Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War came out back in 2020, three years ago, but it's still an extraordinarily active game, and you can easily queue for just about any mode in the game and find lobbies in moments. Even after the release of Call of Duty: Vanguard, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, and Warzone 2, Black Ops Cold War is still an active game, but why? Is it so much better than the other CoDs that have come out since?
Not to worry, because in this article we'll explain precisely why so many people are still playing Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
Related: Why Are Snipers Popular in Some Call of Duty Games and Not Others?
What About Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II?
As all Call of Duty games are at launch, Modern Warfare II was a success, but in terms of the overall state of the game and what Activision had imagined for it, well, that's a different story. Unfortunately, Modern Warfare II has a lot of problems spread across its core design as well as its live service support.
Spawns in the game, squad spawns, aren't predictable and mess with the flow of gameplay; timed-unlock perks aren't a feature anybody really wanted; not having a perk that quiets your footsteps and the decision to have firing a weapon not make you pop up on the minimap makes the game campy; and attachments in general oftentimes make a weapon less competitive, not more, to name a few of the problems currently plaguing Modern Warfare II.
Then, people in general are just not happy with how much new content is being added to the game in terms of its live service element. Considering Activision is pivoting to releasing another full-fat Call of Duty this year instead of supporting Modern Warfare II for two years, it doesn't seem like the game is going to do better as a live service going forward, either.
Related: Why Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Is Losing Players
Put simply, the game isn't in a good place and doesn't seem to be getting better, while Black Ops Cold War is a mature game with solid balancing, tons of maps and modes, and lots to see, do, and unlock, not to mention a robust Zombies cooperative element.
What About Warzone 2?
So, as we all probably know, Warzone was a huge, almost unbelievable success, and Warzone sucked up a huge portion of the Call of Duty playerbase spread across the lifetimes of Modern Warfare, Black Ops Cold War, and Vanguard. With Warzone 2, then, the idea was for Activision to reclaim those huge player numbers within the context of a new CoD era.
However, that hasn't panned out. The thing with Warzone 2 is that it's not only much less successful than Warzone, but the original Warzone has kind of been killed off, so to speak, with the launch of Warzone 2. Fortune's Keep and Rebirth have been removed, and Verdansk is still long gone, so all there is left is Caldera, which isn't a particularly popular map.
Related: A New Premium Call of Duty Game Is Coming in 2023
Then, of course, there are all the problems with Warzone 2 that are stopping people from switching over to Warzone 2 from the original game. On a big, fundamental level, Warzone 2 is less reliant on loadouts and is a slower, more tactical game than the original Warzone was, and in general, players don't really appreciate this change.
How Warzone distinguished itself from other battle royale games came down, in large part, to how fast-paced it felt, how much like Call of Duty it played like, and a big part of the Call of Duty feel comes down to your loadout. When you have a slower-paced game that's less reliant on loadouts, without fan-favorite smaller, faster maps, you end up with a game that a lot fewer people are interested in playing, especially CoD fans.
On the other hand, Black Ops Cold War is very much a classic-feeling CoD game, and you can even get a Warzone-style experience out of Cold War via its squad-based Fireteam modes, too.
Related: Treyarch vs Infinity Ward: Who Makes a Better Call of Duty?
What About Call of Duty: Vanguard?
Call of Duty: Vanguard was, by most accounts, a failure. It was riddled with technical issues at launch; it failed to walk back all of the design problems of Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare II; it introduced an attachment system that has never felt especially balanced; and ultimately, its hyper-fast gameplay and incredibly fast TTK made playing it feel like a chore for many.
Since the game came out, updates and balance tweaks have definitely made the game more stable, more fair, and more fun, but for most of the CoD playerbase, it still reads to them as a WWII skin of Modern Warfare. In general, the WWII aesthetic has been less and less appealing to CoD fans who are more and more preferring contemporary settings.
In general, if you're thinking about playing Vanguard, you're probably going to end up playing Modern Warfare or Modern Warfare II, and you can see that yourself when you queue for something in Vanguard and routinely end up with half-filled teams, especially on larger playercount modes.
Related: What's Going On With Rebirth and Fortune's Keep in Warzone?
Black Ops Cold War, on the other hand, doesn't have too many technical issues anymore, outside of party issues that plague all modern CoD games, doesn't have the same design problems, doesn't have a problem with attachments and weapon balance, and is a fast-paced game where you still have long enough TTKs to be able to shoot back at your opponents.
What Makes Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War So Great?
In all honesty, why so many players are sticking with Black Ops Cold War comes down to what the game doesn't do or change rather than a huge list of crazy new additions and features, bringing CoD back to its roots in a lot of ways.
For example, there's a perk you can use to quiet your footsteps; firing a weapon means you'll appear on the minimap unless you've got a suppressor; weapons have attachments with clear-cut, understandable tradeoffs; killstreaks aren't spammed unendingly throughout most matches; and at this point, just about every gun in the game is balanced.
What's more is that there are tons of maps, none of which have the hiding spots and complex layouts of a game like Modern Warfare, and a lot of the innovations of Modern Warfare are in Cold War, like the gunsmith and gunfight mode. Plus, there are even nice-to-have things in Cold War, like weapon stats, map voting, and more.
Related: Should You Buy: PC, PS5/Xbox, or Steam Deck?
None of this is to mention that Zombies in Black Ops Cold War is probably Call of Duty's most successful, most robust cooperative mode in years, maybe ever. You get a full suite of Zombies camos to unlock, a host of traditional round-based maps replete with easter eggs and things to do; a set of new open-world maps with a new mode; and then other modes on top of all those you can try out, like Onslaught or Dead Ops Arcade.
Then, of course, you've got a well-liked campaign on top of all that. In terms of downsides, unlike other recent CoD games, Cold War only has a few, and they usually aren't dealbreakers. Scorestreaks, for example, aren't usually as exciting as traditional killstreaks or scorestreaks of the past; snipers are a little too dominant in the game's meta; and, of course, campers and people holding angles can be frustrating to play against.
SBMM can be punishing, like always, but SBMM in Cold War is no different from SBMM in Modern Warfare, Vanguard, or Modern Warfare II, so it's hard to complain about it specifically within Cold War, even if it's just as frustrating a system in this game as it is in every other CoD.