Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is set during the Cold War in the early 1980s. The story is inspired by actual events and the campaign features locations such as East Berlin, Vietnam, Turkey, and the Soviet KGB headquarters. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan learns of Perseus (Navid Negahban), a Soviet spy, (based on an actual conspiracy), and authorizes a black operation, led by CIA officer Russell Adler (Bruce Thomas) and his SAD/SOG team, to counter Perseus. CIA veterans Alex Mason, Frank Woods and Jason Hudson also take part in the operation.
The player character, codenamed Bell, can be customized with different skin tones, ethnic backgrounds and genders, as well as different personality traits that provide in-game perks. The campaign will have multiple endings, dependent on player choice throughout the campaign.