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Black Ops Cold War’s multiplayer proves we don’t need a new Call of Duty every year

Great games need time to grow

A Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War player running toward a fight Image: Treyarch/Activision
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Since it was released in March, Call of Duty: Warzone has gone through quite the life cycle. It started out lacking a strong identity, and with only the limited arsenal of Modern Warfare’s basic weapons. But Infinity Ward remained committed to the battle royale game and continued updating and improving it. The developer refined the mechanics, made the game harder to cheat in, and during each new season, it added mountains of new weapons, attachments, and skins.

Warzone is also the place where last year’s Call of Duty entry and this year’s will come together. In December, at the start of the series’ new season, all of Black Ops Cold War’s weapons, perks, attachments, and equipment will be added to Warzone, where players can use it alongside their existing Modern Warfare weapons.

This is the first time that two subsequent Call of Duty sequels have crossed over, but it’s hard not to think about how well Warzone’s model could work for the series’ multiplayer as well.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War player walking next to a tank Image: Treyarch, Raven Software/Activision

Black Ops Cold War launched with 29 weapons including sidearms. The game only features eight maps for core game modes, and two that are exclusive to a single mode. This puts Black Ops Cold War on the low end of offerings for most Call of Duty games. It gets even worse when it’s compared to Warzone, which now has 58 weapons—and that’s without including the weapons from Black Ops Cold War that should arrive sometime in the next few weeks. While this offering is slight for a full game, it would be perfect for a major update to an already existing game’s arsenal and collection of maps.

Rather than releasing a full-blown multiplayer sequel every year, complete with new mechanics and a revamped collection of weapons and maps, why not create a solid base, then add content in the exact same way that Warzone has? For years the arguments for Call of Duty sequels seemed to be that it was difficult to keep players interested in multiplayer after a long period of time without releasing a new game. However, after over a decade of persistent online games, we know that’s not true. Games like Fortnite and League of Legends have had no trouble keeping players, and even growing thanks to steady updates, and the past eight months have proven that Warzone can do the same for Call of Duty.

Another argument for releasing sequels is that simply updating the same game would rob players of the sense of progression that’s always made new Call of Duty releases exciting. But this is an issue that Black Ops Cold War has actually already solved on its own. Black Ops Cold War will borrow the extremely popular seasons format that Warzone has been using all year, but with an added twist. With each new season, players’ ranks reset and they’ll be able to earn new ranks and even levels of Prestige. This means that players will have new levels to earn every few months, rather than every year with the release of a new game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War players fighting on an airplane Image: Treyarch/Activision

Previous versions of Call of Duty struggled to make cosmetics feel relevant and worth buying, but thanks to some inventive skin bundles and a strong battle pass, Warzone has managed to finally make free-to-play look like a viable model for Call of Duty success. This gives players yet another reason to keep logging on during seasons as they try to gain progress towards each new reward.

Call of Duty: Warzone is probably the most updated and improved-upon Call of Duty experience that’s ever been released. It’s proven that the series can handle mountains of additional post-release content, keep people’s attention, and get better with more fine-tuning. It’s time for the series’ traditional multiplayer modes to follow in those successful footsteps.