I've spent a lot of time in Nuketown lately.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War got its version of the fan-favourite competitive multiplayer map this week, alongside a Nuketown 24/7 playlist, and I've jumped in each evening since to enjoy the close quarters chaos.
But there's another reason why I've set up shop in Nuketown: playing it is the only way I'm going to get anywhere with the Cold War grind.
Nuketown launched alongside a double XP and double weapon XP event that lasts until 30th November. This, combined with my usual 30-something kills per game, gives me my only reasonable shot at making an inroad on leveling up weapons.
I think it's fair to say it takes too long to level up weapons in Black Ops Cold War. Developer Treyarch has tuned progression so that it takes around 1200 kills to max out a weapon - and unlock all of its attachments along the way. I've only managed to max out one weapon so far, the AK-47, and that was only really possible with the help of Nuketown, a map you get a lot more kills on than any other in the game because it's so small and plays so fast, and the double XP buff.
Beyond the attachment hunt (most weapons are useless until you've unlocked attachments), there's the camo grind, which I just can't see myself ever completing. These weapon skins are unlocked by completing certain challenges with a weapon - get five longshot medals with a gun unlocks a camo, for example. There are also reticles to unlock, each one asking for a certain number of kills with a specific optic. And then there's weapon mastery, which is a super long endgame grind for the coveted Dark Matter.
Call of Duty has always had a grind to it. Many players love it, and in previous games in the series it's certainly kept me interested in playing as I hunt down all there is to obtain for my favourite weapon. But Cold War's grind feels miserly - even just unlocking attachments feels like pulling teeth. It's no surprise, then, to see people playing the Zombies mode in an unintended way in an effort to level up weapons faster than normal. The video below, from Glitching Queen, reveals a method of leveling up guns on Zombies that involves dropping out of the mode after a few rounds then starting again in order to make use of an apparent fast XP earn rate that occurs in round two and three.
The state of Cold War's weapon grind actively discourages weapon variety, too. Because it takes so long to unlock attachments for a weapon, I'm much less likely to experiment with other guns if I want to stay competitive.
Sure, Nuketown 24/7 and double XP makes this grind just about palatable, but they won't be around forever. Annoyingly, Call of Duty developers rotate maps in and out as playlists change, preventing you from playing the game how you want to when you want to. Treyarch isn't alone in this - Infinity Ward does it with Modern Warfare, too, adding the popular Shipment and Shoot House maps one week, then taking them away the next. So, when double weapon XP ends at the end of November, it'll be back to the cripplingly slow weapon progression in Black Ops Cold War.
In my Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War review I touched on the grind. It's hard not to think Treyarch tuned the game in the way it has because Black Ops Cold War feels thin on the ground in terms of content. The situation makes the ridiculous PlayStation-exclusive party XP boost all the more galling for those playing on PC and Xbox.
The current double weapon XP is where level weapon progression should be at by default, I think, and I'd love for Treyarch to have a look at increasing the rate of progress.
Until then, it's back to Nuketown...