Welcome to what’s going to be a decidedly different Call of Duty experience than the one millions of us have been playing for a year. The Black Ops Cold War beta is here, and it’s where most players will form their first impressions with this year’s game.
Some things operate on feel, and others, well, we can let you know of ahead of time to save you some of the trouble. In the few tips to follow, we’ll cover everything from moment-to-moment changes from Modern Warfare, to Black Ops Cold War’s own quirks.
This may be a harder transition compared to previous years, so take things slow, and give our tips a read before jumping in. And please feel free to drop your own advice in the comments below.
This is not Modern Warfare
Whether you play Call of Duty every year, or you’re one of the millions of lapsed players Modern Warfare brought back in 2019, one thing is for certain: Black Ops Cold War is not Modern Warfare.
It may use some of the same engine tech, and borrow certain design elements like the Gunsmith system, Field Upgrades or the concept of operators, but the two play completely differently.
This will be the theme of many of our tips here, but we mention it at the top so that you go in with a different mindset.
How the new Scorestreak system works
Let’s just get this out of the way now: you haven’t seen the Scorestreak system in Black Ops Cold War in any Call of Duty before, not in this specific way. Treyarch essentially melded its own Scorestreak design with some elements from the Support Strike Package from Modern Warfare 3 (remember that?) in an effort to reward both objective play and traditional kills.
Without question, it’s the single most confusing new feature, and will take you some time to fully absorb. Here’s how it works.
Score earned does not reset upon death, but all Scorestreaks cost a lot more. To speed up this process, you need score multipliers, which are only achieved from your second kill – in the same life – onwards, awarding exponentially more and more points per kill. There are no multipliers from objective captures. So if you run around the map quickly capping flags or picking up dog tags, you’ll earn the same amount of points per event.
In practice, players who tend to die a lot but play the objective will eventually reach one or two of the early streaks by the end of the match, simply by stacking small increments gained throughout the match. If you get a kill or two and die in between helping out with a flag or two in Domination, you’ll get there faster.
The players who end up getting to the highest streaks more often each game will be the ones who get the most kills per life, just like in the old Killstreak system. To combat spam, every streak you have equipped has a cooldown separate from its point value.
For example, let’s say the first streak costs 1,000 points, if you have 2,000 points, you won’t be able to call two of the same streak back to back. You’ll get one, then you’ll have to wait out the cooldown. By that point, you may have already graduated to the next streak, but if you don’t, the cooldown will be up and you’ll get to call it again.
Yeah, it’s not the most straightforward system. Just keep in mind that you need to stay alive a lot longer if you want to the top-tier streaks, not to mention mix in objective play.
The time-to-kill (TTK) is longer
Black Ops Cold War is a Treyarch game, after all, so it’s almost law for enemies to take longer to kill. This shouldn’t surprise series veterans, but it bears repeating.
It sits somewhere in the middle between Black Ops 4’s noticeably long TTK, and Modern Warfare’s brisk engagements. If you keep this in mind, you’re going to save yourself a lot of embarrassing moments where you stop firing because you’re operating on the Modern Warfare muscle memory and lose the gunfight.
I’ve done that a few times myself in my first few minutes. Generally speaking, everyone takes one extra shot to kill, so keep holding the trigger until they actually die.
This general rule doesn’t apply to sniper rifles, however, who have their own statistics. Any shot to the head, upper chest area or upper arms/shoulders is a one-hit kill, so keep that in mind. While we’re on the subject, Stim Shots are a thing in Black Ops Cold War, so expect to run into them every now and then.
Drop-shotting is out, jump-shotting is in
The Call of Duty pendulum of movement abilities has swung the other way. Modern Warfare and Warzone players know how annoying drop-shotting could be.
If you’re unfamiliar, drop-shotting is the act of going prone during a gunfight, or shortly before firing the first bullet. It’s more useful against controller lobbies, because of its higher chance of throwing off your opponent’s aim. Less so in mouse+KB lobbies, for obvious reasons.
Black Ops Cold War introduces a brief delay and takes you out of ADS when you go prone mid-firing, which basically makes that tactic almost entirely useless. There’s one attachment that disables this, but you’ll have to sacrifice a precious slot for that.
The good/bad news is that this is a Black Ops game, so you’ll instead run into a lot of jumping-shotting, particularly around corners.
It doesn’t look like – so far at least – there’s any accuracy penalty to jump-shotting, so expect to run into this often. That, coupled with the overall longer time-to-kill, means players may have to get creative to eke out a win in a firefight, so don’t be surprised to see multiple jumps from one side of the screen to another in a single fight.
Sliding is a little ridiculous right now
In the Black Ops Cold War alpha and the first beta weekend, sliding has been criticised for being too effective. By default, your slide speed and the momentum your character carries forward with each slide makes you harder to track.
Then there’s slide-cancelling, which is something a few players got pretty good at, making them nearly impossible for average players to hit. We’re still not clear on where the skill side of slide-cancelling begins and where it gets into glitching territory. But one thing is clear: you should watch out for players butt-skating everywhere in the Black Ops Cold War beta.
Wild Cards are back
Black Ops Cold War has done away with the Pick Ten system, but its take on Modern Warfare’s create-a-class is interesting. By default, each weapon can have up to five attachments, and you’ll always spawn with tactical and lethal grenades. There are three perk rows, as is standard, which net you three perks by default. So far so Modern Warfare.
Every loadout can also equip a Wild Card, however. There are a couple of these, and each alters your loadout significantly. Law Breaker, for instance, lets you carry two primary weapons. Danger Close will double your lethal and tactical inventory, and Gunfighter increases the maximum number of attachments your primary weapon can have.
If you don’t care about the benefits of the specific card you have unlocked, you should still always have one equipped until the one you really want unlocks. Wild Cards are free bonuses, so don’t leave that slot empty.
Equip the Cavalry Lancer barrel if you’re going up against vehicles
If you decide to play Combined Arms, or the new 40-player Fireteam mode, you’re going to run into so many vehicles. We’d usually recommend having a launcher as a secondary on a couple of loadouts, but there’s another way you can counter vehicles.
Outside of explosives, you can equip the Cavalry Lancer barrel on your primary weapon. It’s the second unlock for each weapon, and it’s available on all of them. It boosts your weapon’s damage against vehicles anywhere from 100% to 500%, depending on the weapon class.
By default, the damage your primary deals to vehicles is not terrible, but you obviously won’t be able to solo a tank. With the Cavalry Lancer, you stand a real chance against vehicles without a launcher, particularly if you switch locations in between shots.
It goes without saying that picking Cavalry Lancer means you miss out on an attachment slot you could otherwise be using to help with recoil, supress the weapon’s sound etc., so consider equipping it only when you know you’re going to run into vehicles.
The Field Mic is strong
One of the new Field Upgrades introduced in Black Ops Cold War is the Field Mic. Like all other Field Upgrades, you can’t use the Field Mic immediately at the start of the round, you’ll have to wait a couple of minutes for it to charge up. Hitting both bumpers (R1+L1) lets you place one down.
The Field Mic is essentially a mini-ground UAV, not unlike the often derided UAV from Call of Duty: Ghosts. Once you have it up, it will automatically ping players who run into its field of coverage on the minimap. That radius can be seen on the map by everyone, but it’s not always clear where the damn thing actually is.
It’s low-key one of the strongest Field Upgrades right now, because people don’t look out for it. The Field Mic is countered by the Ninja perk.
This section includes some smaller tips that don’t require a lot of explaining.
There’s no weapon mounting, but recoil is low compared to Modern Warfare
Black Ops Cold War does away with Modern Warfare’s dreaded weapon mounting mechanic. On the plus side, there’s barely any recoil on most of the weapons, so it balances out.
There’s an FOV slider on consoles
This is a fantastic new addition that lets you widen your peripheral vision. PC players should already be familiar with it, but it’s fairly rare on consoles. Just keep in mind that distant targets get smaller the wider your FOV gets, so pick a good balance.
You can edit your loadout/Field Upgrades/Scorestreaks in-round like Modern Warfare
Black Ops Cold War has brought this great feature forward, letting you equip attachments as soon as you earn them, switch up your setup to fit a changing game and all that good stuff.
You can reload while aiming down sights
Another great feature introduced by Modern Warfare makes a return. You can reload your weapon without having to come out of aiming down the sights.
Shotguns are secondaries
You’re probably going to run into a lot of shotguns now that this is an option, so don’t be surprised to get blasted when you corner an enemy.
Ninja is back
Ninja is once again a perk you can select. It’s available in column three, and it cuts your sprint noise considerably, and cancels out the Feld Mic Field Upgrade.
Ghost no longer works when you camp
The merciful souls at Treyarch decided to bring back the superior version of Ghost. Available in column three, this iteration of Ghost only makes you undetectable by UAVs when you move, meaning campers no longer get the benefit of Ghost.
Doors have been abolished
Doors make a lot of sense in battle royale games, Warzone included, but their inclusion in traditional Modern Warfare multiplayer didn’t make sense. You’ll be happy to know there isn’t a single interactive door in Black Ops Cold War’s multiplayer.