Like many Call of Duty players, I’ve been aboard the COD Zombies hype train since World at War terrified me back in 2008. Whether it is the Ultimis or Primis storyline, the separate lore seen in Infinite Warfare, or COD WW2, I’ve seen the beloved survival mode evolve for better or worse. We saw the worst of Zombies with Call of Duty Vanguard, which undid all the goodwill Black Ops Cold War had conjured up. Modern Warfare 3 presents another pivotal moment in Zombies history, and while I’m still cautious about MW3 Zombies, Treyarch could be about to revitalize the mode for a brand-new generation of players.
It is a complicated situation, though. Treyarch was at the helm for Vanguard’s iteration of Zombies, which shares some of the same creative DNA found in Black Ops Cold War’s Outbreak mode. While Vanguard’s initial concept was smaller than Outbreak, both tasked the player to complete objectives, rather than partake in the traditional round-based gameplay. Yet, Outbreak didn’t remove the core tenets of what makes Zombies sing. Wonder Weapons, the Pack-A-Punch, familiar Perks, and easter eggs are all crucial elements that fans like myself and millions of others have become accustomed to. There’s still magic to maps like the first ever Zombies location, Nacht Der Untoten, unlocking the downstairs door to reveal the magic of the Mystery Box. Vanguard’s Der Anfang just failed to hit those notes.
Games like World at War and the first Black Ops were already excellent enough to become two of the best FPS games in the franchise. Zombies elevated them to new heights. With so many features aiming to sway Modern Warfare 2 detractors, Modern Warfare 3 could replicate that kind of success with MW3 Zombies. After watching the newly released gameplay and the MWZ mode trailer during Call of Duty Next, it is already apparent that Treyarch is leaning on the best elements of Black Ops Cold War’s additions to the Zombies pantheon.
There are the seeds of deep Dark Aether lore to uncover, with returning factions like Omega and Requiem heading up the continuation of the storyline. Seeing Modern Warfare characters like John ‘Soap’ MacTavish enter the fold feels more impactful here, rather than as an afterthought like we’ve seen in previous Warzone events that saw the undead run rampant.
The excellent array of Perks from Black Ops Cold War returns, and I’m just waiting for the moment PhD Slider is back in my arsenal. Black Ops Cold War brought versatility to survival, with loadouts offering the same level of player agency that’s found in multiplayer and Warzone. Seeing powerful Field Upgrades like Tesla Storm back in the mix has me giddy already. I can already imagine the massive chain of electricity that MWZ’s multi-squad gameplay could lead to. In fact, I don’t need to, because Zombies community figurehead ‘MrDalekJD’ has already done it.
Features like proximity chat and assimilation from Warzone are set to be included too, adding that social element of making potential friends for life like the good old days of COD multiplayer. Then there’s the aforementioned elephant in the room. Though Vanguard retrofitted round-based gameplay into its subpar maps later on, MWZ is pure open-world carnage. When Outbreak first emerged on the scene, I was hesitant about its lack of round-based gameplay. However, while I’ve loved blasting away hordes of undead in Der Riese on that platform for hours on end, I’m aware that some players don’t necessarily want to run trains for 4 hours continuously. Serving up action in one-hour bursts is definitely more appealing in that regard, and will surely aid in making MWZ’s objectives more pressing as a result.
Whereas Outbreak used increased World Levels to replicate the difficulty of rounds, MWZ uses a tier-based system dependent on your location in Urzikstan. Zones are split into Low, Medium, and High threats, and the pressure of the Dark Aether storm will likely make exfiltration heated. With all these spiritual refinements to Outbreak mode, leaving rounds behind isn’t a bad thing. In lieu of a standalone COD Zombies game, this feels like the next big step forward for the game mode, and Urzikstan surely won’t be the only locale to fight in. With Rebirth Island coming back to Warzone, the chance to pay homage to Mob of the Dead through the map’s Alcatraz-inspired setting writes itself.
On the lore front, dedicated cutscenes and a story to progress through have potential to evolve on forgotten modes like Nightmares from Black Ops 3. Call of Duty canon is messier than the X-Men movies, but at least they’re sticking to their guns with this full-fledged crossover with Task Force 141. As a franchise first for the Modern Warfare series, it all feels like this is a true blockbuster overhaul for Zombies we know it.
It could be argued that Call of Duty is dying to capture some of the pop-culture lightning that Fortnite has attained over the years. While some players might complain about the abundance of collaborative bundles in COD games as of late, admit it, you’ve bought one of them along the way. It isn’t exactly the first time that celebrities, historical figures, or fictional characters have appeared in Zombies over the years. Maps like Five and Call of the Dead basically gave way to that idea.
Thanks to the multiversal shenanigans of the Dark Aether storyline, MWZ is the ideal stomping ground for absolute nonsense to take place. Sure, it won’t officially be canon, but we’ll likely always remember the day that Homelander and Nicki Minaj banded together to obliterate legions of undead foes.
Treyarch has always used Zombies as a means to experiment, using its findings to succeed or stumble along the way. Though an easter egg won’t be present at launch, all the building blocks are there for a thrilling new experience. I’m already struggling to think about anything other than that Ghost Rider-like motorcycle in the trailer. That’s a real *chefs kiss* moment. There isn’t long left until the Modern Warfare 3 release date arrives, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that MWZ will stick the landing. Otherwise, I don’t think Quick Revive will get Treyarch out of this one.