‘Black Ops Cold War’ Contains The Best Call Of Duty Mission To Date
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Featured Image Credit: Activision
In its 17 years of dominating the video gaming world, the Call of Duty series has produced some amazing campaigns made up of truly remarkable missions. From 'Vorkuta' in Black Ops to Modern Warfare 2's 'Loose Ends', these are stories many of us will always carry in our hearts. Yet somehow, in a year that has seen so much disappointment, 2020's Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War has managed to elevate the franchise to new heights.
'Break On Through' weaves a fascinating plot through its gameplay. Playing as your own custom character, you are forced to relive the memory of your mission in the Vietnam War, where you uncovered a bunker containing lead antagonist Perseus. However, recalling this memory proves more challenging than first expected.
As you play, your actions are narrated by Russell Adler, your teammate throughout the game. However, it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn't entirely know what you did in these memories, mistaking the gun you're using as the recollection begins. The game even outright says "don't trust Adler" in a Russian accent, so you know you're not in Kansas anymore.
As you advance, Adler directs you to take a right. If you pay attention to the warning signs and ignore this - instead taking the left - you'll see your memory begins to shift. As Adler tries to get you back on course, you'll eventually find the Red Door. This is the door to the bunker Adler wants you to enter, but when you open it, you're greeted by a sinister looking chair and monitor.
From here on, the mission gets trippy. You're sent back to the start of the scenario but it's now a night-time stealth mission, instead of the daytime battle you just played through. Once again, you're told to go one way by Adler, but you're free to disobey and take the alternate route. Depending on your choices, you'll experience an array of fascinating and horrifying moments in 'Break On Through'. These range from freeze-framed soldiers, to a giant stone Adler head, to a whole army of Adlers trying to take you out. There's even a brief round of Zombies!
Each scenario features the Red Door, whether it's in a flaming building or a raining from the sky, and you will eventually have to enter it if you want to progress the mission. This leads to a laboratory corridor, where you're greeted by screens showing more monitors and chairs, among other things. You'll also see the bunker with Perseus waiting inside, but the corridor you're in proves unstable and difficult to escape.
This corridor is the best set piece in the game, hitting you with stuff straight out of the New Weird. The corridor walls shatter. The pathway loops. A door reveals a creepy, blurry Adler who looks more like a character from Control. At one point the world around you shrinks. It's all unsettling and exciting in equal measure, pushing you further through the looking glass.
Whatever path you take, the mission ends with the revelation that you're a former soldier of Perseus. You were betrayed and left for dead before being rescued and brainwashed by Adler's team. As a CIA asset, you've been assisting in the elimination of your former Soviet comrades throughout the game, all the while thinking you've always been fighting for the West. Your Vietnam memories are all revealed to be Adler's, which they've used to establish a close bond between you both. Even the identity you create for yourself in the beginning of the campaign is brought up as a part of the facade, with details like the affiliation you choose being included. The fact that you've seen Perseus in the flesh is the reason Adler needs you, and it sheds an unflattering light on the game's charismatic deuteragonist.
All of this combines to deliver the best piece of storytelling in the game, and arguably the entire Call of Duty franchise. The identity plot twist in and of itself isn't necessarily fresh or unsurprising, but the way you play through it in 'Break On Through' is excellent. You choose who you are. It's up to you whether you listen to Adler or not. It's up to you when you walk through that Red Door. The fact that you have to do so in order to complete the mission isn't a drawback either, as it demonstrates human nature. Curiosity will always get the better of us.
Add to that the New Weird elements, the dishonest narrator who can get annoyed like it's the Stanley Parable, and the delightfully eerie appearance of Zombies, and you get the finest mission a Call of Duty game has ever delivered.