the trailers, players seen using it to pull in fusion cores and tossing them at Covenant.

  • I suddenly wish that such a feature was present in DOOM Eternal, since there are explosives lying around in some areas that can make it easier to clear out hordes of enemies. I’ve opted to run with the sticky bomb mod for the shotgun: being able to lob explosives is an ability that has saved my skin on several occasions. The alternate mod is an automatic fire mode that turns the shotgun into a short range death machine, but it also burns through ammunition at a very high rate. I’ve heard rumours that the automatic fire mode will replenish ammo whenever scoring a kill, although having tried this for myself, I didn’t find it to be the case.

  • DOOM Eternal‘s rocket launcher is considerably more powerful than its DOOM counterpart, sporting more damage and a larger blast radius. In exchange, one can only carry a maximum of thirteen rockets at a time (previously, one could carry a maximum of thirty-five rockets). The changes mean that the rocket launcher is to be used more strategically, and I prefer saving the rocket for tougher foes like the Mancubus. Here, I’m just about done clearing out one of the arenas outside, and readers will notice a bar filling up on the upper right-hand side of the screen.

  • Weapon upgrade points make a return from DOOM, being earned for clearing out enemies. Whereas DOOM only had a maximum of five points per level, DOOM Eternal offers up to ten points a level: five are allocated to standard combat, two for secret encounters and one involving a Slayer Gate challenge, which pushes players to their limits given their current familiarity and arsenal. There are a total of six Slayer Gates in DOOM Eternal‘s campaign, and I ultimately did end up going back to replay the second mission so I could complete the one I missed.

  • DOOM Eternal‘s story component is more prominent than it had been in DOOM; when reaching areas for the first time, the game will pause momentarily and introduce a cutscene which explores what the Doom Slayer’s actions have resulted in. For returning players, these are easily skipped. The inclusion of these cutscenes is a solid way of presenting story to first-timers like myself, whereas returning players can very easily hop over them for the main attraction. It is clear that player choice is very much a central part of DOOM Eternal, and for me, having the cutscenes really immersed me into the world’s impressive lore.

  • If the current DOOM universe ever received a Tolkien-style legendarium, I’d totally read them: there’s so much depth to the world that the in-game codices provide, and I’m fond of reading them as I find them. Towards the end of the third mission, the Doom Slayer boards a train and heads towards the installation where Deag Ranak is hiding. While he exudes a defiant personality and is confident he’ll survive an encounter with the Doom Slayer, the Hell Priests themselves are still flesh-and-blood, leaving them vulnerable to the violence that the Doom Slayer excels in dealing out.

  • An impressive-looking facility, the Doom Hunter Base feels like a location on Azeroth, or perhaps Northrend. I’ve been speaking about this for months, but I definitely will be aiming to explore Northrend on my private server very soon here; back in April, I finally made good on an old promise and completed Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, beating Alduin in Sovngarde. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to back up my screenshots of the experience, and my current save files for those particular levels were overwritten, so I don’t have access to Sovngarde without using console commands.

  • With this being said, I did have a great time finally bringing my journey to an end in Skyrim: even more so than DOOM Eternal and other Bethesda works, the lore in a given Elder Scrolls game is immersive and thorough. Beating Alduin means that I’ve now finished Skyrim, an experience that lasted me a total of 55 hours over the span of eight years. Overall, the experience was well worth it, and while the gameplay now feels a bit dated now (when I bought Skyrim, it’d only been two years old and felt very smooth), the lore and exploration remain unmatched. To finally smash Alduin means I can explore the world at my own pace now, and I’ll likely save this for rainy days where travelling to the mountains isn’t possible.

  • Elder Scrolls VI was announced three years ago, although Bethesda have indicated that it’ll be coming out in the future, after 2022’s Starfield, an all-new franchise. As such, I’ll return my focus to DOOM Eternal, where I’ve entered the heart of the complex. Even though the screenshots aren’t as sharp as the screenshots from my previous gaming posts, it is apparent that the visual fidelity in DOOM Eternal blows anything I’d previously played out of the water. Even without real-time ray-tracing enabled, the game looks absolutely incredible even though I’m on an eight-year-old machine.

  • Having not played a DOOM game since 2016, my platforming skills have somewhat deteriorated, and so, when I encountered an unlock for runes, I immediately opted for the rune that increases control while airborne. This didn’t stop me from making my share of mistakes, and here, I accidentally missed a jump and fell into the molten metal; the Doom Slayer will reference Terminator II and do a thumbs-up, just like in DOOM, which was a clever touch. DOOM Eternal adds extra lives as a mechanic, allowing players to instantly respawn should they die in a spot, and falling into a pit now only pushes players with a small reduction in health and armour on standard difficulty.

  • I’m currently playing through DOOM Eternal on “Hurt Me Plenty”, the default difficulty. Players initially reported being decimated on normal difficulty, I imagine that it’s because they were trying to play DOOM Eternal like they did DOOMDOOM Eternal requires a slightly different mindset going in, and once this mindset is cultivated, DOOM Eternal becomes more fun. It certainly doesn’t become easier, since the game will expect that with more experience, players will be able to handle increasingly challenging situations).

  • By the fourth mission, players will have access to enough of an arsenal and their Prætor’s full abilities (Ordnance launcher, Flame Belch, Dash and Blood Punch) to navigate open areas and top off on resources during firefights. DOOM Eternal stops holding the players’ hand here and opens the floor up to creativity, and while DOOM Eternal is very much a linear game, the amount of options available means the missions actually feel quite open in their design. This is the sort of thing that all FPS fans love to see: while the end destination might be the same, there’s enough choice in each level so everyone will reach said destination in a slightly different manner.

  • One of the things I loved about the Doom Hunter Base was how Deag Ranak and the level design itself would tease at what was upcoming: an ancient monster, torn in half with its spine and internal organs dangling precariously, is gradually shown to be assembled, and Ranak himself will declare that this monster is probably going to be something that impresses even the Doom Slayer. Having gone through DOOM previously and possessing a modicum of knowledge pertaining to what the Doom Slayer is capable of, these remarks suggest that players will be given their first challenge of DOOM Eternal.

  • Reflecting this, the levels’s dæmonic corruption bar (i.e. the indicator that shows weapon point progress) appears differently, with the ticks on the far right organised into one group. A boss fight is coming, and this moment is a milestone in DOOM EternalDOOM previously had three boss fights (one against the Cyberdemon, one against the Hell Guards and then the final one against the Spider Mastermind). Each fight had its own mechanics and felt surprisingly fresh, involving a combination of movement and accuracy to overcome.

  • In keeping with DOOM Eternal‘s underlying philosophy, boss fights also require a dash of strategy and resource management. With this in mind, I faced off against  DOOM Eternal‘s first boss, the Doom Hunter, this past Saturday. The Doom Hunter is described as a Agaddon Hunter grafted onto a hovering platform. It has a chainsaw mounted on its left arm, and its right arm is a plasma cannon, and the platform itself launches missiles. The Doom Hunter’s design reminds me vividly of the sort of thing the average middle school boy might found awesome, and in Bill Amend’s FoxTrot, Jason Fox is fond of dreaming up constructs like this for the cool factor. It’s the best thing to fight on a lazy summer afternoon where it’s too hot to be out and about, and last Saturday turned out to be full of surprises – after a southern fried chicken dinner, I decided to go for an evening walk under the still-warm day, something that only the summer can offer.

  • In the actual fight itself, strategy entails shooting at the Doom Hunter’s unshielded platform first: the Doom Hunter itself is protected by a powerful energy shield that mitigates incoming damage, but the platform is vulnerable to explosives. Once the platform is destroyed, the shields will fall, and the Doom Slayer can resort to any attack to finish this foe off. I ended up using the Plasma Rifle’s microwave beam to explode the first one. However, it wouldn’t be DOOM if things weren’t over-the-top: as I congratulated myself on finishing the first boss of the game, DOOM Eternal then dropped me into an outdoors arena where I would now fight two Doom Hunters simultaneously.

  • While an intimidating thought, I shook the doubt out of my head: having now beaten one Doom Hunter, I knew what needed to be done and set about engaging the Doom Hunters separately, preferring to focus on one and using the area’s design to my advantage: I dashed across openings and cut down lesser dæmons to restock on health, ammo and armour. As the fight wore on, the Doom Hunters’ sleds became destroyed, and I ended up finishing them off without any trouble, bringing my first third of DOOM Eternal to an end.

While the DLC had been one reason I had held off on making DOOM Eternal a day-one purchase, another reason had lay in whether or not my PC could handle DOOM Eternal. In 2016, DOOM pushed my machine to its limits; I could only run the game at medium settings if I wanted 60 FPS at 1080p, and frame drops were not uncommon. I upgraded my GPU to ensure a smoother experience, and the difference was night and day. DOOM had led to the first time I’d upgraded my hardware for one game, and at present, with my machine passing its eighth birthday, I was a little worried that DOOM Eternal would prove too much for my machine. Unlike DOOM, which had a demo that allowed me to determine precisely how my machine would handle, DOOM Eternal had no such equivalent. I ended up going off reading about benchmarks for my CPU and GPU combination to gain a measure of what to expect, but it wasn’t until I found a YouTube channel whose owner had the same setup I did that I became convinced my machine could run DOOM Eternal. After I purchased DOOM Eternal, I powered on the game with some trepidation, and while the first five minutes saw me with some frame drops, as I pushed further into the game, things began smoothing out. DOOM Eternal, like its predecessor, is incredibly well-optimised: movement is just as smooth and responsive as it had been, and on high settings, the game looks amazing even without real-time ray-tracing enabled. Having now gone through the first third of DOOM Eternal, I am convinced that the game’s performance is satisfactory, and moreover, the gameplay is superb. According to DOOM Eternal, I’ve now picked up all of the tools that I will need to be successful in stemming the dæmonic invasion on my own: even though I’m only four levels in, Steam has been kind enough to inform me that I’ve already spent six hours in DOOM Eternal. While my initial experience in DOOM Eternal had been a bit slow, it turns out the game intended to ease players into things: there are a bewildering amount of options in DOOM Eternal, and presenting them all at once would be overwhelming. Conversely, by incrementally unlocking the Doom Slayer’s arsenal, players have a chance to really understand what they can do with their existing toolset before augmenting it with new equipment intended to fulfil a specific role. It is saying something that DOOM Eternal requires four to six hours just to get players geared up: the game is considerably bigger than its predecessor, and all of the signs point to an exceptional experience where I’m sure to have a good time.

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.

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War- Part IV Review and Reflection, Wrapping Up Loose Ends

“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.

Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War- Part III Review and Reflection, Behind Enemy Lines in Moscow and Cuba

“If I couldn’t put my life in the hands of vetted strangers, I’d be in a different line of work.” –Russell Adler

In order to infiltrate the Lubyanka Building, Alder and Bell count on help from KGB double-agent Dimitri Belikov: on the day of the operation, he attends a meeting to discuss the possibility of a mole within the KGB, and suggests that only General Charkov retains his bunker access key card. This change of events forces Belikov to improvise – he knocks out a security guard and disables the building’s CCTV cameras before bribing a guard with a Cuban cigar; the guard reluctantly allows Belikov access to the armoury, where he quickly reprograms a new key card for bunker access. After obtaining the key card, he lets Adler and Bell into the building. From here, Bell and Adler fight their way through the bunker and reach the vault where the list is being stored. Bell places a gas canister as a contingency measure, secures the documents and manages to rescue Belikov, who has been outed as the mole. The group manage to escape the building and return to West Berlin, learning that Cuban scientist Theodore Hastings is one of the sleeper agents they’d been seeking, and moreover, that Perseus likely intends to have Fidel Castro help him move one of the nuclear bombs in exchange for a favour. With this knowledge, Bell, Adler, Park and Azoulay head to Cuba, where they fight their way through the building where Hastings is held. Upon reaching Hastings, they learn that Perseus had ordered him and his team to reverse-engineer the detonation codes for all of the Greenlight devices, intending to frame the United States for the attack and create a new world order with the Soviet Union on top. Hastings was mortally wounded and dies shortly after, and the team takes off in pursuit of Perseus, who manages to escape. With their mission compromised, Bell and the team prepare to extract, but a Cuban soldier wounds Bell, Park and Azoulay with an RPG. Bell is forced to save Park, leaving Azoulay behind, along with a pile of questions that linger following their botched mission. Without alternatives, Adler authorises use of a cerebral injection to force Bell to give up any secrets he may still be holding onto.

In Cold War‘s third quarter, the gameplay really demonstrates what is possible with contemporary shooters as far as options go – Call of Duty games have traditionally been very linear in design and had a singular focus on shooting one’s way to victory. However, Cold War has players experience things from new perspectives, and this creates a much more compelling story, showing the moments that lead up to firefights, and how in espionage, social engineering and the human factor have a role to play, as well. In this regard, the mission Desperate Measures, which is seen from both Belikov and Bell’s perspectives, acts as a superb example of how big-budget games can allow players to impart their own approach towards problem solving, something that previously was thought to be limited to walking simulators, narrative-driven games that are driven by player choices. Pure walking simulators are often thought of as lacking in innovation, vapid and jejune, depriving players of agency. It is the case that most walking simulators are hopelessly dull and preachy, but there are definitely some insightful titles have a meaningful story to tell, as well. Cold War‘s exploration-driven segments are remarkably well-done because one’s choices as Belikov can dramatically alter how difficult it is to secure a bunker keycard. Cold War gives players several options to approach this, and for each option, sub-options become available. On first glance, killing Charkov is the easiest route, since he has a keycard. However, this is fraught with unknowns: stabbing him may blow Belikov’s cover if not timed correctly, and poisoning Charkov requires a sample of Nova 6, which is kept in a restricted area. Even if Belikov secures the Nova 6, the conversation with Charkov is a tightrope act; one could screw up the conversation and accidentally drink their own poisoned tea. Conversely, one could go for a much more clandestine route and gain access to the armoury. This route leaves Charkov alive, eliminating the risk that Belikov faces and assures him of a bunker key card: it takes a little more patience to make this one work, but the route is much more straightforward in the long run. While as Bell, the goal is simply to gather the document and eliminate all Soviet enemies, seeing Belikov’s actions leading up to the firefight is to provide players with an experience that demonstrates the level of decision-making needed to navigate a side of espionage that is desperately tricky, in turn augmenting the immersion in Cold War.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While exploring the building, I ended up finding a Cuban Cigar, and figured that the best possible route would be to try and cut my own keycard. This approach would result in the fewest deaths, and I certainly had no wish to poison Charkov. The choices players make will impact how easy it is to get the keycard needed to let Bell and Adler: some choices will result in Belikov being compromised or even killed. Throughout Cold War, the choices that players make will impact the game in meaningful ways: since I ended up sparing one of the informants in the East German mission, it became necessary to kill him.

  • Cold War does not offer many details for players while they’re playing as Belikov, but providing a map helps one to make their choices. In the end, players will succeed regardless of what method they take, and while is possible to kill everyone in sight, I’ve always had a fondness for figuring things out in the most elegant manner possible in games because it’s fun to see what happens when I do things as closely as I would in real life. I thus secured the keycard and got through the first part of the mission without any difficulties.

  • One part that caught me a little off guard was when Imran Zakhaev enters the elevator with Bell and Adler and strikes up a conversation with the two. While failing the conversation has no negative consequences, until the guns come out, I prefer talking my way through things: I ended up mentioning a General Sobol, having heard his name earlier, and Zakhaev therefore remains unaware that anything is off. Once the elevator reaches the bunker, it’s back to business: players gain the MP5 with a Sillix holographic sight and STANAG fifty-round drum magazine. The customisations in Cold War, while nothing jaw-dropping, are still fun, allowing one to change out weapons in a way that alters their handling.

  • The modified MP5 Bell carries become a close-quarters hipfire LMG, and backing this up is the Gallo SA12 with a twelve round tube magazine. Modelled after the SPAS-12, the SA-12 is a semi-automatic shotgun with moderate stats, making it a solid contender in the campaign for close ranges. For the longest time, I used to wonder why games would portray the SPAS-12 with the distinct railing, and others would not. It turns out that the FIE Corp variant is seen here (which is also used in 007 Nightfire), with its stock folded up, whereas the other version (seen in The Division 2, Half-Life 2 and Agent Under Fire) is the American Arms Inc. fixed-stock version.

  • The bunker underneath the KGB headquarters isn’t anything resembling a Bond-villain lair, but it’s still quite large and in some places, well-appointed, indicating that the bunker was designed to be utilised as a survival shelter of sorts in the event of an atomic attack on top of acting as a highly secure storage site for important documents. I imagine that the bunker seen in Cold War is likely a fictional one: the Soviets were supposed to have a secret underground system, Д-6, to act as a nuclear shelter, but beyond rumours, no one has ever found any concrete evidence for its existence.

  • The top-secret nature of numerous Cold War projects is such that they create intrigue even today, and this is one of the reasons why I find the Cold War to be such a fascinating part of history. The extreme secrecy behind many projects and initiatives create wild speculation online in the modern era, with things like the nature of the UVB-75 broadcasts, or near constant UFO sightings in areas where the United States military were testing new aircraft commanding a certain pull towards folks seeking thrilling and mysterious stories.

  • Here, Adler instructs Bell to place a device into the ventilation system that will release a toxic gas when activated. The pair are getting close to the vault itself now, and here, I will note that I am fairly impressed both with Cold War‘s performance on my eight-year-old machine, as well as my machine for being able to run such a game. While there are frame drops and artefacts, as well as the fact that my GPU can’t do the latest ray-tracing computations, the game runs smoothly enough at high settings at 1080p to confer an enjoyable experience. The true test for my machine will be whether or not it can handle Battlefield 2042 on at least high settings and still push 60 FPS, as well as Far Cry 6, which looks stunning.

  • There are a lot of technologies my five-year-old GPU won’t have access to, but I’m frankly impressed that the card I have now has lasted as long as it did. The time is probably overdue for me to build a new desktop, but with chips remaining very pricey (assuming stock exists at all), I feel that, should I decide to go for any of Battlefield 2042 or Far Cry 6, if I can at least run the game with playable framerates, I’ll count that as a win. Here, the vault can be seen at the end of this large room: I’ve finished clearing it out before going for the screenshots. I tend to go for screenshots before or after firefights, since mid-firefight, taking damage turns the screen red, resulting in poor results.

  • Inside the vault, a host of tape machines can be seen, and at the end, there’s a computer terminal Bell can use to pull the list of sleeper agents from. While tapes appear to be a very archaic way of storing data, especially with SSDs, tapes are more durable and have a much greater capacity compared to conventional hard drives. The reason why tapes are unpopular for modern computers is because tapes are good for sequential access, while computers require direct access. As such, while tapes are great for safely backing up large amounts of data for infrequent retrieval, conventional hard drives allow one to do read and writes more easily.

  • During a lull in the fighting, where waves of soldiers will attack, I come across the Desert Eagle, referred to as the “Hand Cannon” in Cold War. With an integral green laser sight, the weapon is devastating and kills in a single shot. However, one only gets eight shots with it, and once it empties out, the weapon is useless since additional ammunition cannot be obtained. During the frenzied firefight, I used it to blast attacking soldiers, marvelling at how it throws enemies back: despite its small capacity, that the weapon is a one-shot kill means that it can be used to quickly deal with enemies in a pinch and potentially buy enough space to survive a difficult moment.

  • When Bell and Adler begin gaining the upper hand, the Soviets cut the power to the bunker. The darkened underground setting brings back memories of the Metro series, and it is with a jolt that I realise that some eight years have passed since I first heard about Metro: when I built my current desktop, NVIDIA had been bundling copies of Metro: Last Light with their GPUs, and it proved to be a fantastic adventure. I have very fond memories of Metro: Last Light, whose sophisticated campaign and masterfully crafted setting immersed me into a franchise I’d previously never heard of.

  • Striking a balance between combat and survival-horror, Metro: Last Light would lead me into the series, and two years ago, I finished Metro: Exodus, finding it a phenomenal experience. That Cold War brought back these memories speaks to the distinct nature of Soviet architecture. Here, I’m still hanging onto the Hand Cannon as I push through the darkened bunker, but once Adler realises Belikov has been burned, he orders Bell to activate the gas. This knocks out the Soviet soldiers, and Bell hastens to put a gas mask on Belikov. Once they reach the bunker’s elevator, the three equip heavy armour and prepare to blast their way out of the Lubyanka Building.

  • In a moment reminiscent of Modern Warfare 3‘s final mission, players walk through the main hall of the Lubyanka Building with an RPD and blast everything that moves. This light machine gun is a staple weapon used by Soviet forces (and some Viet Cong soldiers): by default, it has a fifty-round drum magazine and is counted to have excellent handling traits. For this last segment of Desperate Measures, however, I’ve got an upgraded hundred-round drum instead, allowing me to make short work of the soldiers standing between Bell and the extraction without reloading as often.

  • Desperate Measures turned out to be the perfect balance of exploration and action: previous Call of Duty games were purely about firefights, but Cold War marks the first time where player choices have an impact on subtle things in the game. By putting decision-making in players’ hands, players must play out a game knowing their actions have an impact down the line. Empowering players thus indicates that the power they attain also has an attendant responsibility, and that in real life, any choice one makes similarly have consequences individuals must take responsibility for. In Desperate Measures, for instance, my choice to spare the East German informant poses a risk to Adler’s operation, so now I must set things right.

  • It turns out that, had I taken the time to read the informant’s file and then shot him earlier, I might’ve spared myself the trouble of having to do so in a building full of KGB and Soviet soldiers. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and since I have a preference for not leaving behind loose ends, I opted to eliminate him, knowing that this made my assignment a tad riskier. In the end, I got everything done, and here, before I leave the Lubyanka Building, I take one last look at the main hall before departing with Adler and Belikov. Even on my older machine, the interior looks amazing.

  • The next mission, End of the Line, sees me fly over to Cuba with the goal of securing the sleeper agent. At this point, if players haven’t finished off the side missions, Operation Red Circus and Operation Chaos will become inaccessible after players accept End of the Line. On my play-through, I stopped after Desperate Measures, having found the evidence needed to decrypt a floppy disk for Red Circus, and chose to play through both side missions before continuing. I’ll recount my experiences with Cold War‘s side missions later and will only note now that they’re shorter missions that were quite fun to unlock and play through.

  • End of the Line Starts players with the LW3 Tundra, this time, without the suppressor. In Cuba, it’s Fidel Castro’s forces Bell and his team fight against. While Castro is mentioned to be assisting Perseus in the briefings, he never shows up in-person like Black Ops, where players were tasked with assassinating Castro. Being the leader of Cuba from 1976 to 2008, Castro is a polarising figure; he is credited with improving the quality of life in Cuba by proponents, but counted by others as a dictator bent on controlling freedom of expression. Thus, when Black Ops sets players with assassinating Castro, Cuba responded with opposition.

  • There are always both sides to a coin, and I personally have no strong opinions about Castro as a leader. In general, this is how I approach contemporary politics, as well, and it is therefore to my dismay that Western media is so quick to dæmonise anyone whose ideologies deviate even slightly from what is accepted here. I am not saying that people should acquiesce to a form of government that lack checks and balances, or lack accountability to the people, but instead, people should make an honest effort to, at the very least, understand how a foreign system works before passing judgement, as well as acknowledge that alternate perspectives typically exist.

  • It is therefore a disheartening to watch the news over here wherever foreign events are covered; most outlets only run things from one perspective, and journalists have no qualms in labelling an entire people and their culture as evil, even fabricating claims to smear said people to turn public opinion against them if it suits said journalists’ goals. The end result is a misrepresentation (or outright untruthful) presentation of what happened with no room for discussion or consideration. For instance, with the release of an activist from prison overseas, our media has seen fit to cover the story as being highly relevant and push the same tired narrative even if the story matters little to the people here, on the sole virtue that said activist has a large Twitter following.

  • I’ve seen it fit to pay such stories no mind; follower counts are irrelevant, and I doubt I’d get along with sycophants who revere people with half a million followers, so I’ll return the discussion back to Cold War, where I’ve swapped off my starting M1911 for an AK-47. The LW3 is a great weapon for picking off foes defending the building Hastings is in, but upon getting closer, it’s prudent to pick up a weapon better suited for close quarters combat: much of the level is set inside the building, and the LW3 won’t be of too much use in a confined space.

  • The Milano 821 is modelled after the Italian Socimi Type 821 which was designed in 1983 and entered service in 1984. While outwardly a copy of the Uzi, the Type 821 is an improvement in every way, making it easier to handle, more accurate and even be fired one-handed while retaining satisfactory control. I imagine that the Cold War incarnation is named after the fact that SOCIMI is based in Milan, Italy. As a weapon, it’s certainly fun to use: here, I’m rocking a stock Milano 821 with the standard magazine and iron sights.

  • While I’ve long felt iron sights to be ill-suited for my playstyle, of late, I’ve become much more comfortable running with iron sights in games. Before games like Call of Duty popularised aiming down sights, games tended to let players fire from the hip (Half-Life, Halo, Counterstrike). The inclusion of iron sights was intended to complement aiming down sights to increase accuracy and control at the expensive of mobility. This would slow down a firefight, forcing players to make use of positioning and cover, whereas games without these elements are more about movement.

  • In games where aiming down sights and the associated accuracy increase is central, I’ve always opted to install a holographic or red dot sight to my weapons for easier target acquisition. Thus, when Battlefield 1 came out, I had trouble adjusting, since all of the modern sights and optics were unavailable. However, by Battlefield V, I managed to become more familiar with them, and at present, I’m not particularly bothered if my weapons have no sights available to them. Here, I come across a CCTV system that lets Bell and his team quickly work out where the scientist is being held.

  • Because I otherwise won’t use shotguns often enough during my run of Cold War, I ended up swapping off the Milano 821 for the Hauer 77, which is based off the Ithaca 37, which was designed in 1933 and uses a bottom-loading mechanism that makes the weapon friendly for both left and right-handed operators. The Ithaca 37 itself is modelled on the Remington Model 17, and as the Hauer 77 in Cold War, is unparalleled in stopping power; it can one-shot any enemy in close quarters. Although I never did find it myself, I’ve heard there’s a Hauer 77 equipped with Dragon’s Breath rounds, which set enemies on fire when hit.

  • After reaching the room where Hastings is, to Park and the others’ surprise, everyone’s already dead, and Hastings himself is in the verge of death, being critically wounded by Perseus himself. It becomes clear that Perseus has no loyalty to anyone other than himself, and more than likely, he saw the scientists as a means to an end. Insofar, Perseus has been a ghost, but as more of Cold War‘s story is presented, a face behind the evil is finally presented to players, giving them a tangible target to pursue. With Hastings dead, Bell and the squad turn their attention to capturing Perseus here and now.

  • Cuba, for its sunshine and warmth, feels far too anti-climatic a place to capture Perseus; there’s no way to actually do so here, and Perseus will escape, leaving players to deal with Castro’s soldiers and beat a hasty exit of their own. Fighting on the balconies surrounding the courtyard means being exposed to long-range fire from enemies, but fortunately, there’s a Type 66 handy. With its optics, picking off more distant foes becomes much easier, although I did find myself adjusting to the weapon: since the Type 66 is classified as a tactical rifle rather than a sniper rifle, one can’t stabilise it like they would the Pelington 703, LW2 or M82.

  • I ended up finding an MP5 amidst the chaotic firefight from the building’s hallways leading up to the roof. Looking back, Bell’s time in Cuba is short, and as Woods joked earlier in the Red Light, Green Light mission, it would’ve been nice to stick around and sightsee a little: the whole of the level is set in a derelict compound just south of Havana proper and was likely chosen because Perseus counted it a secure spot to finish off what he’d started.

  • Upon reaching the roof, a veritable army of Cuban soldiers await Bell, Park and Azoulay. Fortunately, there’s also a stockpile of weapons up here, conveniently placed for the team to utilise. There’s another Type 66 and an M16A1, as well: because of the range that enemies will attack from, having an intermediate range weapon will be most helpful here. The Type 66 up here only has a red dot sight, so there’s wisdom in hanging onto the Type 66 with the scope from earlier.

  • For players looking to deal a bit more damage and were feeling shafted about not finding an M79 earlier, End of the Line offers a chance to rectify this. This single-shot break-action grenade launcher was born of a project to create a weapon that had a greater range than rifle grenades and more portable than a mortar. While effective in its role, the M79 also limited a soldier from having a service rifle: the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher ended up being the answer to this, although the M79 remains in service to this day because it is more accurate and has a longer range than the M203.

  • Ultimately, I ended up saving Park because reaching her was closer. The outcome of Bell’s choice brought back memories of Battlefield 4‘s ending, and on the topic of Battlefield, the gameplay trailer for Battlefield 2042 was released during the weekend. Together with the reveal trailer, it looks like the team at DICE has completely nailed the marketting piece for Battlefield 2042, selling it as a large-scale sandbox multiplayer modern military shooter, which is what every fan had been asking for since Battlefield 1. Unlike previous iterations, Battlefield 2042 will not have a single player campaign, but instead, will have bots as an option. While it’s still early to know whether or not Battlefield 2042 will join my library, the game looks very promising, and I’ll probably have a more concrete decision once I’ve had a go at the open beta.

Cold War‘s implementation of a choice-based narrative within a first-person shooter is therefore effective, because Belikov’s actions set the stage for something much larger. A compelling exploration-based narrative is one that combines both quiet moments where a players’ choices have an impact on the outcomes within the context of a larger story, and moments where skill and knowledge are necessary to advance the story. Cold War is able to achieve this very well, and thus, is able to convey an atmosphere of urgency by utilising both decision-based mechanics and traditional first-person shooter mechanics in every moment to underscore the importance of stopping Perseus. The combination of infiltrating the Lubyanka Building and shooting one’s way through a Cuban mansion to determine what Perseus is up to leads to one chilling revelation: a plot to falsely accuse the United States of destroying over half of Europe with neutron bombs. The potential loss of life is staggering, and with Bell being an integral piece of the puzzle, Adler guides players to journey inwards in the hopes of figuring out what Bell knows about Perseus and using this knowledge to save millions of lives from being extinguished. While the cards are laid bare for players to take in, and what’s at stake is now clear, this part of Cold War also ended up being a lot more conventional than expected. The promotional materials had suggested a much more insidious plot to undermine the world as we know it, but it turns out the catalyst to this is a staple of Cold War fiction, taking the form of nuclear devices. Of course, with Operation Greenlight’s scope, the penalties for failure are much higher, and entering the final act of Cold War, the desperation to stop Perseus becomes very tangible. Overall, the setup in Cold War is very much a classic video game experience, but the narrative is much deeper and more satisfying because it combines the best of both worlds – striking a balance between the two and taking a hybrid approach, as seen in Cold War, demonstrates how games that combine elements of exploration can connect players to what’s going on in the story without sacrificing the excitement and satisfaction of improvement over time, creating a superior experience.

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.