Call of Duty Zombies - A commentary

Image Credit: SamanehSadeghiMarasht

COD Zombies in 2020 has taken something of a radical turn. Looking at some of the changes made, E. Keogh reads the room of what the cult classic game mode has become.

The newest instalment of the Call of Duty franchise was released on November 13th of last year. The game’s campaign mode looked interesting enough, but the main focus of the game for me and many fans alike was the fresh-faced Zombies mode that was announced. 

The new map, “Die Machine” appeared to be the amalgamation of years of work that went into creating the Zombies universe, and upon the teaser for the new and improved mode, fans' excitement started to build. The promise of a new map, a new wonder weapon, new enemies, new field upgrades, and a new Easter egg would’ve been enough to get fans like myself on board, but Treyarch also made the promise to fans that all DLC for zombies would be available to owners of the game completely free of charge. In a move that caused much deliberation, Treyarch decided to integrate the online ranking system with zombies, meaning XP earned in the Zombies mode and in the online multiplayer mode contribute to the same one ranking system. This begs the question, was this a move to try and get multiplayer fans to play zombies, or was it to try and get zombies players to move across for multiplayer?

This is probably my favourite feature of the game for one reason; I’m sick of Zombies.

Firstly, a look at the new map. Die Machine is an expanded and revamped version of the first-ever zombies' map, World at War’s Nacht Der Untoten. Instead of beginning inside the building like the original map, you instead spawn outside in the yard, an experience almost unthinkable to players before. A new mechanic is available from round 11 and every 5th round following. ‘Exfilling’ allows the players to evacuate the map after killing a certain number of zombies, depending on the round, and if done successfully, allows the players the chance to earn bonus XP and rewards. This is very different from the usual experience of playing up until you die, chasing the highest round number possible, as in previous instalments. This is probably my favourite feature of the game for one reason; I’m sick of Zombies.

For veteran players of the franchise, the new Zombies mode is extremely easy. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s too easy. I’m used to just surviving every round, and after about 15 rounds, only with the help of friends would I manage to stay alive.

The times that I do go down, and possibly die, it’s because of sheer boredom and mental clock-out, rather than getting outskilled.

With Cold War zombies, I find myself surviving up to around 45 or 50 rounds before I encounter any real difficulty, and the times that I do go down, and possibly die, it’s because of sheer boredom and mental clock-out, rather than getting out skilled. Getting to the higher rounds is a cakewalk, the Easter egg steps are highly simplified and once you’ve done it once or twice, the general feeling that comes is one of ‘why would you bother’? If you want the wonder weapon, you can just activate the trials and get your reward to legendary. Out of the 50 odd times I’ve actively tried to do trials and gotten it to legendary, I’d say half of the rewards have been the D.I.E. 

Why is the game so easy? Well, to new players the game has to be a little more lenient to entice players to stay and get invested in the mode. And for many, the zombies that long time fans enjoy is face-paced, difficult, and has convoluted Easter eggs with complicated steps, the easiest of which taking anywhere from 30 minutes minimum to complete. The introduction of the shared system of XP means that online players can pick up zombies and not have to worry about all the XP they’re missing out on, and the fact the game is so easy to play for newcomers allows them to jump right in and still contribute to their ranking. Although online does offer more XP and XP events, it’s not enough to draw zombies fans to play online.

The game mode was undoubtedly made for more casual players. It’s simply far too easy for any zombies veteran to enjoy. The Easter egg steps could easily be done in 15 minutes. Getting the wonder weapon, that many are still divided on, is made simplistic. Gamers who are used to the challenge of zombies and the thrill of near-death when they’re on round 24 of Gorod in Black Ops 3 have simply stopped playing it as much due to the lax nature of the new Zombies mode.

Treyarch studios have confirmed that a new map, Firebase Z, will be released on February 4th. Fans have already gotten a sneak peek at a bird's eye view of the map, and more recently, a full photo of a stronger zombie resembling that of a Margwa from Black Ops 3’s Shadows of Evil map. Hopefully, the map will take the elements of Die Machine that players love, and make the game mode more difficult and interesting. Otherwise, the Zombies fan base might just go back to Black Ops 3, where there is an abundance of maps, intricate steps to the Easter eggs, and more of a challenge.