Well, allow me to start off by saying I'm a pretty seasoned veteran to the CoD series. I've been playing this series for years, at least dabbling in pretty much every installment since the original Modern Warfare. And I genuinely enjoy playing them online, it's a great chill out game for me. I don't take the series super competitively or seriously, but I'd say I'm pretty decent at it as well, if for no other reason because of my experience.
But let's cut the bullshit and get right down to it, shall we?
Modern Warfare (2019) has been a very divisive game. It shook up the series more than any entry has since the original Modern Warfare back in 2007 as far as the online multiplayer goes. CoD has been an annual series for a long time with each entry largely being similar to the last with new systems, maps, mechanics and guns in each one. For better or worse. However, Modern Warfare (2019) decided to change things up a bit. At it's core it still largely plays like Call of Duty, but it has a lot more emphasis on realism than the past. In some regards feeling more like Battlefield at times than CoD. More weighty, deliberate movement. More realistic gun and physics for them. And MUCH more realistic sound design.
On that last note I want to pause for just a moment and express that in a bit more depth. MW2019's sound design is absolutely stellar. I'd argue some of the absolute best in the genre. A love of attention to detail went into it in regards to every individual gun. A lot of studying and capturing of these firearms actually being fired was done and it shows. If you've ever fired any of these guns yourself in real life then you'll understand what I'm talking about. They absolutely nailed this aspect of the game, and there's no denying that. This will come into play a bit more soon, I promise. And while I'm on that last bit, it's also important to note that along with the sound design being excellent, another undeniably excellent aspect of MW2019 is it's graphics and animations. In short, they're stellar. Very detailed with impressive animations to boot.
So, now we come to Black Ops Cold War. A true sequel to the fan favorite original Black Ops game and what will be the first CoD entry for the next generation consoles. Developed by Treyarch, who is usually considered the best current CoD developer. And, as a Playstation player I got my hands on the alpha a few weeks back to give it a go. And...had a really good time! Yeah, some things were a little wonky, some balance absolutely was needed for some things and it was a bit ugly. BUT, it was a lot of fun. The few maps we got to try were all pretty decent to even quite good and the time to kill (TTK) felt about just right as compared to Modern Warfare (2019) which sometimes feels like you just get melted, or on the flipside, Black Ops 4 which feels a bit too slow overall. The alpha here felt like it hit quite the sweet spot. Understand if you're not as well-versed in Call of Duty, that for a game like this, a "twitch shooter" run and gun game that TTK is very important. This isn't a game that's meant to have lengthy, drug out firefights like Halo or Destiny.
The alpha was a lot of fun, but it severely lacked in two places. I just spoke briefly about them above. Sound design and visually. In short, this alpha looked and sounded like a MAJOR downgrade from Modern Warfare (2019). Not even just graphically, but the animations looked straight out of the older Black Ops games. (They honestly probably were.) And a similar thing was happening with the sound design as well. It honestly sounds fine, but to those who've been playing the new Modern Warfare the past year, it pales in comparison. Going back to the older CoD sound design compared to the exquisitely well done work in MW2019 hurts a bit. This stings a bit considering this is going to the the first CoD game on the next-gen hardware.
But hey, it was just an alpha. The bones here were good though.
So then we come to last weekend. The closed beta exclusive to PS4 due to Activision's deal with Sony. Ok. The first thing I noticed coming in is that this newer build of the game looks a LOT better than the alpha! Awesome!
But...something felt off. In fact, the entire experience felt off. The time to kill felt faster. Where gunfights felt fair before, they suddenly felt sloppy and unpredictible. Of course, with every online shooter out there you're going to play against people who will royally kick your ass and make you feel like an absolute scrub now and again. It's just how it is. There's always someone out there more dedicated or just naturally adept than you, of course. But that's not what I mean here. There were times where you'd get the jump on an opponent and still lose the firefight. It just felt at times like your bullets just weren't connecting.
As it turns out, a well known CoD YouTuber (Xclusive Ace) did a detailed video breaking down the TTK frame by frame with his footage compared to the footage from the alpha and the time to kill didn't change at all actually. So something was going on with the servers. It didn't really feel laggy, but something felt clearly off.
But also another negative reared it's ugly head during this beta. Super strict feeling SBMM (Skill Based Match Making). And with that, the lovely system MW2019 introduced where you have to search for a new lobby between every single match, seemingly to keep the SBMM going. This latter part sucks, there's no chance to form rivalries or make friends in your lobbies if you gel with someone. If you have a match with a really nice connection, too bad. Next match isn't going to be the same. Almost no one in the CoD community is a fan of this, but it's not even just this. It's that strict SBMM.
Now, I see a lot of folks online who question why you wouldn't WANT SBMM. It's not that most of us are against it, so much as that there's not been much middle ground with it in MW2019 and there wasn't in this phase of the beta either. Most lobbies you either stomp all over the opponents or feel like you're going against a team of MLG professional players that make you feel like a training dummy. And this becomes a cycle. You have a few matches where you dominate players that feel completely under your skill level only for the game to then toss you into the reverse situation for a few matches. Then the game feels pity on you for those five HARD ass beatings in a row and then tosses you back into the kiddie murder pool again to repeat the cycle.
That's not fun. It becomes increasingly rare to find a good fair match. And it's still currently my biggest gripe with MW2019. The alpha for Cold War made us long-time players think we were coming back to traditional CoD matchmaking, where every match could go either way. And if you wanted strict match making there was always the competitive playlist mode. Where the serious players played.
Well, perhaps the second wave would be better when PC and Xbox players got a crack at the game as well?
Alright, so now we're back to current time. This weekend starting today the second wave of the beta started. And...things are somewhat improved. The strange connection issues seemed to have been largely ironed out, in fact I personally haven't experienced them at all. Ok, that's a relief. This time around the beta is a lot more fun, and while the damn lobbies still break up after every single game, the match making so far feels much less strict. I've found the majority of my matches a lot more balanced. And when I get a blowout this time I feel either my time or their team deserved it. Another win here. It's not perfect, but it feels a LOT better than last weekend.
A balance pass clearly happened as well. Some weapons still feel a bit overtuned, but this time nothing has felt truly undertuned either. Outliers like the AK-74us got toned down though, so you feel like you actually have a choice of what to use if you want to play in any form of competitive nature.
The level cap was raised from 25 to 31 this time, allowing us to try some new unlocks and gear. And I believe it's going to be raised to 40 tomorrow for one last hurrah in the beta.
So let me break this down now, as I feel like I have a pretty decent grasp of this build of the game now. And I have a feeling this build is gonna be pretty similar to the final release we see in about a month.
One thing we do know about Cold War is that it's surely been a serious undertaking for Treyarch. They were pushed into the project with almost a full years less development time than they expected for their next project. And on top of that, the amount of hardware platforms they have to develop the game for this year is staggering. If you count all of the different version of the hardware. (Seriously. PS4, PS4 Pro, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox One Series S, Xbox One Series X, and PC.) Of course with the landscape for the new next-gen consoles being alien, largely uncharted territory.
What's here so far is pretty solid. I think overall this feels more like "traditional" Call of Duty than Modern Warfare 2019 did. And that could be a good or bad thing for you depending on how you feel about the series. As a veteran myself I actually really appreciate the changes the new engine brought, and I'm lying if I say I'm not a bit disappointed that this game doesn't fully utilize those changes.
That said the game is fun, I've enjoyed my time with it over the past few weeks, even during the first wave of the beta where things honestly felt worse than the alpha. I think the game is going to stand on it's own and end up being pretty fun. And there's one aspect of the game that the betas and alpha hasn't touched on at all that a lot of players are anticipating. The Zombies mode! That looks quite good to me. I suppose we'll find out in about a month.
Feel free to ask any questions if you'd like to know more and didn't get to try the game.
Thanks for reading!