Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War returns to the story of the original Black Ops from 10 years ago, continuing to fill in the timeline between what happened in the 1960s in the original and the huge time skip to 2025 in Black Ops II. Set in 1981, Cold War again features major Black Ops protagonists Alex Mason and Frank Woods, while adding a new team of spies working to stop a Soviet operative called Perseus from doing a lot of bad things.
The series has a lot of narrative twists that can be tricky to follow, so we’re running down all the story you might not remember after a decade to help you follow along in Cold War. The game makes a few key references to past characters and events, so you’ll want to know exactly what went down as you work with a new squad to stop the Soviet Union, save the western world, and engage in all kinds of spy shenanigans.
Black Ops – All About The Brainwashing
The main thing to remember about the original Black Ops is the brainwashing. There was a lot going on in that game, but at its simplest, it’s a story about programming and counter-programming as Mason fights against the ideas that have been placed in his head by nefarious actors. Mason is in Cuba taking part in the Bay of Pigs, a real-life botched operation to train Cuban exiles and land them back in Cuba to overthrow Castro. In Black Ops, Mason tries to assassinate Castro, only for Russian soldiers to capture him.
Mason is taken to the Soviet labor camp Vorkuta, where Russian Major General Nikita Dragovich heads up a program to brainwash him into becoming a sleeper agent who they can send back to the U.S. to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. The pre-programmed trigger is to be broadcast off of a ship called Rusalka through a series of mysterious numbers.
Mason ends up being very resistant to the brainwashing program and at one point is given up as a failure. That’s when Victor Reznov, who fought for Russia during World War II and was betrayed by Dragovich, makes his move. He messes with Mason’s programming and sends him to kill his own rivals, which include Dragovich, his lieutenant Victor Kravchenko, and former Nazi scientist Freidrich Steiner.
After that, Mason escapes Vorkuta during a prison riot, aided by Reznov, and heads back to the U.S. He returns to his military service, but Reznov’s programming mostly works–Mason eventually kills Dragovich and Steiner while working with the CIA to stop Dragovich’s plan to execute an attack using deadly Nova-6 gas. When his programming is discovered, the CIA tries to undo the brainwashing, but it’s heavily implied the Russian influence on Mason leads him to have some hand in the assassination of Kennedy. It’s also revealed that Reznov likely never made it out of Vorkuta, despite Mason seeing him throughout the game; Reznov was apparently all in Mason’s head after he left Russia.
Though Dragovich’s plans are scuttled, Black Ops also leaves the situation up in the air. Sleeper agents from Dragovich’s program are still in the U.S., and while the Nova-6 plot has been stopped, some of the threat remains. There are a few other loose ends from Black Ops, as well, including Kravchenko. He survived Mason in Black Ops and we know he makes it through the ’80s, thanks to the story of Black Ops II.
Cold War – Remember The ’80s
That brings us to Cold War, which picks up in 1981. This is after Frank Woods, presumed dead in Black Ops, resurfaces–he was captured in Vietnam and taken to the POW camp known as the Hanoi Prison for several years. After his release, he rejoined Mason, serving as his “anchor to reality” because Mason is still affected by the numbers program even after its destruction. The pair continue to work with Jason Hudson, their CIA handler from Black Ops, who is now also operating with Russell Adler, one of the main characters in Cold War.
The new chapter in the Black Ops series picks up right after the Iran hostage crisis and the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as president. Adler is hunting Perseus, a shadowy Russian agent whose trail Adler has been on since Vietnam. New intel related to the hostage crisis suggests Perseus is planning a big attack against the West, so Hudson charges Adler with forming a new spy team to find it and stop it, with Mason and Woods serving as on-the-ground operatives.
That’s everything you need to know about the Black Ops series to follow along in Cold War. There is one more interesting tidbit, however–Cold War broadens the story by including a connection to Modern Warfare, as well.
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