At Sony’s PlayStation 5 Showcase event last week, Treyarch and Raven Software announced an Alpha Weekend for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, exclusive to PlayStation 4 owners. Taking place over the weekend, I got the chance to spend a lengthy amount of time with the game, playing across multiple game types and maps, and even trying out the new Combined Arms mode; which features an increased player count and a stronger focus towards vehicular gameplay.
The multiplayer alpha for Black Ops Cold War featured two playlists, the first being classic 6 vs. 6 multiplayer. During the Alpha Weekend, the mode was made up of Team Deathmatch, Kill Confirmed and Domination – three classic modes that fans of the series will recognise in an instant. Three maps were playable in this mode; Satellite, Miami and Moscow.
Satellite is set in an Angolan desert where a KH-9 American-made satellite has been downed. The map’s rocky outcroppings and archways provide numerous flanking routes, while natural sand dunes offer a playground for sniper fanatics.
Miami drops players in the mean streets, featuring varying site lines that accommodate all kinds of play. Various rooftops and windows act as prime longshot spots for sharpshooters, while the many buildings provide for some tense close-quarters combat.
Finally, there’s a third map – Spetnaz – which wasn’t announced prior to the Alpha taking place for whatever reason. It has a solid mix of combat scenarios, primarily focusing on close to mid-range battles.
Of the three, Miami provided for the best gameplay experience, but I also thoroughly enjoyed Spetnaz as well. While not a bad map by any means, Satellite’s CQB areas feel far too narrow, and the sand dunes didn’t provide enough cover to truly warrant sniping from that position.
Moving on to Combined Arms, Crossroads is set in the middle of the frozen Soviet wilderness, and is the stronger map out of the two available. Tanks and Snowmobiles allow for absolute destruction or a quick means of traversing the map. There’s a solid mix of on-foot and vehicular gameplay available here. In the games that I played on Crossroads, I never felt like the map was dominated by vehicles, and had plenty of paths to take to move around.
Armada was not as fun to play. Skirmishes on Armada take place across multiple ships, with players needing to use ziplines, rappel lines, and various seacraft to navigate the surrounding waters. I wasn’t too keen on the increased focus on vehicles here. Options to move from ship to ship felt limited, and in a game of Domination you’re forced to either swim for your life or grab a boat or jetski. On a map where the vehicles aren’t readily available from anywhere, it limits their traversal options overall and makes moving around the map to be a hassle in general.
There have been some adjustments made to the Create-A-Class system. Obviously, the Alpha Weekend only offered limited options to customise our Score Streaks, and Loadouts and while long-time fans of the series will immediately feel familiar with the setup, Treyarch has called out two key features.
First up is Field Upgrades. These are pieces of equipment that are awarded to a player as time passes. They’re not based on performance, but become available after a certain amount of time passes in the match. They assist your team in some way, such as scrambling the opponent’s map in a given location, amplifying their steps, or even taking out their UMVs.
On the other side of the coin is the return of Wildcards, which add an impactful layer to your classes. These allow you to carry two primary weapons, increase your weapon attachment count, or double the amount of perks you can have.
Both of these additions barely add anything to the overall gameplay experience, and I was surprised as to why they’d been focused on so much beforehand. While Field Upgrades can be helpful, they’re merely just a watered down killstreak for players to use regardless of whether they’re having a good game or not. Wildcards are essentially an extra perk, and almost all of the Wildcards in the Alpha were available as their own perks in previous titles. Greed, which is the name of the Wildcard that doubles your perk count, is in no way balanced, but it wouldn’t be a Call of Duty game without something for players to take advantage of.
Overall, gameplay is about what you’d expect. If the Alpha Weekend is any indication, you’ll enjoy your time with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Thankfully, there’s going to be even more time to try it out, with the game scheduled for two Beta Weekends in October.