Call of Duty: Black Ops came with a bonus game called Zombie Mode, which was sort of a mini-game that had players defending certain areas wave after wave of zombies – a horde mode, if you like. After finishing the Black Ops campaign, players were given a secret bonus mode called Presidential Zombie Mode which was basically the same thing except it took place in the White House. I remember having quite a bit of fun with this mode despite being of such small scale. I thought that if Treyarch had maybe turned this into a relatively full scale game it could potentially be great. I was wrong.

Treyarch has introduced a separate Zombie mode on Black Ops 2 that is supposed to be an absolute reworked version of the original bonus game. However, Black Ops 2: Zombies just feels like the aborted baby of Black Ops 2 and Killing Floor.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – Zombies comes with three different modes including the classic Survival mode and two new modes called TranZit and Grief.

Survival

Survival mode has players defending a fixed area from zombies that spawn from either barrable windows or from beyond the fog. Players gather points from killing zombies and rebarring windows which can be spent purchasing better guns, secondary equipment or ammo. With each wave, zombies get stronger and stronger so it’s important to keep upgrading your weapons. It is basically the same as the zombie mode from Black Ops but without the exploration. You are in the same area until you die and the game ends.

Though there are a number of different kinds of guns you can choose from, it doesn’t seem like their damage inputs differ from each other greatly. The main differences are recoil, reload time and range. You are also equipped with a knife which only proves to be useful in the first wave.

There are also power-ups that are randomly dropped by zombies that include things like insta-kill or 2x points. There is no way of telling which zombies will drop which power-up though they are useful and contribute to your short-term survival. It only takes about 2-3 hits for a zombie to take you down. Once taken down, you are put into what previous COD games call Last Stand where you may only crawl on the ground with a pistol to defend yourself until you bleed out or one of your allies revives you. What I found strange was that as soon as you are taken down by a zombie, they suddenly switch to the next target. So, technically, you never die from getting eaten by a zombie and I thought zombies were supposed to be flesh eating monsters. Due to this, zombies do not feel like the most immediate threat; having slow teammates who would rather not revive you becomes the immediate threat.

Due to the fact that you are stuck in the same stage for the whole of Survival mode, constantly barring windows and shooting zombies in the head with a low variety of guns gets quite tedious. It definitely a step down from the original Black Ops zombie mode.

 TranZit

There is only one map that offers this mode so far. TranZit is an open-world exploration/survival mode that has a team of four players constantly travelling around the map while defending against wave after wave of zombies. The game mode has players riding a bus driven by a zombie robot that stops at certain areas for a given amount of time. Each area has new guns, power-up vending machines, and mystery boxes which can be activated by collecting points from killing zombies or rebuilding defenses.

What sets this game mode apart from the others is the inclusion of “buildables” which are special items you can create by putting together parts that can be found scattered throughout the different areas. Though buildables are optional, they greatly improve your chances of survival in the long run. Some are used defensively (zombie shield), offensively (machine gun turret), or practically (the turbine). The parts for these, however, are very hard to find and sometimes spawn in different places and you can only put them together on workbenches. There are also bus parts you can use to upgrade your bus’ defenses. These parts do not require to be put together and randomly spawn as a single useable item.

The zombiebot-driven bus is of utmost importance in TranZit. The key to this mode is to never miss the bus lest you get left behind alone for the zombies to feast on. Though it is possible to travel to the next stop on foot, each area is shrouded in a thick fog and infested by zombies and a Gollum-like zombie that acts like Left 4 Dead 2’s Jockey. This makes it damn near impossible to travel by foot, your only chance would be to try and survive or kill yourself and wait for respawn.

There are just so many problems with TranZit. First of all, the game doesn’t make your objective clear. The first time I played, I had no idea you had to get back on the bus after the first stop so I ended up getting stuck at a gas station with equally unknowledgeable allies which basically turned the game into plain old survival mode. They don’t make buildables an obvious thing either. The first time I came across a buildable was on my 5th or 6th game and only because some guy happened to know how to do it. The items you need to collect for buildables are also annoyingly hard to find. These items look like they’re just part of the stage’s aesthetic. The only way to know if they’re special is if you go near it to try to pick it up. So you spend half of the time pressing F at every object you see while fighting off zombies behind you. Also, there aren’t that many buildables in the first place.

This mode would have been great if Treyarch executed it properly. Objectives aren’t clear, getting ammo is more exciting than getting a new gun and the mode is highly repetitive. Perhaps the inclusion of boss fights would have spiced things up a little or more bus upgrades that players can control like a turret. I have so far only found three different upgrades for the bus all of them used defensively and do not make much of a difference.

Grief

I find the inclusion of this mode highly problematic and redundant. It pits two teams against each other: the CIA and the CDC. (Why the CIA would fight against the CDC in the middle of a zombocalypse, I do not know) To be clear, Grief is not a type of team deathmatch. You are actually not allowed to hurt or kill the enemy team. Instead, the two teams race against each other to get the higher number of points through killing zombies. When a player gets taken down by a zombie, only an ally may revive him. The enemy team can set the other team back by interrupting the reviving process. When all players on one team die, it is up to the remaining team to finish off the stage.

Aside from interrupting the reviving process, there is no other way to hinder the enemy team’s progress other than by simply killing more zombies or luckily stumbling upon power-ups for your team. There is no underlying strategic process, there are no areas to be claimed for your team or special items that drastically impede the enemy team. There is a serious lack of innovation in this game mode; Treyarch basically just got survival mode and made the maximum amount of players 8.

Black Ops II: Zombies is a failed attempt at creating a whole new game despite being based on a relatively decent game mode. It is a good thing that this mode automatically comes as a separate installation to the single-player campaign and multiplayer mode. Otherwise, I don’t see the reason why anybody would pay for it.