REVIEW: ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’ Zombies is the Highlight of the Game (PS4)

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Cold War Zombies

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is a first-person shooter developed by Treyarch and Raven Software and published by Activision. The campaign itself is set during the early 1980s, focusing on a CIA officer, Russell Adler, as he pursues an alleged Soviet spy, Perseus. However, Black Ops Cold War Zombies steps away from the events and time period of the main campaign and instead focuses on the supernatural occurrences in a long-abandoned World War II bunker.

Black Ops would be nothing without Zombies. I dare say that it’s what most players were looking forward to when Black Ops Cold War was announced. But the Zombies featured in this game is quite different than what many people may remember.

First and foremost, there are multiple modes to Zombies. There is, of course, the classic Zombies which features endless rounds, a version of the classic Zombies mode that only has 20 rounds, and Onslaught. Whereas classic Zombies allows up to 4 players, Onslaught is a 2-player experience.

In Onslaught, there has been a global zombie outbreak fueled by the sudden formation of mysterious Dark Aether anomalies. These anomalies have popped up across Black Ops Cold Wars’ multiplayer maps. In each round, players will be tasked with following the Dark Aether anomaly, a floating purple orb, across the map, killing zombies to power up the orb. Once enough zombies have been killed in a particular spot, the orb will move to another area on the map and a new round will begin. But beware, the orb has a containment field around it that, once players step outside of it, will begin to deal damage. Every few rounds, the anomaly will open an extra-dimensional rift, summoning special, elite zombies with new abilities. After these elite zombies are defeated, they drop a random perk and guns.

Onslaught is definitely a whole new experience. Although it’s very different than the classic Zombies setup, it’s still pretty fun. As zombies spawn, you’re required to stay in a very small area of the map. Although you can take a few excursions outside the containment field, the fact that you’re limited in the extent of your movement increases the difficulty. The downside is that because the multiplayer maps are smaller than in classic Zombies, and the objective is the same each round, it can become redundant quickly. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting addition to Zombies.

In the classic Zombies mode, there is currently only one map available: Die Maschine. But it’s a very interesting map because it’s an expanded version of the very first Zombies map, Nacht der Utoten. The map features the original bunker from Nacht der Utoten but expands the map to include outside and underground areas including a Nazi research facility.

As is typical with Zombies, there is a secret Easter Egg questline to stumble across. In the bowels of the Nazi facility, there is a particle accelerator that has ripped a hole in the fabric of our dimension, allowing players to travel to another dimension, the Dark Aether, which paints itself as a dark mirror of the map. The Easter Egg requires players to go back and forth between these two dimensions and requires plenty of skill and coordination to complete. Unlike one of the last Zombies iterations where players were given each step to complete the Easter Egg, this Zombies is back to the original setup. There are very few hints about how to complete the Easter Egg and exploration is key. This of course increases the difficulty but given that players completed the Easter Egg within three hours of the game’s release, there’re plenty of walkthroughs available if it becomes too hard.

The Dark Aether dimension is not only a great mechanic but the design is a prime example of what ambiance can do. While in this other dimension, it feels like you’re underwater. The sounds are muted and the physics just a bit off. When zombies die, their bodies float away. Add in the giant, fluorescent jellyfish looming in the sky, the glowing fungi, and crystals, this dimension creates the feeling that players are on an entirely different world despite the man-made structures remaining the same. The map itself has plenty of areas to train zombies along with multistory structures that allow you to make quick exits. Overall, it’s a wonderful map and a great start to the Zombies game mode.

Whereas in other Zombies the Easter Egg was often seen as the only end game, Black Ops Cold War Zombies offers another end game option: Exfiltration (Exfil). The ability to Exfil begins at round 10 and then appears again after every five rounds. The Exfil can be called via radio and players will receive a new objective after the current round ends: reach the Exfil site within a time limit and clear out the LZ. Once the Exfil has been called, zombies will begin to bombard you and your team. Given that the time limit is a minute and thirty seconds, and you’ll need to kill a lot of zombies, it can be tough, especially in later rounds. If you Exfil successfully, you’ll be rewarded Raw Aetherium Crystals (which are needed to upgrade your equipment) and XP. If you fail, however, it’s game over.

Cold War Zombies

Every few rounds, special enemies will spawn. From the plague hounds that explode on death and deal radiation damage to the Megaton which splits into two enemies after death, there are some novel and challenging enemies to encounter.

The main differences between Black Ops Cold War Zombies and past Zombies iterations have to do with your weapons loadout. Usually, in past Zombies, you spawn in with just a pistol and must buy wall guns or use the mystery box to obtain new guns. In this Zombies, you can pick a starting loadout which can include a variety of guns. This is a huge difference and undeniably makes the first few rounds easier. However, most of the guns found on the map are much stronger than your starting weapon which still incentivizes players to spend their money to get new weapons.

The game also introduces rarity to guns, with greater rarity being associated with more weapon damage. Most of the weapons available are cold war-era but players will have access to fan-favorite Zombies weapons like the ray gun. Classic perks are still available, like Juggernaut and Stamin-Up, but now players can deploy Field Upgrades and Support Weapons such as Explosive Bows, Sentry Turrets, and even Chopper Gunners for when your team is in a pinch.

Another difference is that zombies, on death, have the chance to drop throwable items like grenades and tomahawks. This adds another level of chance to the game. There is now also a mini-map which reveals the location of zombies, perks, ammo caches, and doorways. You can now also see how long powerups last so you’re no longer guessing exactly when your Insta Kill will run out. In a similar vein, Zombies now have health bars so there is no questioning how many more bullets it will take to down an elite zombie.

These changes in certain ways makes Zombies easier. However, the new elite zombies are challenging and even the normal zombies can get out of hand very quickly. The number of zombies and the spawn rate increase rather quickly as the rounds increase, requiring players to use their money smartly and their time wisely. You’ll also lose any perks you bought if you’re downed by a zombie and aren’t revived quickly enough or at all. So although there are some changes that equate to easier gameplay, there are plenty of other additions that up the difficulty, leveling out to give us a moderately challenging Zombies game.

With the release of Black Ops Cold War, I can still say that Zombies is the highlight of the series. The map is intricate and allows for some good zombie training and the Dark Aether has an excellent ambiance. There have been numerous changes made that will likely make gameplay easier but the addition of novel elite zombies still gives players enough of a challenge and makes for another excellent Zombies iteration.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Zombies
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    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

With the release of Black Ops Cold War, I can still say that Zombies is the highlight of the series. The map is intricate and allows for some good zombie training and the Dark Aether has excellent ambiance. There have been numerous changes made that will likely make gameplay easier but the addition of novel elite zombies still gives players enough of a challenge and makes for another excellent Zombies iteration.