Activision’s next Call of Duty installment, confirmed last week to be a revival of developer Treyarch’s fan-favorite Black Ops series, will have its work cut out for it. The title is following last year’s Modern Warfare, the most successful COD game in the franchise’s history, and in doing so it has to slot into Activision’s ever-evolving free-to-play battle royale Warzone while also bridging the divide between current and next-gen consoles.
But the teams at game studio Treyarch, a longtime COD developer, and fellow Activision subsidiary Raven Software, have conceived what sounds like a pretty ambitious plan — and if they pull it off, the immense momentum Modern Warfare built for the long-running first-person shooter franchise may very well continue years into the future.
In a briefing with press earlier this month, studio representatives walked us through how Black Ops Cold War will be structured. It will have a flashy, Hollywood-style single-player campaign, reminiscent of last year’s Modern Warfare reboot. There will also be the series’ signature multiplayer modes, redesigned and tweaked to give Treyarch and Raven room to build on what Infinity Ward created, alongside revived Zombies mode. And all of it will be connected through Warzone, which will live on for existing COD players and link together with those that pick up Black Ops Cold War, regardless of what platform they decide to play it on.
Black Ops Cold War is set to launch on November 13th for current-gen devices, Activision is announcing today, with confirmed versions for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X coming “Holiday 2020.” The company is also selling a $69.99 “cross-gen bundle” — $10 more than the standard version — with access to a version of the game on PS4 / PS5 and Xbox One / Xbox Series X.
THE SINGLE-PLAYER CAMPAIGN
Much like how last year’s Modern Warfare reboot revived iconic characters from Infinity Ward’s popular COD trilogy like Captain John Price, Black Ops Cold War will do the same with characters Alex Woods, Frank Mason and Jason Hudson, all central players in the original Black Ops that first released in 2010. This time around, however, the game will feature real historical figures — including President Ronald Reagan — in cutscenes and other narrative worldbuilding.
The storyline picks up in the middle of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union in the 1980s, as the player is tasked with hunting down a newly reactive Soviet spy known only as “Perseus,” based on the real-life codename and backstory of a potential Soviet spy thought to have infiltrated the US government.
MULTIPLAYER & ZOMBIES
Not much is yet known about Black Ops Cold War’s various multiplayer changes, but Activision did confirm a number of details regarding how progression and cross-platform play will work. For one, the game will feature cross-play not just across platforms as last year’s installment first introduced, but across generations, too. That means players on Xbox One should be able to play with those on PS5, and players on Xbox Series X should be able to play with those on PS4 (as well as all the other various combinations involved).
There will of course be a seasonal battle pass, like most shooters and battle royale games now have. But a unique benefit for Black Ops Cold War will be shared progression with Warzone and the ability to keep Modern Warfare content, like skins (or “operators” in COD parlance) and weapon blueprints, when you transition your account over to the new game. That’s a huge plus for players that invest heavily in each new COD installment only to have to abandon those unlockable items and other cosmetics when a new game rolls around the following fall. A full multiplayer reveal is scheduled for September 9th, Activision says.
And, finally, Treyarch and Raven are promising a return of Zombies, the massively popular COD horde mode that first arrived with Treyarch’s World at War in 2008. Neither the studios nor Activision is sharing anything substantial about the Zombies mode today, with plans to reveal more about it at a later date closer to release.
Warzone is the most important new variable Activision and its studios have to contend with with the launch of a new COD game this fall. The publisher has promised Warzone would continue to live on and incorporate new features and content from new COD entries well into the future, and it’s imperative Activision get this right if it wants Warzone to continue being a hugely successful pillar of the franchise.
Activision isn’t yet sharing how Warzone will remain playable both for free-to-play players, Modern Warfare ones, and those who buy the new Black Ops Cold War. But the company is promising that the battle royale, which exists as a standalone title and as a separate mode with the current main COD game, will not drop support for any current platform.
At some point in the future, Warzone may drop certain features that Modern Warfare has that Black Ops Cold War doesn’t, and it’s going to be fascinating to see how the developers manage to thread the needle when it comes to maintaining player bases across multiple games, platforms, and console generations. Activision is also promising “more information on Black Ops Cold War and Warzone” at a later date.