Players committed enough to complete the single-player campaign in 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War were graced with one of the greatest in-game rewards of that platform generation; the Nazi Zombies survival mode. Every Treyarch-developed iteration of Call of Duty since has expanded on the adventure with each DLC introducing one or more new survival maps to the saga.
As a tribute to the dedicated fanbase that has stood behind them—and this mode—for so long, Treyarch recently released eight of the series’ older Zombies maps in the Zombies Chronicles expansion, available for Call of Duty: Black Ops III. This final DLC will attract fans largely through nostalgia, and while the new maps definitely take fans back to some of their favorite zombie killing moments, there is also a lot of Black Ops III to be found in these classic maps whether fans want it there or not.
The eight maps remastered in Zombies Chronicles are pulled from World at War, Black Ops, and Black Ops II. The full list in chronological order is Nacht Der Untoten, Verruckt, Shi No Numa, Kino Der Toten, Ascension, Shangri-La, Moon, and Origins. Any die-hard fans of the saga will notice a number of maps missing including Five and Call of the Dead from Black Ops, as well as all the Zombies maps from Black Ops II apart from Origins.
Understandably, remastering every single Zombies map from the past would be too much for one expansion, and Black Ops II Zombies maps may simply be too substantial to include more than one. That said, the immediately noticeable lack of the two remaining Black Ops maps is a little more of a let down. The four present Black Ops maps were generally considered the most popular from the game, and Five and Call of the Dead arguably should have taken priority over some other maps like Verruckt. Every map included in Zombies Chronicles is a more than welcome addition, but squeezing those two others in would have gone a long way. At least the most popular classic map—Der Riese—was already remastered for Black Ops III at launch in the form of The Giant.
The maps that did make the expansion are exactly what fans will remember in terms of layout and design, but each has seen some bleed-over from Black Ops III. GobbleGum is one of the more apparent additions to the older maps, with machines scattered all over the classic stages. GobbleGum can be crafted and equipped in the Zombies menu screen, offering buffs to players with varying levels of utility. Players are permitted a large number of loadouts to choose from, giving a fresh layer of strategy to older zombie killing without taking away any appreciable challenge.
New Gum can been crafted with Black Ops III’s Liquid Divinum currency, or unlocked through level progression. This progression system is another novelty that has found its way into the old maps. While fun in their own right, older versions of the remastered maps could admittedly lose their charm once players completed everything they were aiming to do, but the addition of experience-based progress offers players something they can work toward while still reveling in the nostalgia of the remastered maps.
Perks were another element of the older maps to see an update for Black Ops III. For the most part, perks have remained constant on their respective maps apart from three notable exceptions. First, and most tragically, the perk PhD Flopper has been removed from all applicable maps, replaced with Black Ops III’s Window’s Wine perk. Among other things, PhD removed the threat of players getting damaged by their own explosions. This perk admittedly resulted in a number of rather overpowered strategies, but reasoning doesn’t make its removal sting any less. The second change involves the Der Wunderfizz machine getting introduced to several of the new maps. This machine gives players the option of getting a randomized perk at a lower cost and can be optimal for those unsure of what to pick as their last few perks. Finally, the perk Mule Kick has been added across every updated map, allowing players to carry an extra weapon. Forsaking PhD Flopper may be hard to forgive, but the benefit offered by the other two perk changes almost makes up for it.
If only all the changes to the classic maps were as understandable as those found in the perks. Weapons are often the highlight of every Zombies challenge, where putting one’s hard-earned points into the mystery box has an equal chance of producing the best gun in the game or a worthless joke. The three generations of Zombies maps featured different weapons based on the time period of the Call of Duty installment in which they took place, but the Zombies Chronicles expansion has almost entirely done away with this variety for the sake of incorporating Black Ops III’s weapon selection into all the remastered maps. Not only does this cut down on the novelty found in the maps’ different arsenals, but Black Ops III’s weapons don’t have quite the personality of those found in the original games.
This deficiency becomes even more evident once players upgrade the weapons in Pack-a-Punch machines. Pack-A-Punching a weapon produces a more powerful version of that firearm, but older weapons would often come out notably more interesting as well, such as flamethrowers that would slow enemies or submachine guns that would max out their rate of fire. Black Ops III weapons don’t seem to have the same flavor when upgraded, apart from a few rare cases such as the returning starting pistols that fire grenades. Remastered maps do feature one or two classic weapons—including map-specific special weapons like the Moon’s Wave Gun—but in an expansion so dedicated to nostalgia, more classic guns should have made the cut.
The Zombies Chronicles expansion fortunately stayed true to the classic maps in the most important area; Easter eggs. The Zombies saga doesn’t offer players its complex narrative upfront. It instead must be discovered through a number of intricate puzzles and challenges discovered across the maps. Apart from expanding on the Zombies story, these Easter eggs can also benefit the player immensely in their current match, whether it be through rewards of extra perks or unique weaponry. All the Easter eggs seem to be fully intact in Zombies Chronicles, giving the remastered maps increased longevity through challenges beyond simple survival.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s final expansion is a love letter to Zombies fans. Could there have been a little more emotion in said letter? Yes, but all the necessary pieces were there to take fans back to some of the greatest moments in Call of Duty history. Some guns and perks may be different, but zombies still need killing.
|Publisher: Activision • Developer: Treyarch • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 05.16.17|
Zombies Chronicles aims for the nostalgia of Zombies fans, and for the most part serves it well. Some of the changes made for the sake of evolution may have been better left undone, but the most important elements of these classic maps are still intact.
|The Good||Classic design and complex Easter eggs keep the most important elements of these classic maps fresh and fun.|
|The Bad||Abandoning classic weapons for Black Ops III’s newer armaments doesn’t do much in the way of the expansion’s nostalgia factor.|
|The Ugly||Crawler Zombies. Just trust me, they smell as bad as they look.|
|Call of Duty: Black Ops III – Zombies Chronicles is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Activision for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|