Obviously, when talking about the Black Ops Cold War ending there are going to be spoilers. So be warned now that we will explain multiple endings and how to achieve them. If you don't want to know what the Black Ops Cold War ending variations are, then stop reading now. It's that simple.
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If you're still reading then it's because you want to know how Black Ops Cold War ends, or maybe how to actually achieve the different endings. There are three main variations in total, built around a good/bad choice in Black Ops Cold War - there's an optimal good/bad split, as well as a slightly less rewarding bad ending. Interestingly, the difference between getting the best bad ending, and the slightly less impressive option boils down to something that's under your nose almost the entire game - you just might not realize it.
Finally, before we go into more detail, if I'm absolutely honest the full bad ending is actually the best one in the game. Not for the free world and democracy, obviously, but it's such a fun subversion of expectations it's totally worth checking out. And don't worry if you've already finished the game - you can dip back into the mission select to try different endings and trigger the change you need for the main bad ending.
It's worth noting that the two side missions you can do are referenced in the ending but form no part of it. Whether you complete them, fail them, or don't even try, the events are mentioned in the ending but have no influence on it.
Black Ops Cold War good ending
After the big twist - that you're really a Russian agent reprogrammed to believe they were a US operative in an attempt to extract the location of Perseus - you remember where he's hiding. The nukes hidden all over Europe are going to detonate if you don't stop him, and you have two choices when Alder asks you where they can find him - you can tell the truth and say Solovetsky, or lie and say Duga.
Obviously for the good ending you want to pick Solovetsky. Do that and you and the team will head out there and take on Perseus' forces. After an extended battle you'll destroy the AA guns, enabling US bombers to destroy the site and prevent the detonation of the nukes all over Europe.
You'll then see a series of cut scenes outlining what happened, and recapping your success with the two side missions. However, there's one loose end: you. Once the recap has played out Adler will appear, to thank you for what you've done and the sacrifices you've made. He'll then ask you to make one more sacrifice and shoot you dead. Yay, good ending!
Black Ops Cold War Bad ending
Now it's time for the fun stuff. The bad ending is way, way better than the good ending for reasons we'll get to shortly. However, to fully maximize this option you'll have to complete a minor side objective along the way that's easy to miss or forget.
During the various briefings you have between missions in your safe house, you should have discovered the padlocked gate to the back of the building with a clipboard next to it. You'll need a code to open it, which can be deduced from the three articles mentioned on that clipboard.
The articles mentioned are these:
- Clinical Record
- Warren Commission
- Dallas News Article
You can find these three articles in the following places:
1. Clinical Record
On the blue wall through the door to the left of the locked gate.
2. Warren Commission
This is on the floor immediately in front of the locked gate.
3. Dallas News Article
This is on the wall in the dark room behind the mission briefing room.
How to open the safe house padlock in Black Ops Cold War
If you take the unsubtly highlighted numbers from each article, in the order listed on the clipboard by the padlock you'll get 1 1 2 two sixth three as written, or 112263. That's the date that Kennedy was assassinated, in case the theme behind the articles wasn't clear.
Open up the lock and you'll access a back room with an arcade machine, that will let you play any of the games you've found and played during missions. There's also a computer you can explore and play a range of text games. However, the thing you want to play attention to is the radio, as it will ultimately define the bad ending. You can complete this padlock step at any point you're in the safe house during the campaign but the radio only becomes active right at the end.
When you reach the section where Adler is questioning you about Perseus' location, if you pick the lie and tell him it's Duga, you'll notice his name turns red as you've chosen Perseus, making your former team the enemy now. If you've previously unlocked the gate you'll have a minute or so before the final mission to reach the radio and warn Perseus.
Once you've radioed Perseus to warn him that you're bringing Adler's team to Duga the final mission will play out. You'll arrive at Duga and everyone will soon realize there's no one there and turn on you. If you didn't get to the radio then Adler will understand you've betrayed him and shoot you on the spot. You'll get the bad ending in terms of Europe being nuked but die in the process and see nothing else.
BUT! If you did radio ahead the fun really begins. You'll get the option to signal an ambush which will bring Perseus and his troops out shooting. You'll then be able to lead the charge in taking on and killing your former team, complete with slow mo kill cams each time you drop one of them.
Once the fight's over you'll find Adler and be able to take him out. Perseus will congratulate you personally and you'll both get to see the world burn together. Awww.