The “Black Ops” branch of the gargantuan “Call of Duty” brand has earned a sterling reputation for its memorable campaigns, but also top-tier multiplayer innovation and action.

It’s the series that introduced zombies mode. “Black Ops 2” is whispered alongside “Modern Warfare 2” as the series’ best. And “Black Ops 4” brought run-and-gun COD action to the battle royale formula. Then came the free-to-play “Warzone” battle royale mode from last year’s “Modern Warfare” reboot, which elevated the “Call of “Duty” series to new heights of fame and quality.

It’s immediately clear, however, that “Black Ops Cold War” stays firmly in the speedy, rush-rewarding gameplay of its namesake branch. Sprinting feels as fast as it’s ever been. The guns crackle with the clangs of 1980s weaponry, like the alpha session favorite, the AKS-74u. More tactical features like door nudging and mounting weapons didn’t seem present in the modes tested. “Black Ops” is back in all its twitchy glory. Recoil seemed much less intense than last year’s game. Shots landed with more consistent thuds.

The Washington Post was able to play three hours of “Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War” multiplayer with various journalists and “Call of Duty” influencers and streamers. We covered a variety of match types on maps from small to large. We didn’t get a chance to test out how “Cold War” progress would transfer to “Warzone,” and Treyarch has yet to reveal those details. We do know that progress from Warzone will carry over to the latest game. It’s a comfort to know that there’s long-term investment into Warzone, which will remain free to play.

Every new “Call of Duty” multiplayer update comes with some waves of disappointing from the community. Last year, people complained about “Modern Warfare” moving too slow. After some tweaks, people were happy. So the return to the fast reaction times of “Black Ops” multiplayer might come as a disappointment to some, and welcome news for others. Snipers will cheer the return of faster aim down sights speeds, making quick scope kills easier. It’s still unclear how these changes will merge into “Warzone,” which is largely driven by “Modern Warfare’s” mechanics.

The Gunsmith attachment feature makes a return from “Modern Warfare,” with some welcome user-interface upgrades to make it simpler to navigate. The bonuses these attachments provide seem simplified and easier to read, making for quicker switching.

We played through a handful of new maps, two of which were immediately memorable. Armada is simply three ships out in the ocean, with boats, ziplines and old-fashioned swimming as your main methods of traversal. You can see variations of the classic three-lane formula of competitive mapmaking play out across the ocean and inside the three ships. It comes with turrets to punish anyone who pokes their head out on the decks.

Crossroads is a large snow-covered map with snowmobiles. It was an interesting locale to test a new game mode, VIP Escort, which requires the team to safely escort one random member to a safe point. It was a sudden but welcome shift from the fast pace of “Black Ops” gunplay. VIP Escort definitely moved a lot faster in the smaller Miami map, which covers a few blocks and a beach resort hotel.

Kill Confirmed also makes a return, an old standard that started in “Modern Warfare 3” and carried over into “Black Ops.” It’s similar to Team Deathmatch, except the point of the game is to collect downed enemy dogtags. It was fast and bloody, particularly on the Satellite map, a dusty, outdoors location with constantly changing elevations and several wide lines of sight.

It was hard not to wonder what the “Cold War” integration of Warzone will look like, especially since that mode has garnered a lot of attention thanks to it being free to play, with seasonal passes to buy. It’s to Activision’s credit that they’re continuing it as an ongoing service that lives on through future “Call of Duty” titles.

Matches in past “Black Ops” titles have felt a bit like playing paintball in small, gamefied maps. “Cold War” seems to be a callback to that faster gunplay. Sure enough, half a dozen players in my alpha session started to slide around the arenas. It was goofy, frustrating and funny. That’s the “Call of Duty” multiplayer, same as it ever was, and I’ll probably dump a hundred or so hours into it once again.

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