Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War story to 'blur the line between truth and deception'

An explosive, potentially controversial trailer for the next Call of Duty has been released, along with details about what to expect in the story.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War will launch on November 13 as a direct sequel to the original Black Ops, which was released a decade earlier in November, 2010.

Raven Software's senior creative director Dan Vondrak told Newshub the sequel is "a return to the pillars of Black Ops - deniable operations, conspiracy grounded in history and of course, a good dose of paranoia and mind f**kery".

Raven and co-developer Treyarch have set the game during the peak of the Cold War and it will take players to East Berlin, Vietnam, Turkey and Soviet-era Moscow as well as North and Latin America.

"It takes place in 1981 - a year that saw two global superpowers locked in a nuclear arms race, conspiracies about presidential elections, illegal military operations on both sides, the paranoia of spies living next door and looming over all of it, the fear of World War III," said Vondrak.

The new trailer was revealed first in an in-game event within Call of Duty: Warzone and shows the return of classic characters including Frank Woods, James Hudson, Alex Mason along with some new characters - most notably, Russell Adler.

He's a mysterious CIA operative the developers say they've jokingly referred to as "America's Monster". The story kicks off when Adler is confronted by a demon from his Vietnam War days that is somehow connected to a highly feared Soviet agent known as 'Perseus'.

In real history, according to the Washington Post, "Perseus is believed to be a Soviet spy who breached the Manhattan Project and gave the USSR America's nuclear secrets. Their identity was never learned."

Russell Adler in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
Russell Adler in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Photo credit: Acitivision

But instead of assuming the role of a franchise hero, Cold War is mixing things up by letting players create their own character. They can name them, pick a skin tone, place of birth and gender - or leave that classified and be treated in-game as gender-neutral.

The player can also choose their military background and flesh out their psychological profile by un-redacting a few keywords, with examples given including "reliable" and "loyal" or "unstable" and "has violent tendencies".

"The psychological profile - un-redacting those keywords gives some small gameplay bonuses we added to make it a little more fun. But it doesn't lock out any part of the story," said Vondrak.

"Most of those settings are just there for the player to be able to see themselves as the black ops soldier and main character of the game. By letting the player be the character, hopefully that immerses them more."

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War campaign screenshot.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War screenshot. Photo credit: Activision

The game will feature the likenesses of real historical figures like Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, just as the original featured John F Kennedy and Fidel Castro. This flirting with deadly, real history in a fictional story has caused controversy for Black Ops in the past but is also part of the reason the games have so many fans.

Reagan even authorises an apparently criminal military operation in the new trailer, which may well ruffle some feathers due to its similarity to real-world history.

Vondrak said the plan is for Cold War to be a "thrill ride that blurs the line between truth and deception."

"We're grounding the game in these historical moments, but fictionalising it to have this fun conspiracy that the player can slowly unravel," he said.

"The '80s had so much going on in that grey area, you don't know who is right and who is wrong and it was important for us to show America got its hands dirty, too. The East and the West both did questionable things."

He added that they've purposefully littered plenty of genuine historical operation names and shadowy figures from the Cold War era into the game that will see players research the real stories.

"A lot of people when they played the first Black Ops would then go on the internet and research things like the Soyuz rocket. When they start searching these terms, characters and locations, it'll be a fun journey seeing how we've interweaved history and reality into the game."

Unlike most of the Call of Duty campaigns, Cold War will offer the player choices and optional objectives that will open up different gameplay chapters leading to multiple endings.

Frank Woods in the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War single player campaign.
Frank Woods in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Photo credit: Activision

"The missions are played in a linear order - apart from the two side missions which you can complete at any time or not complete at all. But within some of the main missions the player must make choices which will affect the path they take," said Vondrak.

"At the end of the game, you'll get to see the impact of all of those decisions."

He added that the campaign will require multiple play-throughs for a player to discover all of the 'memories' hidden in the game.

Cold War will be released in November and is coming to current and next-gen PlayStation and Xbox consoles along with PC.

Details about the game's multiplayer modes are set to be released at a later date.