“George! Get your snout out of the lucky dip weapons box and board up the back window! George?! GEEEOOOORGE?! Annnnnnd now we’re all dead. Wunderbar.” The original Nazi Zombies may well be the greatest minigames ever conceived - there's a reason why it's become one of the biggest features of the series. You, three friends, 20 waves of Hitler’s finest goose-stepping brain-biters, and the naughtiest gun armoury of all time. What could possibly go wrong?
Honesty time: I can remember almost nothing about Nazi Zombies’ parent game, Call Of Duty: World At War. I recall it was the first COD to dip back into the increasingly stale waters of WW2 after 2007’s Modern Warfare tore up everything we knew about the series. I think Gary Oldman might have phoned in a paycheque playing a shouty Russian dude. And that’s literally it. Suffice to say, for me WAW may be the least memorable shooter in the megaton franchise’s history.
Then again, it did give us Nazi Zombies, so I can look past its overly vanilla story mode. Call Of Duty: World War 2 revealed its take on the undead-blasting minigame, and with that likely to be in a lot of stockings come christmas now feels like an ideal time to replay what initially seemed to be a throwaway curio. It’s since blossomed into one of the series’ most enduring staples. Not bad for a minigame which is essentially equal parts zombie murder and glorified carpentry sim.
You’re not just a hopelessly outmatched soldier locked in a creaky country house as coffin-dodgers try to break through every single window and door, oh no. In reality, you’re more harassed handyman than Ash Williams wannabe. Killing zombs is important; boarding up window frames and hammering doors is everything. Surviving Nazi Zombies’ increasingly frenzied waves demands tight coordination and constant communication. Fail to regularly talk to your teammates, and you’re all toast. Said communication usually devolves into all four of you screaming at each other over headsets, begging your pals to repair that window in the kitchen you’ve all forgotten about.
Away from pretending to be a trigger-happy Tim ‘The Toolman’ Taylor, World At War’s undead ace in the hole revolves around guns. Specifically, how you’ll happily screw over your chums’ desperate DIY efforts to nab yourself a better one. That little diatribe I opened on recalls a time when I was utterly obsessed with Nazi Zombies.
Every night after work a gang of my colleagues and I would all furiously fire it up, laugh our asses off, then contemplate how something so simple could be so intoxicatingly addictive. The ‘George’ in question was my then editor of this very website, GamesRadar+, and competent a shooter as my ed was, he also loved a sly spin on the minigame’s randomised weapons crate when no one was looking.
The Mystery Box, to give it its official moniker, elevates Nazi Zombies to comedy genius on a level with Monty Python. On the surface, it lets you spend all that money you accrue from whacking the undead to buy better firearms. In practice, it’s a joyous comedic device which encourages players to forget there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’ as they rush off for an elicit spin on the crate when they think their pals aren’t watching. The ultra addictive appeal lies with the fact you never quite know what the Mystery Box will produce, as the weapons it spits out are randomised. The Holy Grail remains the laughably lethal Ray Gun; a firearm so overpowered, you’ll gladly abandon your window-fixing duties in the vain hopes of landing one.
Of course, there’s an undeniable futility at the heart of the mode. Fighting back endless undead onslaughts is akin to trying to sweep leaves during a hurricane. Yet despite my greedy comrades, and the slim chances of success, I’ll always cherish Nazi Zombies’ hysterical brand of chaotic camaraderie.
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here.