Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War PC Performance Review & Optimisation Guide

Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War PC Performance Review & Optimisation Guide


Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War is a lot more demanding than Modern Warfare was on PC, featuring a more demanding campaign, more advanced ray-traced shadows and added features like Nvidia’s Reflex and DLSS technologies on PC. 

Despite these changes, Black Ops: Cold War still appears to prefer Radeon graphics hardware on PC, when features like DLSS and ray tracing are excluded from proceedings. With Nvidia’s RTX 2060, it takes the addition of DLSS in its balanced mode to beat AMD’s RX 5700 XT, and even then it is not by a very high margin. AMD’s RX 5700 XT also beat Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti in all resolutions, showcasing a clear preference for Radeon’s tech in straight-up rasterised workloads. 

CPU-wise, Black Ops: Cold War shows a growing need for higher CPU core counts on gaming PCs. We noted dips below 60 FPS at 1080p on an RTX 2080 Ti graphics card at Ultra settings when using a CPU setup with four cores. Enabling SMT  upped 1st percentile framerates from 54.7 FPS to 84.9 FPS. Further core count increases delivered us further FPS gains. Hex-core processors are the new quad-core. 

When it comes to DLSS, it is not an understatement to call it a must-enable feature for Geforce RTX users. Quality mode offers better than native levels of visual quality while balanced mode offers PC gamers further performance gains with equivalent to native levels of graphical fidelity. Performance mode offers gamers further performance gains, though this comes at the cost of visual quality, introducing aliasing in placed and sharpness decreases in others. 

Nvidia Geforce RTX users should enable DLSS mode in Quality Mode. There are no downsides here. More performance and better visuals. What’s not to like? If you desire higher framerates, DLSS’ balanced mode offers no notable visual downsides and a larger performance boost. These settings offer huge performance gains and no real downsides for Nvidia RTX users. The only problem is that this feature is only available to a minority of PC gamers. 
Settings-wise, there is no setting which will deliver PC gamers huge performance increases in Black ops Cold War. On our RTX 2080 Ti, we gained almost 10% more performance by moving from Ultra to high settings, and that shift came with minimal graphical downsides. From there, settings changes have minor impacts visually and performatively. For GPUs like the RX 580 and GTX 1060, Medium settings are required at 1080p for 60 FPS average framerates. Even at medium, Black Ops Cold War offers great visuals, though obviously not as good as High or Ultra settings. 

For Ray tracing, please look at pages 5 and 8 of this analysis. They detail the performance and visual impacts of Cold War’s DXR ray tracing. In short, they offer players more accurate shadows and ambient occlusion, grounding objects further within scenes while taking the game one step closer to CGI movie-grade visuals.

While ray-traced shadows are a taxing setting, they can be configured in several ways to reduce the feature’s performance impact on compatible systems. Unlike Modern Warfare, DXR ray-traced shadows isn’t a simple on/off setting; it’s three settings which can be set to Medium, High and Ultra. Medium settings offer the most performance, and higher settings do not deliver large enough quality increases to be worthwhile in most cases. For Nvidia RTX users, the performance impact of ray tracing can be mitigated using DLSS, an option which won’t be available to Radeon users. 

Black Ops: Cold War is more demanding than its predecessor, but it offers excellent visuals, an action-filled campaign and brings Zombies back to the forefront of the Call of Duty experience. Those who are only interested in Warzone should know that the game is still using the Modern Warfare engine and is not a proper part of the Black Ops: Cold War experience. It remains as a free-to-play title, and as a separate experience on PC. That said, the game will receive Black Ops themed content with its newest patches. 

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