Test Your Zombie Survival Skills With Cold War’s New Cranked Mode

Illustration for article titled Test Your Zombie Survival Skills With Cold War’s New Cranked Mode
Image: Activision

Killing zombies is the best part about Black Ops Cold War’s mid-season update for Season One. New maps and modes were added on January 14, including a new large-scale Fireteam map, a standard 6v6 multiplayer mode called “Dropkick,” and a Cranked mode for Zombies.


Overall, I feel a little underwhelmed by this content drop. The offering for standard multiplayer is meager, and it adds nothing to spice up the Warzone experience. However, Cranked is my favorite limited-time multiplayer mode, so I was curious to see how the frantic action would translate in Zombies.

Cranked mode works much like the multiplayer version, and it really applies the pressure to the round-based survival of Zombies. You start your match on the Die Maschine map with a 30-second timer, and the time will tick away unless you reset it by killing zombies. You will go kablooey and die if the timer hits zero.

Having such a short fuse sounded like it would be a problem between rounds, and I worried the zombies wouldn’t spawn fast enough to stay “cranked,” but there’s no intermission in this Zombies mode. The horde doesn’t pause between rounds, giving you a constant flow of the undead.

“Timers frozen” power-up.
“Timers frozen” power-up.
Screenshot: Activision (Kotaku)

Cranked matches start fast, and quickly turn hectic. The only time you get a real breather in Cranked Zombies is when you get lucky with a random “Timers Frozen” power-up drop, which will freeze your countdown for 10 seconds. Of course, 10 seconds in Cranked feel like the fastest seconds of your life. This means there’s no downtime to safely upgrade your guns or rest your hands. Zombies will drop ammo, so at least there’s a constant source for bullets, but you really have to make wise use of your time.

The mode’s storyline quests have been removed from the map, and you don’t have to complete the normal steps to build the Pack-A-Punch machine. All you have to do is turn on the power and Pack-A-Punch will be ready to upgrade your weapons. And even with a ticking death timer and a horde chasing you, you’ll still want to brave the underground portion of the map to Pack-A-Punch your weapons, because eventually you’ll survive enough rounds for the elite “Megaton” enemies to start spawning. Those guys are still hard to kill, but in Cranked mode, they at least drop weapons for you.


The greatest stress in Cranked is that your maximum time on the countdown will decrease by three seconds every three rounds. On round 3, you’ll be reduced to a 27-second timer, round 6 will shave it down to a 24-second timer, and so on.

My biggest criticism is that time reduction becomes too complicated during the Plaguehound rounds, as the dogs don’t spawn in quite as fast as the zombies do. Hopefully the developers will get some feedback and maybe tweak the Plaguehound rounds a bit. The rounds are supposed to become more difficult, but getting Plaguehounds in late rounds with a heavily reduced timer seems a bit unfair. The dogs just don’t spawn quickly enough, and it can kill the mode’s otherwise frantic fun. I’ve mostly played solo matches, but this will likely be a bigger issue in co-op with four players all fighting over the slowly spawning Plaguehounds. Otherwise, Cranked Zombies is a blast to play.


Cranked’s change of pace is a fun way to pass the time until the next map comes out. Treyarch announced the new Zombies map “Firebase Z” will launch on February 4, so there’s more to be excited about if you’re a Zombies fan. And right now, you can test out your survival skills against the undead without even owning the game. Zombies mode is free to play across PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, and PC. The free trial runs until January 21.

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I just use Zombies to upgrade my weapons for multiplayer. Pick a gun I need to level up, go to the top of the plane wing in solo mode, and farm kills for about 15 rounds. Repeat.

This sounds fun, though, so I’ll definitely check it out. Cranked was one of my favorite modes when Ghosts introduced it.