There’s only so far that murdering zombies on the same map can take you before it gets old, but within those constraints Treyarch has managed to deliver a finely, crafted take on the very iconic Zombies mode that started with 2008’s World at War. Just like in 2008, you team up with your friends for a night of Zombies and mow down hordes of them and survive later rounds by pack-a-punching the best weapons and leaving what you don’t need behind.
In the story, Cold War’s take on Zombies is generally the same as it always been: taking place sometime in the 1980s, a dark mysterious conspiracy is unraveling in an abandoned Nazi bunker in Morasko, Poland and you and your team consisting of operators from the multiplayer are dispatched to inspect what’s going on and what’s going on is far darker than what is previously believed. Die Maschine is home to Projekt Endstation, a project that was established during the war and was intended to oversee the creation and production of atomic armaments for the Nazis with the use of an experimental cyclotron particle accelerator. On March 7th, 1944 during the twelfth test run of the cyclotron, the device malfunctioned and created a dimensional tear to the Dark Aether, a dimension that houses an ancient evil race of the Apothicons, a group of species that were the main antagonists of the Zombies mode within Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Black Ops IV, and so the project was redirected from atomic weaponry to harassing the power of the Dark Aether in order to try and win the war.
In 1945, as the war was coming to a close with the defeat of Nazi Germany, Projekt Endstation lost control of the experiments which resulted in the outbreak of Zombies. One week after the outbreak, the site was discovered by the Soviets, who stumbled upon the undead and the still active cyclotron. Determined to stop the breach, the Soviets sealed men inside the facility in order to deactivate the cyclotron. The effort was successful and the breach was closed until 1983 when the Omega Group, seeking to harness the power of the Dark Aether restarted the project and has a result, caused dimensional rifts all across the world and thus the story of Black Ops: Cold War begins.
Upon arrival to the site, the flesh-eating monsters begin to climb out of their hiding spots and naturally, you must kill them all as you uncover the story, progress through it, and try and stay alive through rounds. It’s kind of a bummer that you must play as operators from the multiplayer, when, the premise is really cool and has the potential to have stand-alone characters. For now, however, Die Maschine is kind of underwhelming as it is the original version of Nacht Der Untoten, the first Zombies map from World at War but it has been expanded to include the Nazi research bunker and the area surrounding the small building, including the crash site that can be seen within the confines of the original map. It’s extremely large, dynamic, layered and there’s a lot of hidden spots around the map to explore and see including the Dark Aether, which, can be entered upon activating the portal once you turned on the power and the cyclotron. The map is going to get old eventually, but, there should be more maps coming in the next several months.
Turning now to the gameplay side of things, the gameplay of Cold War: Zombies is very good albeit at times very easy. For the first time ever, Zombies allows you to pick your loadout and bring it with you. This makes usage of the carry-over system that was seen in Modern Warfare 2019 to make everything you earn available to you across the board. I’m a huge fan of this system because no matter what you’re playing, you’re making meaningful progression rather than grinding out separate ranks.
Being able to use your loadout is a big deal. In previous games beginning with World at War, you’d start out as a barebones character with a pistol and a knife, but now you’ve got whatever is in your chosen loadout slot. This dramatically changes the dynamic for the first waves and eliminates the need to scrounge for cash so you can buy a gun on the wall. As someone who grew up with the iconic Call of Duty games that made the series popular overnight like World at War or the original Black Ops, I miss the creep of power of gradually earning better guns, a system that was incredibly prevalent in the early games and a system that was iconic, but on the other hand, it feels damn good to shoot Zombies from the get go with the Assault Rifle or a hard-hitting DMR like the M16.
The classic zombies mode also gets a few upgrades in the form of upgradable perks, upgradable weapons that isn’t Pack-a-Punch, upgradable skills. Much like in Modern Warfare 2019 or the multiplayer suite for BOCW, you get field upgrades: field upgrades are special attacks that you charge up overnight which can be upgraded in the main menu; and weapon classes lets you upgrade your weapons like dealing out 10% damage to armored Zombies or 20% damage to Zombie bosses and these are persistent upgrades and you also get your hands on with different upgrades like armor or standard weapon damage, the armor works like in Warzone with plates and it’s pretty handy when you’re a jiffy.
Alongside the story, you get an Exfiltration mode that allows you to exfil the team if you’re getting either too bored or just wanna quit without the need to press quit on the start menu. Once you hit wave 11 in the Solo mode, you have the option to call in an Exfil chopper to rescue the team. If you skip it at wave 11 and fight on to earn more rewards, you get another chance for a chopper every five waves after that. However, once you do decide to call the towel while you’re ahead and call it in, while you wait for the chopper to arrive the intensity is cranked up to 11 and the horde gets larger and more chaotic as you try and kill them all before the time limit expires.
All of this is to say that even if its mostly the same as it has been since the mode’s introduction in 2008 with World at War and there’s one map and the overall objective of the mode remains the same as it always been, this iteration of the classic mode is probably my favorite iteration: it is tightly designed and it is extremely fun to play and it’s impressively polished. On a moment to moment gameplay, this iteration could be the best Zombies has ever been. It’s an excellent foundation.
Stay tuned for my review coming soon.