As sure as eggs is eggs, Activision will release a new Call of Duty game later this year. After all, there have been annual instalments in the series since 2005's Call of Duty 2 (the first came out in 2003).
But, what do we know about it already? Which studio is taking the reins this time? And, will it be a next-gen title?
We hope to answer all of these and more in our everything you need to know about Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
COD: Black Ops Cold War name and setting
There has been a lot of talk about the next Call of Duty, especially considering the success of the free-to-play COD: Warzone, but some seem to have been wide of the mark.
For example, in late April a leak appeared online claiming that the name of 2020's COD would be Call of Duty: Vietnam. It would therefore be based during the 60s/early 70s and set during the Vietnam War (mainly).
However, while the time period looks to be correct - maybe even one of the locations - that looks not to be the case.
Instead, in late May, information from different sources, including COD leaker Okami (via Twitter) and Eurogamer, pointed to the final name being Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. And this seems to have stuck.
The Black Ops name also suggests that Treyarch is handling development duties this time around, as that series is very much its bag. And the theme could also mean that, like Modern Warfare, this could be a reboot of sorts, as the first Black Ops was also set during the Cold War (1962-1979).
Keen eyed Warzone players also found some clues to this. A Cold War-esque spy plane was discovered when players managed to use a PC mod to clip through walls of one of the game's hidden locked bunkers. In addition, there was a nuclear warhead - another pointer to a period of global paranoia.
In addition, in early July, audio files appeared in Warzone that also seem to point towards Black Ops Cold War.
The files mention the word "Ascension" and the numbers "7 15 1 2 19 7 25 6 13 6 7 15 14 0". Fans realised that they are the exact same word and numbers found in the intro to the original Black Ops.
And these are not the only cheeky teasers out there...
What is The Red Door?
In mid-July, a listing appeared on the Microsoft Store for a mystery "shooter" from Activision called The Red Door. It had also previously been spotted in the PlayStation Store database along with the code "COD2020INTALPHA1" in the content ID.
It has lead some - including Eurogamer - to believe that it is an alpha build of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, likely accessible to testers only.
Perhaps most intriguing is its description: "There is more than one truth. If you go looking for answers, be ready to question everything and accept that nothing will ever be the same. The Red Door awaits, do you dare step through it?"
In fact, this demo is giving dataminers a lot to look into, and has just produced a significant trove of information, largely in the form of map names and hints, such as the below list.
— Prototype Warehouse (@ProtoWarehouse) July 19, 2020
It provides the names of missions in the game's singleplayer campaign, and the same leaker has also released codenames for multiplayer maps and zombies mode. Could all of this mean an announcement is imminent?
COD: Black Ops Cold War maps and modes
As well as a lengthy single-player campaign (we hope - even though Black Ops 4 was multiplayer only), some of the leaks have pointed at some of the PVP maps that will be available in Cold War.
According to @LongSensationYT (whose Twitter account has since been suspended for unknown reasons), COD classics Nuketown, Jungle, Summit and Firing Range will return for Cold War, in remastered form.
The leak was retweet by an alternative address on 28 May:
Nuketown, Jungle, Summit and Firing Range are already remastered maps coming to Black Ops
Should have just remastered the original at this rate.
— Tom Henderson (@_TomHenderson_) May 28, 2020
Each of those maps are real fan faves, so their return will be much welcomed, we imagine.
In terms of modes, one Twitter leak suggests that Blackout could return. Originally added to Black Ops 4 in 2018, Blackout was the franchise's first stab at a Battle Royale mode. That has since been refined by Warzone.
However, VentureBeat's Jeff Grubb claimed in June that it is scheduled to return to Black Ops Cold War.
In other shocking news, Blackout is going to return in some form with Black Ops this year.
— Jeff Grubb (@JeffGrubb) June 10, 2020
That is strange, considering how successful Warzone continues to be, but not impossible, we guess. We would speculate that Warzone itself will remain connected but apart from the main game, and still be available as a free download, but receive themed updates from Black Ops Cold War.
The other big news is that Black Ops Cold War may see Zombies mode return - it's a beloved part of COD history, and looks like it might return, according to the same datamining that uncovered those mission names.
— Prototype Warehouse (@ProtoWarehouse) July 19, 2020
That's obviously a much less substantial set of information, but it still shows that this source is confident that Zombies mode will be returning, which should excite a lot of fans of its frenetic survival action.
COD: Black Ops Cold War release date
We don't yet have official confirmation of the game, so no actual release date yet. However, it is reasonable to guess that the next COD will be released between mid-October and the beginning of November.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) released on 25 October 2019, for example, while Black Ops 4 came out on 12 October 2018.
Prior to those, WWII was released on 3 November 2017 and Infinite Warfare on 4 November 2016.
We expect to hear more in the coming month, considering Activision would usually unveil a trailer or details at the very least shortly before each year's E3. And, while there isn't an E3 trade show this year, we expect the publisher to stick to a similar schedule.
COD: Black Ops Cold War platforms
Again, as we don't yet have confirmation on the game, we don't know what platforms it will be released for. But, we can be safe in the knowledge that it will be available on PS4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
Where it could get interesting is whether we'll also see the franchise debut on Xbox Series X and PS5 too. And, could it be coming for cloud gaming platforms, such as Google Stadia?
Sadly, Activision doesn't tend to publish games for the Switch (save for the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro remasters). After all, the recently announced Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 remastered collection is not (yet) planned for Nintendo's console.
COD: Black Ops Cold War screens and footage
We don't yet have any official screens (or leaked ones). There is no trailer at present neither.
However, at the start of June, Twitter was awash with comments about clips alleged 45 minute gameplay video appearing online.
Originally posted by @Walshburg the main clip was suddenly hit by takedown requests so is no longer available (a possible sign to its validity).
I would also like to make something clear. @xgongggg is falsifying information, Do not let his / her fake leaks get your hopes crushed or up. There is not a playable version of the game on the loose. Only footage of it being played.
— Mark Walshburg (Moved to @MarkyMarkBURG) (@walshburg) June 4, 2020
However, others managed to screen record the footage released so far, including @TMTJulian_, who claims that the following is what was shown.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (COD 2020) Pre-Alpha gameplay. pic.twitter.com/TfnkQzn8Gi
— Julian™ (@TMTJulian_) June 3, 2020
It's not that pretty - there are no real textures or specific Black Ops tropes shown - but considering the ire the posters are getting from sources unknown, including takedown requests, it could very well be the pre-alpha footage claimed.
We'll update when more video and screens are available. We'll also update the rest of this feature when we find out more information, so bookmark it if you're keen to keep up with the latest on Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.