Perhaps the biggest news is that Zombies is launching with “three fully fledged, fully loaded Zombie experiences on day one”, according to Treyarch. There are four new characters, and new enemies that look a lot like zombies, but this time are created by a shadowy, ancient order using an ancient Egyptian artefact.
The three campaigns appear to be built around the ability to travel to different locations, with the characters breathing some sort of mystical smoke in a ritual and appearing… elsewhere. “They breathe deeply of those vapours and appear in another time. That’s the most I’ll say, co-studio head Jason Bundell tells us.
The campaign called Nine, takes you to what appears to be an ancient Roman gladiatorial arena. It looks like a largely melee based mode with swords and maces being used, but when pushed on that aspect, all lead writer Craig Houston would say after some hesitation was was that “...there is ability to use melee weapons in it.” After that there’s the Voyage of Despair, which is set on the Titanic and, narratively at least, appeared to be built around a heist of some kind. There’s also a third mode, the return of Blood of the Dead.
Just in terms of content alone, that’s more than the series has ever had to begin with, but there’s more to come. Co-studio head Jason Blundell talks about Zombies evolving in to “an evergreen mode, for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly engagement.” That’s coming via a suite of customisation tools and social systems, as well as timed and seasonal events.
The customisation stuff comes via things called Mutations, which are over 100 different options that will let players change various aspects of the game. Things like zombie speed, health, type, player damage, magic box functionality and so on. It’ll let players create their own spin on gameplay and then share it with others. There’s also an authenticity stamp system, a “sharable code stating exactly what was achieved and with what options.”
In terms of events Treyarch are planning Callings, which are limited time challenges to “regularly introduce new ways to play the game and set the stage for ongoing seasonal content and a few themed experience surprises along the way” according to Blundell.
There are a few new options in how you’ll actually play as well. There are difficulty modes and bot support for the first time, so if you want to play alone you can fill the three player slots with AI. There’s also going to be tutorials to add some additional single player content and a new mode called Zombie Rush. This is a completely new mode aiming to “simplify the experience to create a whole new tempo of gameplay.”
It all suggests Treyarch are hoping we’ll play the long game with Black Ops 4’s Zombie mode - something that’s interesting to consider when it’s the one part of COD that fans have often suggested should be broken out into its own separate game. The plans to apparently make this a long running, constantly updated event this year could be the first step towards making that happen.