When Call of Duty: World at War was released with a post-game Zombies campaign, it was derided by many as being an unfit addition to a serious game. Since then, Treyarch’s Zombies has become one of the key pillars of the world’s most popular and best-selling shooter. So much so, that its enduring template has been used by other Call of Duty studios.
Treyarch’s started it all – and with the newest DLC for their now two-year-old Black Ops III, they’re bringing it home. Zombie Chronicles is a (as the name implies) Zombies focused expansion that brings a collection of maps from the previous Black Ops series of games to the latest one.
Zombies fans old and new are likely to get a kick out of Chronicles. For newcomers, seeing how it all started will be a delight, while those more acquainted with the third pillar of Call of Duty’s popularity will delight in re-experiencing old favourites.
As a reminder, Zombies is a four-player cooperative mode that pits players against waves of the undead, with the ultimate goal of trying to survive as long as possible. Some maps have their own goals, but the impetus really is on staying alive as the undead hordes increase in magnitude and ferocity. Killing zombies earn you points that you’ll use to buy improved guns and special perks, and open doors leading to new areas with endless waves of undead enemies. You could try to do this all alone, or team up with friends online or off for a frenzied, fun co-operative experience.
It’d be easy to call it a cynical cash-grab that’s intent on preying on fan nostalgia – but there’s so much love poured into this recreated maps from World at War through to Black Ops 2, all lovingly recreated. There’s more to it than just increased textures and art assets. With the move to Black Ops 3 as a base, there’s a stark improvement in lighting, and the addition of superlative atmospheric audio to double up on Zombies’ inherent feeling of tension. Every undead groan,
Chronicles has a strong selection of maps drawing from the series well. For narrative (and probably licencing) issues, some fan favourites like Call of the dead, Tranzit and Mob of the Dead didn’t make the cut – but those that are in are a delight to revisit. There are smaller, more manageable maps – like the one that started it all, Nacht Der Untoten, as well as more expansive story-centric ones like Ascension and Moon, which require distinct co-operation and strategies to overcome.
Of course, perpetual favourite Kino der Toten (my favourite map, personally) has been given a loving overhaul. The abandoned, destroyed theatre has had its Swastikas removed, replaced instead with golden statues and appropriate decorative panels. Some fans may decry their removal as destroying historical accuracy – but it’s a game about killing zombies. I think we can safely excuse realism for a moment. Beyond that aesthetic change, everything about the map – and indeed the others – feels more alive and vibrant.
It’s all been given a dash of modernity through Black Ops 3’s systems. The Gobblegums offer single-shot perks, supplementing Perk-A-Cola’s longer effects. They add new strategies to maps, and will change the way you played through your old favourites. For purists, the option exists to turn them off for a return to classic action. Probably less welcome is the addition of Black Ops 3’s guns to the older campaigns. Older players will no doubt lament the loss of Mustang and Sally in favour of Death and Taxes, but the newer weapons don’t fundamentally change the core zombies experience in the slightest.
Instead, it’s the new visuals and lighting, and especially the enhanced audio that make for the biggest, most welcome change. More than a simple remaster, Treyarch’s delivered a substantial bit of content for its admittedly high asking price. At $30, it’s half the cost of the base game it requires to run. For die-hard Zombies fans, it’s well worth the price of admission.
Last Updated: May 22, 2017