The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War

The Relevance of AI Bots in Contemporary Games, and A Case Study in Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War

“What will limit us is not the possible evolution of technology, but the evolution of human purposes.” –Stephen Wolfram

While Agent Under Fire today might be counted as unremarkable, it was revolutionary for its time: tucked away in the multiplayer menu was an option to play against AI bots. If one’s friends were unavailable, or one wanted to learn the multiplayer maps that way, one could add a few bots into a match, set their difficulty and aggression, then enjoy a match against the AI, whether it be to explore the map or warm up prior to a split-screen session. In this area, Agent Under Fire completely raised the expectation for what games could accommodate, offering single players additional choice even if they did not have additional friends over at the time. Against the bots on iconic maps like Town or Castle, one could spend an hour just learning the map and its tactics, facing AI of difficulties one found appropriate. This feature would later make its way to Nightfire, which further allowed the bots’ AI to be customised. Bots could be team players, focused on grabbing power weapons or simply care for kills. When friends weren’t available to visit, I used to still play Nightfire‘s multiplayer with bots for amusement, marvelling at the fact that I could still learn the maps and weapons without needing a second player. When properly implemented, AI bots provide players with more choice and more options: some folks might want to explore maps and blast enemies at their own pace, without angry teammates screaming at them about what to do. Others simply don’t enjoy the frustration of excessively serious players ruining sandbox moments. However, it is rare for modern multiplayer games to feature bots; the idea behind multiplayer is that one is fighting human opponents, the ultimate foe in terms of strategy and skill. As such, most games don’t bother with implementing offline bots: writing pathing algorithms and decision trees to give the AI the proper level of sophistication is a demanding process, and studios would, understandably, prefer to focus on their core mechanics so that they can provide the best possible experience for players interesting in squaring off against other players.

The emphasis on always-online games is not without inherent risks for players. For one, if one’s connection goes down, or worse still, if the servers go offline, then an entire segment of the game is rendered unplayable. This is a longstanding problem that always-online games face: they are absolutely dependent on a stable connection and uptime. While servers and internet connections now are generally reliable, if a company decides the time has come and pulls the plug on their servers, that’s pretty much it. This sort of thing happened with Halo 2 during the Xbox Live days, and again with Halo 2 Vista‘s servers; I spent countless hours in the latter honing my skills and generally having a good time, but when Halo 2 Vista‘s servers were shut down, I was more or less left with half a game. Had Halo 2 included a bots mode, I would’ve doubtlessly spent many more hours after that on Lockout, enjoying an iconic experience. The addition of AI bots also opens the floor for creativity. After my time in Halo 2 ended, I ended up finding a replacement in Battlefield 3: this was a fantastic large-scale sandbox experience, but it was fully dependent on populated servers. On filled servers, it was non-stop, engaging chaos as players fought for objectives, and whacky emergent behaviours created some of Battlefield 3‘s most iconic moments. However, quieter servers were less exciting, and some days, I was met with empty servers where the match was awaiting enough players to join. Having AI bots to fill servers would doubtlessly had made matches easier to find, lessening the time I was waiting for things. Indeed, Battlefield 2042 appears to have learnt from this and will utilise bots to fill the void. For players looking to get the most of things, finding a server will be no problem, and as more humans join a server, the bots are simply replaced. The setup in Battlefield 2042 therefore helps players looking to enter the action as soon as possible, but the presence of bots also has a significant implication: it might be possible to spin up a local server with nothing but AI bots, and then spawn in with one’s mates and have a good time trying to kill helicopters with a bike or running around with terrible loadouts.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ve not spent a minute in the online multiplayer of Cold War, but upon learning that there was an offline mode for bots, I was convinced to give things a go: overall, Cold War‘s multiplayer does feel a little less finessed compared to something like Battlefield V or Halo, and as such, playing against other players could be quite frustrating. On the other hand, against AI bots, the experience becomes much more relaxing and casual, making it well-suited for someone who has around an hour to game.

  • What I enjoyed most about Cold War‘s multiplayer was the fact that the weapons could be extensively customised, allowing a given primary weapon to feel like a completely different weapon with the use of a few customisations. This creates variety, and players can use the AI bots to play with things before hopping into a real match. Here, I’m running the MP5, which was known as the KS-7 in Agent Under Fire. Unlike the KS-7, which was a peashooter, the MP5 in Cold War is a solid submachine gun and can be reliably used at close quarters to down enemies.

  • Agent Under Fire players will know the AUG as the UGW. However, whereas Agent Under Fire treated the AUG as an automatic weapon with good accuracy and damage, but a lower firing rate, in Cold War, the AUG is a burst-fire tactical rifle that can take an enemy out in as few as two bursts. In keeping with the aesthetic seen in Agent Under Fire, I’ve opted to keep the default sights on a given weapon, modifying the barrel and underbarrel for slightly improved performance.

  • The Moscow map is one of my favourites in Cold War, showing off things like water reflections and lighting. If memory serves, I tried out the bots mode back in May after installing the multiplayer component; originally, I’d bought Cold War thinking that I’d go through the campaign, but after hearing about the AI bots, I became curious to try out a mode that could extend the longevity of this game. Having played a few rounds against the AI bots, I conclude that this is indeed a nice way to spend half an hour on weeknights if I’m ever in the mood to blow stuff up in a more relaxed environment, away from the aggressively competitive players out there.

  • I’ve switched on over to Yamantau and have decided to run with the basic AK-47 here. Cold War‘s AK-47 feels particularly powerful, being a reliable and hard-hitting weapon. In most games nowadays, the AK-47 is portrayed as a slower-firing assault rifle that is less accurate than the M-16 and its counterparts, but otherwise does more damage per shot. This is reflecting on the fact that the Ak-47 fires a 7.62 mm round, as well as the fact that the weapon was manufactured with lower precision compared to their NATO equivalents.

  • This, together with the fact that the AK-47 is made of very few moving parts and has a robust construction, contributes to the weapon’s legendary durability and reliability. In video games, this translates to NATO weapons being portrayed as more accurate and having a higher rate of fire, while Eastern Bloc weapons deal more damage but will fire more slowly and be less accurate at range. In older games like Agent Under Fire, the AK-47 (KA-57) is depicted as an entry level assault rifle that does intermediate damage.

  • Agent Under Fire had been built around its campaign, and so, as the players got further into the campaign, the weapons became more powerful. This was appropriate for the single player mode, but it meant that some weapons were evidently better than others in the multiplayer. Nightfire ended up addressing this by making weapons more specialised (for instance, players have access to a suppressed burst-fire SG-551 in the first mission, but later, the unsuppressed, full-automatic version appears). Today, weapons have a wider range of attributes, and weapons diversity means that developers must balance everything against one another.

  • Agent Under Fire‘s Windsor FSU-4 is the M16A2 armed with the M203 under-barrel grenade launcher and sports a 40-round magazine. It’s an upgrade from the KA-57 and is introduced later in the campaign, featuring more firepower. The FSU-4 is a fully-automatic weapon, but in Cold War, the M16 is another tactical rifle with burst fire capabilities. Burst fire weapons have typically not been too popular, since players prefer to spray on full automatic or pick their foes off one shot at a time. However, Halo 2‘s implementation of a burst-fire weapon, in the BR-55, allows for versatility: the weapon can be controlled for longer range combat, but fires quickly enough to deal with foes at closer ranges.

  • During the Electronic Arts era of James Bond, all of their titles (Agent Under FireNightfire and Everything or Nothing) featured the SPAS-12. This Italian shotgun has a very distinct appearance because of how it looks when its stock is folded up, and while it’s a pump-action shotgun in reality, Agent Under Fire gives the weapon the more useful semi-automatic mode to increase its rate of fire. In Cold War, the SPAS-12 is a two shot kill, but has a good firing rate, making it easier to land follow-up shots.

  • A quick glance at the calendar shows that three years ago, I wrote about Battlefield V‘s open beta. I’d been home from Winnipeg for five days now, and while that assignment had been tough, what followed was nigh unbearable. When August had drawn to a close, we’d closed up our office and began working from home, although I was still required to meet with the founder and other staff. Because of a lack of accommodations, we ended up utilising my access to the university’s facilities to meet. During my downtime, I spent a fair bit of it playing the Battlefield V beta, which had opened the day after I returned and ran for five days.

  • Although I was knocking out work items daily, the fact that the backend’s team was essentially creating make-work (e.g. arbitrarily changing JSON responses and bouncing code reviews for choice of variable names) meant that the project continued to be delayed. I recall a cold, grey morning where I was scheduled for a live demo with the Denver team, but thanks to the backend team altering the names of JSON keys, the app crashed the moment I opened it during said demo. Fortunately for me, I’d done a video capture of the project and was able to show that, but the way the Winnipeg team worked made it an incredibly stressful environment.

  • Having the Battlefield V beta to look forwards to after hours really helped me to de-stress and gave me something to look forward to after a long day of sorting out bugs and dealing with headache. In the present day, I was expecting that Battlefield 2042‘s open beta to be this week, but scuttlebutt was that there’s some delays owing to development challenges, pushing the beta out to September 24. This is, incidentally, when Halo Infinite‘s open beta is scheduled to run.  I’ve never encountered a situation quite like this before, where two betas were running concurrently, but assuming that both betas happen on the same weekend, my priority this time around will be to get a feel for how both games perform on my system.

  • Previously, I primarily played betas to gain insight into how a given game handled from a mechanics standpoint, but with my machine now entering eight and a half years of service, it’s important to determine whether or not any games I have an interest in can even run on my system before I sink any coin into it; Cold War represents a situation where I’d jumped the gun, and while upgrading an OS is comparatively straightforward, outright building a new rig is going to be more involved. Under the best of circumstances, I could purchase a new custom rig and get it up and running in two weeks or so, but with the ongoing microprocessor shortage and crypto-mining causing GPU supply to be limited, building a new computer isn’t viable (it’s still possible, but not cost effective).

  • Here, I open hostilities with the Milano 821, which I’ve got standing in for Agent Under Fire‘s Ingalls (itself a facsimile of the Ingalls MAC-10, which I haven’t bothered unlocking because that would entail playing actual multiplayer matches). The Ingalls is a step up from the KS-7 in Agent Underfire, but is overall inferior to the PS-100 (P90). Conversely, the Milano 821 in Cold War is a decent weapon, handling like a submachine gun version of the AK-47 in having a lower rate of fire and higher damage per shot compared to the MP5.

  • On the other hand, the CARV.2 (a fictionalised version of the Heckler and Koch G11) was a weapon worth unlocking: late in June and early July, I spent my weekends farming long-shot kills in Cold War‘s Zombies mode to earn this weapon. This burst-fire weapon fires 4.73 mm ammunition and is very accurate, making it a great choice for medium to long range encounters. After several weekends, I finally unlocked the weapon, and subsequently kitted mine out with the Axial Arms 3x optic, which is considered to be the best optic one can use for medium to long range combat.

  • The bonus is, of course, that the CARV.2 is Cold War‘s equivalent of Agent Under Fire‘s D17. Agent Under Fire portrays the D17 as being the ultimate weapon, a combination of high accuracy, rate of fire and damage with the largest ammunition capacity of any assault rifle in game. The weapon is only available during the final campaign mission, Evil Summit, and handily beats out all of the other weapons in-game during multiplayer. I’ve spent many a Christmas getting mowed down by the D17 because we’d fight the bots on maximum difficulty and aggression.

  • Conversely, when we returned to the GameCube for kicks more recently, working out how to corner the bots and stop them before they could grab the D17 was instrumental in allowing us to win. Agent Under Fire‘s AI bots might not be the most impressive in the world (they occasionally get stuck and fail to notice when one is sneaking up on them), but at full difficulty and aggression, they are monstrosities that can utterly wreck players. This creates numerous hilarious moments where bots achieve kills that seem supernatural, contributing to the fun factor in Agent Under Fire.

  • The combination of D17 and bots in Agent Under Fire is entertaining enough so that one could spend hours at a time just blasting the AI for fun without ever needing to hop on an online multiplayer match, and having spent the bulk of the past twenty-one months playing bots, I came to realise that these offline modes are essential parts of any game that wishes to have longevity. The idea here is that, even if the servers are offline, having the map assets and ability to fight bots locally lets one play multiplayer even when support for the game stops.

  • The other reason that bots are now something to look for in a game is that, at least for me, online gaming has become a most undesirable place to be of late. I noticed this in Battlefield V, where cheaters ran unchecked, and the community encouraged unsportsmanlike behaviours during matches. These actions ranged from pushing players using AA vehicles out of bounds to kill them and free up a vehicle slot for themselves, camping, and players not utilising their classes’ abilities (e.g. refusing to revive, heal and drop ammo).

  • Calling out these players was met with a flood of insults in the text chat, and since Battlefield V automatically censored out expletives, players would resort to making up new insults that were far more annoying and offensive, creating a new sort of meme culture in the process. I’ve heard that online gaming has only gotten worse: Fortnite players insult one another for lacking cosmetic items, and in Warzone or Apex, cheating is even worse than it is in Battlefield V. With online games are looking more and more unplayable these days, AI bots can fill that void and provide players with a quasi-multiplayer experience.

  • Here, I’m rocking the Pelington 703 (modelled after the Remington Model 703, standing in for the SSR-4000, known as the SSG 3000). In Agent Under Fire‘s multiplayer matches, I never set the SSR-4000, since my aiming skills with a controller is non-existent (and in matches where I’ve tried, the bots end up steamrolling us). In Cold War, the opposite is true: while I’m nowhere nearly skilled enough against human players, I can make the sniper rifles work in matches with AI bots to have a phenomenal time. The Pelington is particularly fun to use because it feels like a hunting rifle.

  • I’ve played online multiplayer titles for about a decade; my experience started with Halo 2: Vista in 2009, and when the servers shut down in 2012, I switched over to Team Fortress 2 briefly before becoming a Battlefield fan. My first proper Battlefield experience began with Battlefield 3 in 2013, and I’ve played every Battlefield since then. I’ve noticed that antisocial behaviours weren’t really a problem in the Halo days. Trolling was definitely a present even back then, people rarely perpetrated disinhibited behaviours that we see today. For instance, the worst trolling I saw in the Halo days were players teabagging one another in matches, or people begging for Unusual hats in Team Fortress 2.

  • It was only with Battlefield V where I really began noticing hate speech, harassment, griefing and other unsportsmanlike behaviours. The uptick in antisocial behaviour coincides with the rise of in-game microtransactions and the battle royale genre’s popularity; younger players have gotten into their heads that one’s appearance in-game is directly correlated to their social status in real life, and are willing to use any method necessary to win in a given match so that others can remember who they are. Moreover, said players have taken to bullying players running “lesser” cosmetics, with hostilities spilling over to real life.

  • Video games are intended to be fun experiences that, at best, help players work on visual-spatial reasoning abilities, split-second decision-making and resource management, but recent trends have turned games into a demoralising experience and meme factories. Games like Fortnite thus become a pain to play, and multiplayer shooters with more conventional game-modes are no better, with people spewing insults and memes into the chat whenever they’re called out for unsportsmanlike behaviour. This is what made Battlefield V particularly unenjoyable for me, even more so than DICE’s constant messing with the game’s mechanics.

  • It is not particularly meaningful to have shouting matches with people who likely don’t contribute any taxes to their nation, so after Battlefield V ended, I began playing single player games exclusively. The resulting change in my well-being was profound: I became much more relaxed, and gaming returned to being a hobby I could unwind to. Single player modes further have the advantage of being titles that I can play at my own pace. If, mid-match, I need to go tend to something, I can pause the game and resume later without penalty.

  • The real joy of games is being able to immerse oneself in a different world, and enjoy things at one’s own pace, so moving forwards, I imagine that how single-player friendly a given game is will greatly impact whether or not I am likely to pick it up. Here, I’ve decided to open a match on one of the Miami maps and have loaded out the Stoner 63 LMG to look like a futuristic weapon. As it turns out, Infinite Warfare also has offline bots, and I’ve recently been getting back into that, as well: released in 2016, Infinite Warfare‘s requirements aren’t steep at all, and the game handles very smoothly.

  • I imagine that the multiplayer scene of Infinite Warfare is likely to either be depopulated, or else infested with cheaters, making it unplayable. Even though this is probably the case, because Infinite Warfare has AI bots, I am able to create a match and play against bots that are moderately challenging (and therefore, fun to fight). The shooting mechanics of Infinite Warfare are not as visceral or polished as those of Cold War, but they remain solid overall: in conjunction with the fact that the maps and weapons look rather cool, I am finding myself having a great deal of fun in a game I was otherwise only going to get twelve hours out of.

  • In this way, Infinite Warfare shows how AI bots dramatically improves the longevity of a game. Another title that did something similar is Star Wars: Battlefront II. While the original launch was plagued by lootboxes and a poor progression system, towards the end of Battlefront II‘s lifecycle, DICE added Instant Action to the game. Battlefront II thus went from being an unplayable disaster (compounded by try-hard players who already have all the best upgrades) to being an open Star Wars sandbox that allows players to kit their character out however they’d like and immerse themselves in the Star Wars universe without aggressively competitive players ruining the atmosphere.

  • These bot modes are excellent because they allow for players to enjoy an element that is often forgotten when competitiveness takes over: the game’s aesthetics and atmosphere. While I might’ve had the time to improve my skill in competitive multiplayer games ten, even five years ago, other obligations now mean that it is no longer feasible for me to do so. I don’t wish to spend hours every week trying to keep up with players half my age when there are bills to pay, and in the time that I do have, I’d much rather have fun. This is why Battlefield 2042‘s upcoming Portal mode is so interesting; if there is a full-fledged AI bots mode and all weapons, attachments and gear are unlocked for experimentation, this mode will allow me to explore Battlefield 2042‘s sandbox capabilities in a way that previous titles had not accommodated.

  • I’ve heard that today is National Video Games day, and I intend to capitalise on this by playing games in the manner of my choosing: in a private space away from all of those who believe that cosmetics equates to skill. DOOM Eternal‘s The Ancient Gods looks a good place to begin, and having just finished a delicious dim sum lunch, the afternoon is open to me. Since I’m not honour-bound to squad up in a game where the goal is to win and show off a crude victory dance, there’ll be time to iron a few things, read a few more chapters of Harukana Receive, and then make my way into The Ancient Gods, all at my own pace.

The idea that Battlefield 2042 might permit a fully-featured AI bots mode might very well be a reality: DICE has indeed announced the presence of something known as Battlefield Portal, which allows players to create their own game modes, utilising weapons and vehicles from different eras. It will be possible to pit 50 Tiger Is against a single platoon of M1A2s, or run a hundred soldiers with defibrillators versus a hundred soldiers with knives. Battlefield Portal is billed as the ultimate sandbox mode, a place where players can try out exotic and unique setups before publishing them to the community, and this means that for players seeking a single-player option against AI bots, Battlefield Portal might just be the answer. Being able to create an offline match with AI bots means being able to play Battlefield 2042 even if the servers are offline, and more importantly, being able to play in peace if one wanted to try driving a tank or messing with unusual weapon setups. Bots provide players with a highly cathartic and relaxing experience. They don’t insult the player, have no qualms with one quitting as a result of real-world obligations or become idle at inopportune moments. Games with bots remain highly playable long after the community has moved on to the next best thing, allowing a game to continue offering replay value well after its prime, and this gives the game value. In a case where Call of Duty holds the edge over Battlefield games, Black Ops: Cold War, Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare Remastered all have bot modes. Similarly, Battlefront 2 features Instant Action, an offline bots-only mode. These modes offer me amusement, an experience that can’t be had when I’m playing against try-hards half my age who have more free time than responsibilities; video games are about having fun, first and foremost, and I play to immerse myself in different worlds, not to elevate my blood pressure because some kids decided they’d spend the entire match spamming the chat with frog memes and insulting everyone who isn’t camping. I do see myself continuing to drop into Black Ops: Cold War bot matches because it’s amusing, and if Battlefield 2042 is offering full-fledged AI bots in Portal (which, on top of the game’s base maps, will also feature iconic maps from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3), this gives me plenty of things to be excited about. Being able to play Battlefield at my own pace, away from the try-hards and cheaters, would be a breath of fresh air and a return to the age in gaming where the object was 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.