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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s Zombies is not the innovative game mode we once loved

Will McCue

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s Zombies is not the innovative game mode we once loved

Featured Image Credit: Activision

Gone are the days of jumping on a Call of Duty Zombies map with your mates, starting off with a basic pistol and slowly grinding to the highest round possible with pack-a-punch wonder weapons, and that makes me genuinely quite sad. It was initially just bonus content to a game that swiftly became much, much more than that. Basically, I’m not impressed with what I’ve seen from the new Modern Warfare 3 zombies gameplay, which we’ll go into but first, let me take you back almost 15 years.

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Take a look at the new mode in action below.

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It’s November 2008, my pal has just completed the World at War campaign and messages me on my Blackberry, telling me that there’s an extra game mode called ‘Nazi Zombies’. “You have to finish the story to unlock it, it’s awesome!” he said.

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Call of Duty: World at War Zombies Nacht Der Untoten / Credit: Activision
Call of Duty: World at War Zombies Nacht Der Untoten / Credit: Activision

Back then, the only map available was Nacht Der Untoten, a simple bunker where you hold out against waves of the undead. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before and was the start of a phenomenon. The iconic Ray Gun could be found in the mystery box, and drops like ‘insta-kill’ and ‘double points’ added to the arcade-like gameplay loop that had us all hooked.

Developers Treyarch saw an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the mode and added new maps ‘Verrukt’, ‘Shi No Numa’ and ‘Der Riese’ as DLC content. Over time, they added perks, the pack-a-punch machine, new wonder weapons and Easter eggs that sent the fanbase crazy. Many followed along, map by map, with the story of Dr Edward Richtofen and his ragtag crew like it was a binge worthy television drama. Zombies then skipped a year when Modern Warfare 2 was released in 2009 but came back with a vengeance in Black Ops. Day one map ‘Kino Der Toten’, set in an abandoned Nazi theatre, will go down in history as one of the best Zombies maps ever made. Treyarch continued to innovate with new perks, traversal systems, bosses and round based enemies - listening to feedback along the way.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops 1 Kino Der Toten / Credit: TheRelaxingEnd / Activision
Call of Duty: Black Ops 1 Kino Der Toten / Credit: TheRelaxingEnd / Activision

Black Ops 2 started a little roughly with the contentious ‘Tranzit’ but quickly found its feet with DLC maps ‘Mob of the Dead’, ‘Buried’ and ‘Origins’. Black Ops 3 includes a fan favourite map in ‘Der Eisendrache’ and even Black Ops 4 was fairly well received by the Zombies community - I personally enjoyed the map ‘IX’.

Other Call of Duty developers, such as Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games, have tried to create their own formula for the Zombies game mode, which I think it’s fair to say, hasn’t worked out well at all. The Zombies that we saw in Call of Duty: Vanguard was embarrassing to say the least, a far cry from the arcade round based mode we know and love. Now, that’s not to say all modern iterations of Zombies have been poor. In fact, Call of Duty: Cold War Zombies was excellent. ‘Die Maschine’ took most of the old school features that fans love and mixed it with some slightly faster paced gameplay that we see in the more recent games. It wasn’t perfect but was a glimpse at what Call of Duty Zombies in 2023 could and should be like.

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Cold War also brought us the ‘Outbreak’ variant of the Zombies game mode. This was where you’d load into a massive open-zone map with vehicles. You and up to four friends complete challenges as zombies continue to spawn. It was a nice twist to the formula that allowed for several hours of mindless entertainment before I wanted to hop back onto the traditional round-based Zombies mode.

Modern Warfare 3 Zombies / Credit: Activision
Modern Warfare 3 Zombies / Credit: Activision

This brings me to the present. Gameplay for Modern Warfare 3’s Zombies has been shown online and it looks to lack excitement and the mode’s infamous charm. One clip shows the player jogging around a vast, muddy field as the undead get a few swipes in - a giant Warzone-like map can be seen in the distance.

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To me, it looks like a man in a suit who has never played a video game in their life has heard that gamers love open worlds and zombies, so the genius has put the two together to create the perfect concoction. Sadly, to myself and thousands of original Zombies players across the world, that concoction tastes like the disappointment you feel when you finally realise you’ve left your pizza in the oven for the past hour. That’s very disappointing, if you couldn’t tell.

The Warzone-ification of Call of Duty games has made Activision a lot of money but at what cost? A once innovative game mode has had its soul ripped out. Zombies is nowhere near the game mode I fell in love with back in 2008. Simple, round-based, arcade gameplay is all we want. Let’s hope Treyarch can deliver in their next iteration, which will likely release next year in 2024.

Topics: Activision, Call Of Duty, Call Of Duty Warzone, Call Of Duty Modern Warfare

Will McCue
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