Season Two of Black Ops Cold War arrives today, with a new 6v6 multiplayer map, new weapons, more challenges to complete, and another 100-tier battle pass to grind. It also brings the most unique Zombies experience we’ve seen in a while, in the large-scale “Outbreak” Zombies mode.
As a part of Black Ops Cold War’s ongoing “Dark Aether” Zombies storyline, players step into the boots of a CIA-backed task force and research group sent to investigate mysterious global anomalies. These Dark Aether portals are gateways to another dimension—a place of evil—and they’ve spawned a whole mess of zombies and creatures to fight.
In the new Outbreak mode, Dark Aether portals have spawned all throughout Russia’s Ural Mountains. Some of the locales will be familiar to those who play Cold War’s Fireteam modes, as these maps make up a large part of the Outbreak experience. One new large-scale map, “Golova,” has been added into the mix as well. Zombies maps aren’t always small, but this is the most expansive environment we’ve explored in one Zombies mode. And we’re not even limited to one map: You might start in the woodsy area of Ruka before portaling to the snowy slopes of the Alpine map, making this an even more ambitious open-world experience for Zombies.
Outbreak is an objective-based mode for squads of up to four players. You start the match with one weapon and one field upgrade from your custom Zombies loadouts. Outbreak’s map holds most of the features you’d expect to find in Zombies. There are Mystery Box and Wall Buy locations to purchase better weapons, The Wunderfizz perk machine will let you purchase any perks you need, and the Pack-A-Punch machine will beef up your guns.
There will be one of five different objectives to complete on the map:
Defend: Players must obtain a sample of the infected, place it into a machine to be analyzed, and then defend the machine as it uploads the information.
Escort: This challenge requires players to escort a slow rover that holds a zombie specimen, protecting the rover until it can exit the Outbreak zone.
Retrieve: Players must retrieve canisters of Aetherium crystals that need to be safely extracted.
Eliminate: This challenge will mark a high value target, and the goal is to eliminate them. I’m not sure if the target is always the same or random, but for me it was always the armored “Mangler” zombie.
Holdout: This challenge is basically horde survival. Players must fight to survive in a small confined area for a set amount of time.
I really love the pace of Outbreak. Some areas you explore have a high concentration of enemies, but some locations just have slow zombies or a pack of hellhounds. You can walk around without feeling rushed or overwhelmed, but you can also head right to the objective to find more action when you want it.
Outbreak matches don’t have a time limit, so players are free to explore as much as they want. Luckily, there are vehicles and launch pads to help traverse this massive environment. I’m sure there will be plenty of secrets and Easter eggs to uncover here. I’ve already found one area on the “Ruka” portion of Outbreak that references feeding dragons, so I’m curious to see how that might tie in. To be fair, Black Ops III’s Zombies DLC map “Gorod Krovi” had giant dragons, so maybe this isn’t too farfetched.
I’d recommend exploring a bit, but completing the assigned Outbreak challenge is needed to advance the mission. After successfully completing the map challenge, players will be prompted to travel to a marked beacon on the map. Traveling to the beacon gives players access to all the necessities needed to gear up for a big fight: There’s a Pack-a-Punch machine for weapon upgrades, a crafting table, perk machine, and an armor station. These amenities are also scattered around the map, but the beacon conveniently provides them all in one spot.
Players gear up for one of two options: exfiltrate or continue playing for a harder fight. The option to exfil works just like it does in Cold War’s standard Zombies mode. A horde of zombies will attack, and the entire wave of undead must be cleared within the given timeframe to successfully survive and leave the mission via helicopter.
Instead of safely flying off into the sunset, players can advance to another section of the Ural Mountains to continue on at a higher difficulty. This can be repeated over and over, increasing the difficulty each time. The rewards get better as the challenge intensifies.
Outbreak rewards include the Raw Aetherium crystals, which is the resource used to upgrade a player’s efficiency of weapons, perks, ammo mods, and field upgrades. Outbreak also introduces two new variants of the crystals. Earning Refined and Flawless Aetherium crystals allows even higher upgrades to those skills. Players can earn these new crystal types by playing the traditional round-based Zombies maps, but I’ll be playing Outbreak to earn mine.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time with Outbreak, though I would love to see more than just one set challenge per location. The maps are huge, and while there are clusters of enemies and plenty of space to explore, I’d love to see more challenges and events packed into each location. I want to see Outbreak stick around and evolve.
I really love when Zombies branches out into objective-based modes, which break up the monotony of simply surviving waves of enemies. Outbreak has had some stability issues at launch. I’ve been playing on PS5, and sometimes my matches get laggy or I get disconnected. Treyarch has acknowledged the issue on Twitter, and hopefully we’ll get a fix soon.
As an added bonus, you don’t even need to own Black Ops Cold War to experience this ambitious new Zombies mode. Season Two launched today with a Free Access weekend, so select multiplayer and Zombies content is unlocked for everyone. You can try Outbreak or some other modes for free from now until March 4 at 10 am PT.