With over 30 total Call of Duty Zombies maps in existence, I’ve seen all the highs and lows of this beloved game mode. Black Ops 2 gave way to a particularly divisive experience upon launch, in the form of TranZit. Having experienced the sheer excellence of World at War and Black Ops before it, Treyarch had delivered superb innovations on COD Zombies gameplay, but TranZit felt like a far cry from the immense highs of Kino Der Toten or Der Riese. However, the perfect opportunity is here, as MW3 Zombies is the ideal playing field for TranZit to achieve true greatness.
TranZit is an ambitious map in retrospect, debuting as Call of Duty Black Ops 2’s first foray into an at the time ‘new’ Zombies adventure. It somehow completely abandons the normality of the mode, while still retaining familiar aspects. Maybe how you’d describe the current state of Zombies. After becoming deeply accustomed to the comfort of maps like Ascension, Nacht Der Untoten, or Shi No Numa, the concept of a pseudo-open-world take on Zombies felt alien to me. New mechanics like buildables didn’t quite gel at first, and the banking feature was another rabbit hole too.
If you’re not much of a Zombies fan and prefer to stick it out in modes like MW3 multiplayer and playing the MW3 maps, you may have forgotten about TranZit’s sprawling map. Split into multiple sub-sections, players spawn in a bus station, earning enough points to escape it, before boarding the main method of transport – the bus. It is exceptionally slow, prone to undead infiltration, and is driven by an annoying yet loveable robot. You’ll find underground facilities, a homage to Nacht Der Untoten, the town square, and so much more. That’s if you can wade through a heinous fog that looms over everything, numerous performance issues, and flying frog-like foes known as the Denizen.
Given the round-based nature of the mode, TranZit suffers from the constrictions of having to gear up with a mostly poor weapon selection from wall buys, and a steep difficulty ceiling from the get-go. It isn’t as inaccessible as maps like Shangri-La or Shadows of Evil, but the bar of entry is still notably high for the start of a brand-new Zombies mode. Modern Warfare 3 Zombies removes this level of stress beforehand, allowing players to gear up how they wish while maintaining a sense of challenge when it comes to earning desirable acquisitions and schematics like the Ray-Gun. Paired with an increased player limit of 26, Treyarch could do wonders with an overhauled version of TranZit for Modern Warfare 3.
Like many of the best FPS game franchises out there, Treyarch continues to be the most adventurous and riskier Call of Duty developer within the Activision arsenal. Apart from interstellar antics with Infinite Warfare, franchise starters Infinity Ward often play it safe, while Sledgehammer Games provides a middle ground. The Modern Warfare series is the backbone of the iconography associated with Call of Duty, but Treyarch entries linger because of their creative freedom with the restrictions of the COD formula.
That sense of pushing the goalposts further back is evident with modes like Outbreak in Black Ops Cold War, and now more than ever in Modern Warfare 3 Zombies. It is a melting pot of the strengths of both Outbreak and Modern Warfare 2‘s DMZ mode, fusing together that unique COD Zombies feeling with a newfound focus on giving the player more agency to forge their own action. These are all hallmarks that TranZit tried to bolster back in 2012. With round-based Zombies as the primary gameplay format back then, it was never able to fully capitalize on its design ethos.
Urzikstan is proving to be a great map to get the action started in MW3 Zombies, but bringing back a Zombies-focused map from the past could also be enough to persuade doubters that MWZ is worth sinking time into. Rumors of Rebirth Island returning for both Warzone and MW3 Zombies might carry that notion too, as it is an easy way for Treyarch to once again bring another version of Mob of the Dead back into the limelight. But we’ve seen Mob of the Dead re-done before, TranZit has never had that pleasure outside of brilliant fan-made efforts.
It is clear that Treyarch is at least considering paying tribute to earlier Zombies eras, as the MW3 Season 1 release date will bring back the Jet Gun (V-R11) Wonder Weapon into the game. Perhaps this is the beginning of Treyarch laying down the foundations for something bigger, or a playful way to retrofit fan-favorite features. I’m hoping it is the former.