Maybe it’s the 2020 pandemic blues, but I can’t get enough of Black Ops Cold War’s retro shopping mall map. “The Pines” is a standard 6v6 multiplayer map that was added earlier this month with the launch of Cold War’s Season One. It’s a New Jersey-based mall filled with retail flashbacks. I’ve gotten so distracted by nostalgia during my matches that I’ve died more than a few unnecessary deaths.
The Pines centers around a neon-centric shopping mall called the Mall at the Pines. It feels like a nod to 1985’s Back to the Future, featuring a similar green tree logo as the movie’s fictional Twin Pines Mall. Outside of the entrance you’ll find a no skateboarding sign to deter all the Marty McFlys out there. The map’s movie references are a nice touch and even inspired me to rewatch Back to the Future during my holiday break.
Most of the fighting takes place inside the mall itself. In terms of retro mall amenities, The Pines checks all the boxes for me: Inside you’ll find a music store that advertises records, cassettes, and CDs. It’s a tradition that’s long passed in this digital era of streaming, but I loved browsing my local music store after school. Sometimes I’d pull a CD out of a bargain bin and just take a gamble on it, while nowadays I put my faith in Spotify’s suggestions.
Across from the music store is 2Day Photo, which is a shocking reminder that we used to take pictures on film, which was sent off to be developed. I do miss collecting physical copies of music, but I don’t yearn for the inconvenience of processing film.
However, the most nostalgic location in the Mall at the Pines is the beautiful Galaxy Arcade. It’s huge, and there’s a fair assortment of games tucked inside: air hockey and foosball tables, skee-ball machines, and plenty of pinball machines and old arcade cabinets. There’s a pinball machine named after Black Ops 3’s Der Eisendrache Zombies map, and you’ll find arcade cabinets for Activision’s Chopper Command. There’s something magical and inviting about the neon lights and that funky arcade carpet with all its bright geometric shapes.
There’s so much detail that went into the décor of this map. I did a double take at a cell phone kiosk, complete with the ginormous cell phones of the late 80s. My mom had one that plugged into the car, and it was bigger than a lunchbox. There’s a “Radio House” knockoff RadioShack, where someone could go to buy overpriced electronics. Ocean Sun is probably meant to give the same beach vibes as PacSun. And the shop called Frencer’s is definitely a knockoff of Spencer’s novelty shop—ya know, that store where some of us went as kids to giggle at the sex toys and vulgar t-shirt designs? Frencer’s sells an assortment of lava lamps, blacklight posters, and graphics tees, and I think it’s a safe bet to say they’d be selling those same items in 2020. The store is located right outside of the mall’s food court. I can almost smell the freshly baked cookies and those giant pretzels.
It seems like the developers really did their research for this map. Though I love The Pines’ nostalgia, I started to wonder how old some of the stores that inspired it actually are. Is a place like PacSun really fitting for an 80s mall? What about Spencer’s? I did a little digging online, and it seems the raunchy novelty store is even more of an OG brand than I expected: Spencer’s was originally established as a mail-order novelty company in 1947. The first physical location for a Spencer’s was at New Jersey’s Cherry Hill Mall in 1963. Coincidentally enough, Cherry Hill Mall is also the location you get when you Google the coordinates found on the loading screen of The Pines. For those wondering, my research found PacSun to be thriving in the 80s as well.
All the thought and little touches in the Mall at the Pines has prompted so much reminiscing. I’d recommend everyone tour the map in a custom match to best appreciate all the detail. Despite all my in-game window shopping, there’s so much I would’ve missed in the chaos of multiplayer matches. The Pines does a fantastic job of teleporting me to the 80s, and it also offers a sad reminder of those pre-Covid times.
I have the luxury of working from home, so I’ve only left the house for important things like voting and doctors’ appointments. I haven’t been able to travel or go to movie theaters with friends. Online gaming with friends is one of the main reasons I’ve held onto any sliver of sanity in this hell year. I can’t wait for the pandemic to end, so maybe I can find an arcade that survived 2020.