Forget zombies, Gunfight is still Cold War's best mode

CoD Cold War Gunfight
(Image credit: Activision)

In spite of the painfully slow march towards the release of Warzone's new map, Cold War has seen a steady stream of updates since it released in November. Weekly updates keep its playlists feeling fresh, and we've been drip fed new maps and weapons through generous seasonal updates.

It's hard to believe that we're nearing the midway point between Cold War's release, and the next Call of Duty game. More recently, we've seen its Zombies content spiral through the Dark Aether across several maps, jam-packed with Easter eggs and well-hidden secrets. At this point, it feels like zombies really are the stars of the show. Not only in Cold War, where their presence has expanded into a separate Outbreak mode (which unfolds on repurposed Fireteam maps), but also in Warzone where we've seen them teleport between six POIs now. Despite the slew of new content, and the ever growing presence of the undead, I still can't get enough of Gunfight, a mode that was first introduced in 2019's Modern Warfare, and was added to Cold War in December.

If you haven't tried Gunfight before, it's a 2v2 mode that spawns you into small maps with predetermined loadouts. All four players have exactly the same tools with which to eliminate their opponents, and if you take too long, you'll have to dash to the middle of the map to capture the overtime flag. While I love the haphazard atmosphere that Call of Duty cultivates in its quickplay Multiplayer modes, there's little punishment for messing up. You die, you respawn immediately, you try again. No big deal. Even the more competitive modes like Search and Destroy don't apply the same pressure as a competitive CS:GO game, for example. This casual experience is what makes Call of Duty the perfect game to boot up when I'm in the mood to switch off my brain. But I'm relieved that there's something else I can do when I'm more alert and ready to take things seriously.

Gunfight serves as a halfway house between Cold War's flippant quick play modes, and CS:GO's Wingman. Unlike Counter-Strike's 2v2 offering, Gunfight doesn't have a Ranked mode. It's also significantly shorter, with rounds lasting just 40 seconds, and only requiring players to ace six of them to steal a win (compared to CS:GO's nine).

What really draws me to Gunfight is how it creates a perfectly level playing field between teams by dishing out the same weapons, lethal, and tactical equipment for each. Limited throwables and tight spaces force me to coordinate with my teammate, but it doesn't feel quite as stressful as a proper competitive match. The stakes are just high enough to irritate me when we lose a round, but the dramatic, slow-mo highlight at the end of each round is a friendly reminder that it's not the end of the world. That lethal flick that my opponent just landed on my foot wasn't as impressive as I first thought.

There's a razor-sharp focus and sense of urgency in Gunfight that you won't experience in any of Cold War's other modes—they're just too chaotic. If there's a broken new firearm in Cold War, you can bet that Multiplayer will be crawling with variations of it until it's patched, which usually takes a while. Similarly, if there's a new weapon unlock challenge, modes like Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed are where you'll see people eagerly racking up melee kills, longshot medals, or whatever the requirements are to claim the hot new gun.

While encouraging us to grind for a new (hopefully powerful) weapon makes us feel almost obligated to actually use it afterwards, unlock challenges can make Multiplayer feel stale. These are modes where we're free to experiment with wacky off-meta builds, and catch others off-guard after all, but I've sat through too many games where the majority of the server completely ignores the objective.

Thankfully, there's no room to get distracted in Gunfight. Stripped back to just the basics, dropping us into a more intimate setting, the mode boils down to kill, or be killed. If you're playing with a friend, using voice comms adds a tactical layer to each round, and there's also a ping feature to immediately alert your pal when you spot an opponent. That said, if your reflexes are on point, pulling off cheeky 2v1 clutches feels manageable in the event that your buddy falls short for a round or two. On the occasion that I end up carrying my team in a Gunfight match, there's a good chance we can win, but shredding my way to the top of the leaderboard in any other Cold War mode won't have anywhere near the same impact.

For everything that Cold War's Gunfight does well, my single complaint is that its maps aren't anywhere near as fun to creep around as Modern Warfare's. While Game Show and U-Bahn capture the Cold War aesthetic well, nothing beats the design of Modern Warfare's Docks, Speedball, and Gulag Showers arenas. I'd still take Hill—the worst MW Gunfight map whose grassy inclines conceal other player models far too well—over a couple of Cold War's maps. That said, I'm hopeful that we'll receive a few more before the next CoD instalment arrives.

(Image credit: Activision)

In a period where it feels like Call of Duty is all about zombies, and I most certainly am not, Gunfight is the best mode on offer for me right now. Treyarch's eagerness to introduce new maps and events makes it even more appealing to dip into regularly, as it's clearly being looked after. Just this week, we saw the launch of Gunfight Tournaments, a mode that gives us a taste of bracketed tournament play whenever we want. These matches kick off roughly every five minutes and challenge 16 teams to climb to the finals and score a weapon blueprint and some cosmetics.

If you're not up for a sweaty competitive match, there's also the new Gunfight Blueprints slot in the playlist. This swaps out its standard loadouts for various blueprints, giving you a chance to try out builds that you'd usually have to pay for in the store (or spend hours unlocking). It's a great way to test the bundles you've been eyeing up, but remember that these are still assigned randomly. Whether you're hunting for something that's more challenging than Multiplayer, or simply want a break from popping zombie skulls, take this opportunity to give Gunfight another chance.

Emma Matthews

As PC Gamer's guides writer, Emma is usually juggling several games at once. She loves competitive first-person shooters like CS:GO and Call of Duty, but she always has time for a few rounds of Hearthstone. She's happiest when she's rescuing pugs in Spelunky 2.