This week, Morgan reviews half of a seven-year-old game, in a last-ditch attempt to silence the homicidal urges.
Envision a society that has collapsed in the most brutal way possible. A society overrun with blood, grime, chaos and shambling husks that were once human beings. But that’s enough about my last trip to Glasgow, let’s discuss Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Zombies.
I don’t mind admitting that playing Zombies has become almost therapeutic by this point. It’s a game I can casually start up, play for a few hours and then leave without having to worry about my more-often-than-not embarrassing failures having some negative impact when I came back the next evening. However, this isn’t necessarily a ringing endorsement: after all, I find listening to Take That therapeutic, but none of their songs would exactly be my Grammy nomination.
The Zombies mode first started out as nothing more than an arcade-style minigame in 2009’s World at War. It was more of a brief carnival sideshow than anything, maybe put in because a few developers had to look busy when that one executive manager with the bamboo cane and crazy look in his eyes lumbered past. Zombies come in waves, shoot them to get points. A child of three could do it. And judging by the mic chat in public lobbies, many do.
Points are used to open doors and buy weapons, which cannot be done until you’re close enough to French kiss them, then a piece of text will gracefully invite you do so. This can become a bit of an inconvenience on higher rounds; you run to a nearby exit and hope to God that the prompt appears before the entire zombified London marathon makes up the six or seven centimetres worth of distance you have on them. This became a frequent source of irritation, when in otherwise good playthroughs I’d be trapped in a closet with half the population of China because apparently the exit doors had decided that I hadn’t face-planted them respectfully enough.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Hold on Morgan, so far this review simply encapsulates the Zombies mode in all the Call of Duty games as a whole! What’s so special about Black Ops 2?”
I’m glad you brought that up, strange voice in my head. First of all, it’s because Black Ops 2 was the one I played, you moron. Secondly, it’s because I’d like to give a little information on each individual map; I think I’ve earned the right after I’ve paid upwards of twelve pounds for each. And thirdly, an old associate of mine (on a discord server he’s used maybe twice in his life) briefly rose from the dead the other day to tell me that apparently the Zombies mode in Black Ops 2 was the last “real one”. As in, the last one the fanbase remembers fondly.
I couldn’t really give a half-ounce of deep-fried shit for what the fanbase thinks, but I appreciate the way the stars have aligned and a freak coincidence has for once gone my way. There are six maps in Black Ops 2 and four of those are part of the official canon. I could probably explain said canon, in the same way I could dig that ice cream-scoop out of the back of my kitchen drawer with the help of some heavy-industry earth-moving equipment, but I’d sooner give myself a lobotomy via hedge trimmer. Instead, I’ll tell you what I could vaguely scrape together from my own experience and three minutes on the wiki.
Black Ops 2 follows the events of the first Black Ops, when (and I speak no hyperbole here) a group of four characters visit the moon and somehow get tricked into nuking the entire world. Things don’t turn out great, amazingly enough, and in Black Ops 2 you play as one of four unlucky bastards back home, who are left to pick up the slack, get the world back to its pre-nuked state and then maybe decide who’s going to be eaten first when all the food supplies run out. Your choice is as follows: homeless Uncle Phil, Colonel Kentucky after getting dragged backwards through a mountaineering hardware shop, white Steve Urkel or Girl (whose main characteristic must have been written on the design document as “breasts”).
The other map worth talking about is completely detached from the main canon: further evidence, if needed, is that the official explanation for its existence is that its an “alternate universe” – you know, the absolute laziest way to explain why something doesn’t matter. It follows a group of four prisoners attempting to escape Alcatraz, with a shoddy plan to build a plane on the roof. Still, they’re so invested in it that they don’t happen to notice the entire prison being zombified around them, until things get underway and their fellow prisoners are now sporting a nice spiffy pair of glowing red eyes whilst sprinkling them with barbecue sauce.
The map’s main selling point is your ability to become a ghost for a limited number of times per round after you’re knocked down. Whilst in ghost form, it acts as a way of entering otherwise inaccessible areas and activate equipment to bring your dreams to fruition.
Well, it is for the first four rounds or so when everything needs to be unlocked; after that it’s more of an easy way to cheat death: “Hey guys, I know we’re trying to build a plane, and that’s great and all, but has anyone considered the fact that we now have quite literal get-out-of-jail-free cards?”
My few gameplay gripes are rather few and far between, though I’ll say this: this game really loves killing me without warning. I’m sure it never stops thinking its funny for it.
“Oh, that zombie reached through the barriers that are meant to protect you and knocked you down with a well-aimed bogey flick to the back of the head! Why didn’t you dodge it, you asshole?”
“Oh, so you thought you could jump from a ledge that’s twenty centimetres higher than the last one you gaily leapt off and suffered no adverse effects from? Bam! Dead! That’s what we do to Jumpin’ Jack Flashes!” And so on and so forth.
Also, the grenades feel a bit wimpy: you throw one, there’s a weak bang and a few zombies fall apart from second-hand embarrassment. And your guess is as good as mine as to whether the things will actually land amongst them, roll away to explode in some empty corner you can’t even see, or just bounce back off a nearby prop and into your gaping, stupid face. At certain points, I felt like I must have accidentally sentenced the map designers to a ten-year stretch in Alcatraz at some point; their revenge was so elaborate and well-planned.
Overall, Zombies is a great game to play if you’re a dangerously heavy sleeper and need to hone your sense of paranoia really quickly. The zombies never take you by surprise, with the way they spring up out of the ground and start hollering like someone has just slammed their fingers in a car door; the way they get you instead relies on sheer numbers and a lack of space. I can’t tell you the number of times things were going great for me, leading the hordes in a circle and picking them off en masse, before one I didn’t notice over the din would run up behind me and give me an undead prostate massage. And if that doesn’t keep you on your toes, chances are nothing short of a real-life nuked Earth will.