Since the dawn of video games, gamers have been fascinated with the concept of a seemingly “infinite” experience – a game that had no end. Some accepted the concept that classics like Robotron could not be beaten. However, some brave souls defied the odds, spent small fortunes in quarters, and discovered something called a “killscreen“. Once gaming became more and more mainstream, and eventually, into people’s homes, the concept of creating an unbeatable game to eat up giant stacks of quarters was over, and titles like Smash TV started the trend of horde shooters that had an actual ending. As time passed however, the focus again shifted to mystifying “unending” horde modes.
Gears of War 2 (which was released just days before World at War oddly enough and included a very small zombie level that hadn’t taken off yet) championed modern day horde modes, and introduced the concept of an infinite cycle of death shared traditionally by four players. Despite the fact that you couldn’t really “win”, modern day gamers eat these modes up with the same fervor that Steve Wiebe has whenever he reaches Donkey Kong’s killscreen. Recently, developer Treyarch has managed to top every horde mode on the market: read on to find out why.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Call of Duty’s zombie mode, the concept is pretty simple. Up to four players compete in giant maps to kill as many zombies as possible. During each “round”, a set number of zombies attempt to break through set barricades (usually five per room – which you can repair at your leisure), and as time progresses, they get increasingly stronger and more resilient.
Every kill you earn and every repair you make earns you cash, which helps you “buy” your way through new rooms, stronger guns, the weapon roulette mystery box, and subsequently, the coveted power switch, which opens up a whole host of powerups and teleportation devices. If a party member dies, it is possible to revive him by standing near him and injecting a serum (which takes around five seconds): once everyone is dead, the game is over.
World at War featured four standard zombie maps, but Call of Duty: Black Op’s offering is three-pronged. First you have the map “Kino der Toten”, which retains the classic feel of COD Zombies, and features characters from the original. Then you have “Five”, a historical romp through a zombie infested Pentagon, featuring a few extra tricks and traps. Finally, there’s Dead Ops Arcade, which is its own full-length SNES-era style dual stick shooter.
So without further ado:
Kino der Toten (Cinema of the Dead)
How much more “Nazi Zombie” can you get than a run-down, haunted cinema? Fans of Inglorious Basterds will have flashbacks of the famous cinema scene while playing this level, and for good reason: it’s pretty darn detailed. It features a full theater, complete with alleyways, backrooms, and the glorious main stage. Once you finally make it to said stage and turn on the power, the curtain is pulled, and all hell breaks loose.
In addition to the normal zombie crew and hellhounds, you’ll also find a completely new baddie to help mix things up: the gas zombie. Similar to the creatures from The Descent, these zombies will crawl around on all fours, but with the added surprise of leaving a poisonous gas cloud after death. They’re pretty fun to fight, and really help vary the gameplay: especially when they’re creepily crawling on the walls right behind you.
You won’t find a huge difference here compared to the old maps, but overall, Kino der Toten keeps that classic Call of Duty zombies feel while still managing to mix things up, and is a solid offering.
Leaked only days before release, Black Op’s Presidential Mode, featuring Nixon, Kennedy, Castro, and McNamara takes place in the Pentagon. “Five” is a bit different from all five previous “classic” zombie maps: it has a bunch of tricks up it’s sleeve that gamers will have to wrap their heads around.
In addition to the normal zombie fare, there’s a “DEFCON level”, a giant War Room, a thief that steals your weapons, and elevators that can take you to all three floors featured in “Five”. All in all, it’s a lot of extra concepts for people to wrap their heads around.
While “Five” is my personal favorite, a lot of people don’t prefer it because of how complicated it is. In addition to everything else you need to watch out for, you have to micro-manage the DEFCON level in order to reach the upgrade room instead of simply taking a teleporter, avoid the thief (who can take a very long time to kill depending on your aim), figure out the complicated portal system (which teleports you throughout all three floors), and deal with the constantly moving mystery box. All in all, I’d recommend reading a few strategies before attempting to really take on this map.
Dead Ops Arcade
Speaking of Smash TV, Dead Ops Arcade is a spot on homage to classic arcade shooters. Just like normal zombie maps, up to four players can play Arcade. The controls are pretty simple, as Dead Ops is a dual stick shooter with a “bomb” button, and a lightning quick dash button: both of these are finite in amount, but you can collect more in powerup form. Speaking of powerups, there are pretty much more of them than you can count: spread shots – rapid fire shots – transforming into a tank – laser shots. Pretty much everything you can think of from any retro game is featured in Dead Ops.
Unlike the other zombie modes however, there are a set 40 levels and a final boss, although upon completion, the game restarts again in hard mode. Dead Ops Arcade is sure to appeal to just about any gamer out there, and is a pretty hefty bonus addition to the zombie franchise.
Overall, Treyarch’s zombie mode has come a long way since the lowly Nacht der Untoten bonus map that was inconspicuously hidden in World at War. If I were to add up my total time spent playing Nazi Zombies, it would easily tower over many full length RPGs.
In fact, I’d go so far as making the statement that Activision could one day sell Nazi Zombies on consoles as an entirely different game (a practice that they’ve already done on the iTunes market, to great success). Either way, I can’t wait to see how the franchise continues to evolve through Black Ops DLC and future iterations.