Classic feel, the word 'kill' mostly gone: Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War multiplayer impressions

The first trailer and details have been released about the multiplayer modes in the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.

It will not only be cross-platform, but cross-generation - players on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will all be able to play each other and join in-game parties together.

In terms of battle royale, there is no new version of Blackout coming - instead, Cold War is being integrated with Warzone.

"Black Ops Cold War features a unified progression journey that is shared with Call of Duty: Warzone, adding inventory items that can be used in both titles," says Activision.

All the classic multiplayer modes are back, along with new 12v12 Combined Arms battles, 40-player objective-based matches in Fireteam and a really original 6v6 VIP Escort mode.

I played the game for a few hours this week in a rotating 6v6 playlist with other journalists and here are my impressions.

Classic Black Ops feel

As a fan of the original Black Ops that came out in 2010, I'm happy to report that Cold War multiplayer feels very similar indeed.

It's probably mainly the period weapons - going back from the future for this franchise is something I really appreciate. But the locations, sprinting, old-school RC-XDs and other scorestreaks - it's hard to put a finger on exactly how it does it, but this feels much more like the first Black Ops than the three sequels that came after it.

Shotguns as secondary weapons

This may be a controversial move, but developers Treyarch and Raven have brought back this old chestnut. Using a shotty in combination with a marksman rifle was particularly good, but pulling one out when running out of ammo in a tight situation with any primary weapon is handy.

It's hard to say how overpowered this may be, but the shotguns can perform one-hit kills at close range so there is the possibility of balancing issues. It sure is fun to take advantage of though.

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

Better scorestreak system

One of my favourite new features is scorestreaks replacing killstreaks - not only because this encourages playing the objective over maximising one's kills, but also because it means your own death doesn't end your progression toward the rewards.

You still get multipliers for stringing together multiple kills, but building toward an attack helicopter over a match by actually trying to win the game for your team rather than get the most kills is a massive upgrade, in my opinion.

Upgraded sound

Some sort of black magic is going on with the sound effects in this game. Upgrades make it much clearer to hear what direction and how far away an enemy gunfire is.

It also dynamically assigns priority to different sounds, accentuating enemy noise and deemphasising everything else in a way that took me a little by surprise the first time I noticed it.

Speaking of upgrades - I only played on a PS4 Pro, but I'm really looking forward to playing on a high-spec PC or next-gen console to check out the ray-tracing and DLSS and other exciting stuff promised with those.

The word 'kill' is mostly gone

One of the most curious changes I noticed was the removal of the word "kill'. You still shoot people, if your bullet hits their head it's referred to as a "headshot", when enough bullets hit them blood comes out of their body and they fall over - but that's because they've been "eliminated" rather than "killed".

There is still a game mode called Kill Confirmed, along with Team Deathmatch and so forth, but your scorecard at the end of each match will list objective points earned, damage scored and/or "elims". Not "kills".

'VIP Escort' is a very fun new mode

This felt really original for Call of Duty. It's a one life per round 6v6 tactical mode in which one team is trying to get a plain-clothes, pistol only wielding VIP extracted while the opposing team tries to stop them.

You get downed and can be revived rather than killed straight away, but if the VIP dies it's game over for that team. Sides switch each round and the first to four wins is the match's overall winner.

Switching from the frenetic pace of the classic multiplayer modes was tough, but this slower-paced, calculated gameplay felt like it was from a different franchise and is a lovely addition to the overall package.

Awesome maps

We played a few different maps and all appear to have great design, but there were two standouts for me - Satellite and Miami. Both feature your standard Call of Duty three-lane design, but with a little something extra special.

Satellite is a desert map with sand dunes which almost function as trenches across wide spaces, combining a cool mix of close and mid-range combat spaces with a lot of sniping capability. Kill Confirmed on this map is particularly interesting and fun due to the sightlines.

Miami is the Floridian city in glorious, neon-drenched '80s beauty - so it's basically just the sexiest map ever.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War multiplayer on Miami map.
Photo credit: Activision

Wicked loadout diversity

There's a whole bunch of attachments for every weapon - up to 54, in fact. Popping on each gives a clear +/- percent on various factors, meaning it's easy to check out exactly what each change will mean despite the depth of the diversity.

I used an AK-47 with a wildcard that allowed extra attachments for a whopping total of eight, making it a very powerful machine. Another wildcard doubles the amount of perks you can utilise - there's a crazy amount of variables in this game and it'll take an enjoyably long time working out exactly what combination works best for you.

All in all, Cold War harkens back to what was me the golden age of Call of Duty better than the current Modern Warfare does.

I'm now more excited for more of these multiplayer matches with my regular squadmates than I am with anything in Warzone, or any other upcoming multiplayer game for that matter.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is released on November 13 for PC and current-gen consoles, with next-gen console releases to follow.