Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War certainly caused a stir. The Cold War setting was something that fans were hyped about, but does the game really capture the era? Well, not quite. Here’s five times that the newest CoD release butchered history.
While there’s always been a debate as to whether or not the setting of Call of Duty games is simply an accessory to the fast-paced FPS action, Black Ops Cold War changed the discussion. The historical plotline was among the many things that fans were excited about, reinforced when the game’s trailer dropped, showing off a perfect blend of original and in-game footage.
Being Black Ops, the game’s fantastical but insanely popular Zombies maps make an appearance yet again, with the newest location (Firebaze Z) spelling another chapter in the iconic game mode.
So while, at the end of the day, Cold War is just a game, it suffers from some pretty serious inaccuracies. As a War Studies graduate who has done far too much research into the Cold War, let’s look at five times Cold War messed up its history.
The Viet Cong
North Vietnam’s Viet Cong army were hardly anything to smirk about. A well-oiled machine, the efforts of the Communist faction are the reason that America left the Vietnam conflict with their tail between their legs.
Both in the trailer for Cold War, as well as in the virtual world itself, the Vietnamese are pictured with the stereotypical farming hats used to shield against the sun. To say this is a historical inaccuracy isn’t even half of the truth.
This depiction somewhat creates the sense that the United States were an all-powerful behemoth fighting an army of farmers. In reality, the Viet Cong were hardly running around in padi headgear just waiting to take a bullet to the brain.
Also, why was Perseus in Vietnam?
While the character Perseus is based on the supposed contemporary spy of the same name, the fact he’s decided to take a trip to Vietnam isn’t exactly something a lot of Soviet spies would have had on their bucket list.
After all, despite common conceptions, the Vietnamese and the Soviets practiced two very different forms of politics. The main focal point of the Cold War era for the Russians was the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union, which was literally falling apart at the seams from the beginning.
China was the main power that propped up North Vietnam, alongside other Communist neighbors like Laos and Cambodia, the targets of the infamous Christmas Bombings of 1972. Presenting the Vietnamese and the Soviets as friends is pretty far from actuality.
The East German Stasi
One of Cold War’s best missions (Brick in the Wall) takes place in East Berlin, where the player attempts to infiltrate the desolate city in order to kill or capture known Soviet terrorist and crime lord Anton Volkov.
As you weave through the murky streets, you encounter a fantastical amount of Stasi, the East German secret police service. And therein lies the issue. The Stasi’s reign of terror was born of their invisibility. No one knew if they were watching, or if a family member was an informant.
So while Cold War clearly wants to give players a shootout, murder lurked in the air of the former Soviet Republic. While of course, the game focuses on action, it doesn’t even touch the fear that accompanied real-life in East Berlin.
The Cold War was a war on many fronts
Lawerence Sims is, from a historical standpoint, one of the game’s most perplexing characters. It’s important to remember that, throughout the early years of the Cold War and well into Vietnam, people of color were fighting for their rights.
With both Civil Rights leaders and anti-Vietnam protesters attacking army decisions to use people of color as cannon fodder during the Vietnam conflict, Sims was pretty lucky to score a Black Ops gig of this scale.
While Cold War’s inclusion of his character is the perfect nod to how far we’ve come, giving Sims a little more depth by recognizing the fight for freedom that his historical counterparts undertook would have taken the game’s historical content to the next level.
Mikhail Gorbachev was no tyrant
During the Lubyanka Building mission, Belikov attends a meeting regarding a mole within the establishment (that is actually him, plot twist.) Said meeting is chaired by Mikhail Gorbachev, then-Secretary of the Soviet Central Committee, but later Soviet Premier.
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The Gorbachev we see in-game though is hardly the Gorbachev of real life. By 1984, two years after Cold War is set, his influential principles of glasnost and perestroika brought a new wave of transparency to the formerly censored society.
It’s also important to note that his friendly relationship with the US, as well as the rest of Europe, is cited by many as the reason for the Soviet Union’s collapse. Gorbachev loved his country, yes, but his vision for its future was very different from that of the KGB’s.
Whether video games should be historically accurate is a debate I can have until the cows come home, but at the end of the day these are games. Just like with TV shows and books, content has to be appealing.
There’s a reason the Cold War is remembered, and it isn’t a good one. Games like CoD keep these conflicts alive, and that’s something historians will always be appreciative of. Just remember and take it all with a pinch of salt and try not to use it as a basis for answers in your history finals!