Black Ops Cold War

Activision’s next Call of Duty game, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is due to release in just under two months on November 13th, 2020. This year’s entry will not only release across multiple platforms, but multiple console generations as well. However, this past weekend PlayStation 4 users exclusively were treated to a first taste of the game with the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Alpha.

Black Ops Cold War

Plenty to do in the alpha

Right off the bat I find it impressive just how much content is available in the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Alpha. Even beta tests often suffer from significant limitations in scope. For an alpha test one might be expecting a very sparse experience—perhaps one or two game modes max, set among as many maps.

Instead, the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Alpha offers up no fewer than four different modes to play. In 6 v. 6 action we get classic modes such as Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Kill Confirmed. Additionally, a brand new 12 v. 12 Combined Arms: Domination mode is also available, complete with vehicles.

On top of this, the action is spread out across a total of five maps. The 6 v. 6 modes get three arenas for the alpha—Miami, Moscow, and Satellite. Meanwhile the 12 v. 12 Domination mode will take place in 2 locales—Armada and Crossroads.

In addition to the first crack at a brand new game mode, participants also earned a Calling Card usable in both the upcoming game as well as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone.

Black Ops Cold War

Variety is the spice of life

I’ll be honest—I’m no competitive Call of Duty multiplayer pro. Alpha and beta tests are typically where I discover just how over-my-head I am among this year’s competition. As such, I tend to avoid charging in head first. I’ll let my teammates determine how aggressive we approach the battle while keeping an eye on our six.

This gives me plenty of time to study the lay of the land. Doing so can be pretty dull when an alpha limits itself to just one or two maps. With five different locations though, there was plenty to explore and appreciate.

While getting lost in the scenery is never a good idea, its nevertheless a much more immersive experience when the environment is full of rich detail and lush aesthetics. On this front the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Alpha definitely delivers.

For example there’s a stark contrast between the neon lights and poolside views of Miami and the bleak and narrow urban sprawl of Moscow. Each map favours different skills as well. While Moscow’s hallways and tunnels create plenty of blind cover, the open desert layout of Satellite rewards this with long-distance shooting abilities.

Black Ops Cold War

Go big or go home

One aspect that is very noticeable in the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Alpha is the size of the maps. Even the 6 v. 6 maps offer much more space than one might expect in a mode with only 12 players. This gives players a huge variety in approach, but it also has a strong effect on gameplay.

Case in point—remember how I noted that I often tend to bring up the rear in team-based play? Well, I can definitely say that opponents have a habit of attempting to flank your six more than usual on many of these maps. I can hardly count the number of times my crew began taking unsuspecting fire from behind us.

Black Ops Cold War

Keep your head on a swivel

For better or for worse, the maps seem to open up in such a way as to make it difficult to get a strong grasp on where the other team’s offensive push will come from. In addition to flanking attacks, I also find it surprising just how often an attack comes from a location I can’t identify.

It’s not that it never happens in Call of Duty games. Still, I find myself saying “wow, where did that come from?!” much more regulary in the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Alpha. The larger maps just offer so many more options for masking one’s approach or entering sneaky cover.

I think the larger maps will likely be a divisive point among the community. Some will surely adapt to or favour the options that more space opens up. However, others may dislike the lack of control—not to mention the fact that larger spaces can sometimes mean having to sprint around just looking for the action.

Black Ops Cold War

Keep your hands and feet in the vehicle

If the 6 v. 6 maps are big, the 12 v. 12 maps are another thing altogether. Chaos reigns in Combined Arms: Domination with teammates speeding off in all directions whilst commanding a variety of vehicles.

The maps feel as though the design intends to allow for a lot of maneuverability while piloting a tank or snowmobile. The vast open space makes it difficult to play any other way however. Trying to traverse the environment on foot is dangerous with the amount of sniping that seems to be going on in this mode.

Ultimately, your choices seem to be to either engage in vehicular combat, or become one of the snipers taking advantage of the many hiding spots that the larger maps make available. I did not see a lot of success in-between during my time in this mode.

Black Ops Cold War

The Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Alpha exhibits a new approach with sprawling maps

While the maps available in the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Alpha are full of life and fun to explore, there’s certainly a lot of them spatially. As someone who tends to rely on sticking close to my team and taking advantage of the generally close-quarters in Call of Duty games, this was really noticeable to me. As map size has a strong influence on strategy and gameplay, I imagine this will be a big talking point among fans going into the upcoming beta in a few weeks.

Did you participate in this weekend’s alpha? Be sure to let us know what you thought in the comments below!

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Dave Neufeld
Dave is an avid gamer, a musician/songwriter/recording artist, and an ardent reader with a degree in the Classics but a love for comics too. When he's not gigging with the band or pulling books at his local comic shop, he can usually be found gaming on any platform, from consoles to PC to his self-built personal arcade cabinet.