Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War multiplayer ditches specialists, has traditional mini-map, new 40-player mode

Technology

Don’t deny it.

Activision has revealed Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s multiplayer, confirming a number of key changes compared to Black Ops 4 and indeed last year’s Modern Warfare.

The highlight is the decision to ditch the specialists that proved so divisive in Black Ops 4. Specialists were unique soldier characters with special abilities and traits, which some players ended up hating because of the impact their powers could have on the battlefield.

Black Ops Cold War uses the operators model seen in Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare. These soldiers do not have unique abilities, although they are of course unique in terms of aesthetic.

Elsewhere, Black Ops Cold War revives the traditional Call of Duty mini-map that shows all enemy players who fire their weapon as red dots. Modern Warfare controversially ditched the mini-map in default multiplayer modes, and even when it is available, it does not highlight enemies when they fire their weapons. Black Ops Cold War’s mini-map displays non-suppressed gunfire on the map for all players.

Like Black Ops Cold War’s campaign, the multiplayer is set in the 1980s, although timeline wise it takes place after the events of the campaign. Factions include the CIA, MI6 and the KGB. Developer Treyarch said to expect narrative elements based on historical operations “built into the fabric of multiplayer storytelling”. Maps are set in a variety of locations including the Black Sea, the deserts of Angola, the streets of Miami’s South Beach, and urban Moscow.

New modes include the tactical 6v6 VIP Escort, 12v12 Combined Arms, and 40-player objective warfare in Fireteam. In Fireteam, 10 teams in squads of four face off against each other in large maps featuring land, sea and air vehicles. The vehicles include snowmobiles, dirt bikes, gunboats, wakerunners, FAV buggies, attack helicopters, and tanks.

The idea is the map is a sandbox for teams to complete objectives as they see fit. In Fireteam, you can redeploy by spawning onto a teammate currently not in combat by parachuting in, battle royale style, or spawning directly into the passenger seat of a teammate’s vehicle.

Treyarch’s popular Create-a-Class system returns, but with a new slot-based loadout system. There are four new Wildcards. The brilliant Gunsmith from Modern Warfare returns for Black Ops Cold War, though, and it’s expanded. There are up to 54 attachments per weapon across eight attach points on primary weapons. For the first time ever, you can equip up to eight attachments at once with a certain Wildcard selected. Of note, multiplayer lets you see in-game weapon stats via +/- percentage changes in attachment stats.

Scorestreaks return. Here, score is no longer lost on death, which makes Scorestreaks more accessible. But you can earn score multipliers for stringing together multiple kills in the same life. You also earn score for helping your team to play the objective. To balance their use, each Scorestreak goes on a cooldown after its used to prevent spamming. Perks include Spycraft, Gearhead, Ninja, Ghost, and Engineer. Speaking of cooldowns, field upgrades return. These are items placed in the world, earned solely based on time, not score – and are the only type of game content that works on a cooldown that lasts after death. Field upgrades include the Field Mic, which deploys a recording device that highlights enemy sounds on your mini-map. Treyarch said Black Ops Cold War has more “lethality” than Black Ops 4. The hope of course is the time-to-kill is tuned so gun skill wins out more often than not. You’ll notice health bars above the head of your enemies.

Other points worth noting: Black Ops Cold War has unlimited sprint and auto-regen. This means players can sprint through the battlefield without losing momentum and heal automatically without manual inputs (Black Ops 4 removed auto-regen in favour of a manual healing system).

There’s a sprint take-off and a slide to crouch. As you start to sprint, you automatically begin with a small burst of speed that settles into normal sprint speed. The idea here is the move helps you get out of sticky situations and run for cover. Sliding naturally transitions to a crouched position for fluid movement and fast pacing. There are ziplines and rappel lines, too.

Like Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War is a cross-platform game. But it’s also a cross-generation game, which means PlayStation 5 players, for example, will be able to play with Xbox One players. Modern Warfare has had a cheating problem that prompted some console players to disable cross-platform play with PC. It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out on Black Ops Cold War.

And, as you’d expect, Black Ops Cold War has a battle pass system and a steady stream of free post-launch content, including multiplayer maps and modes. It has a unified progression shared with Warzone, with inventory items that can be used in both games. Both games also share post-launch content from a narrative standpoint. Treyarch said to expect the themes, locations, weapons and vehicles of Black Ops Cold War in Warzone.