I enjoyed Call of Duty: WWII’s Zombies mode when it launched. But now, having dumped over a dozen hours into it, I’m feeling differently.
I originally praised Sledgehammer Games for its scary and gory take on Zombies. There was something really satisfying about returning to the World War II setting with Nazi zombies, ripe for the killing with many of the classic guns I loved in the series’ very first Zombie mode in 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War.
Since that first raising of the dead, we’ve seen the mode go to really outlandish time periods and settings: Exo suit zombies, killing the undead on the moon, and a silly 1980s theme park. Call of Duty: WWII’s first Zombie map, The Final Reich felt like the mode was coming full circle with the return of Nazi-themed horror.
The Final Reich is a village square set in Mittelberg, Germany, where you’ll find several variations of undead soldiers. Flies buzz around as waves of armless zombies rush towards you with great speed. Zombies will often burst through windows or drop down from above for a jump scare.
Underneath the town is a sewer system flooded with blood and guts. The village also has a laboratory and morgue, which are both well-decorated to add to the creep factor. Sledgehammer Games does a great job with the lighting and audio, crafting an unsettling atmosphere with an unmistakably Nazi Germany setting.
But as you play the map a few times, you will quickly be desensitized to the horror that the developers worked so hard to create. The jump scares, on which the game overrelies, stop surprising you.
Once the spooky impact is lost, the flaws of WWII’s Zombies become much more apparent.
The Final Reich can become boring or sometimes frustrating to play. I especially find the map frustrating to play solo while attempting to carry out some of the game’s more interesting tasks, like building the wonder weapon or working through the Easter Egg steps.
If you kill all the regular zombies and end the current round, any remaining special zombies will stick around for the new round. Sometimes I’ll be building my Tesla gun wonder weapon and turn around to see three exploders, four brute-type zombies, and a giant flamethrower zombie are all chasing me with the horde of standard zombies already on my heels. It feels like too much going on at once, especially when you’re still in early rounds.
Then once you build the map’s special wonder weapon and complete the Easter Eggs, there’s really not much else to keep you playing. The mode just stops feeling fun to play after a handful of matches.
Infinite Warfare’s Zombies mode caught a lot of criticism for being too silly and without any real depth to the four playable characters. However, the wacky ‘80s vibe of Zombies in Spaceland carried more replay value with its Easter Eggs. I loved jamming to the retro soundtrack while doing the steps to get David Hasselhoff to assist me with slaying the undead. Even the kung fu melee in Shaolin Shuffle was loads of fun, while WWII Zombies has this annoying shovel-killing animation that takes way too long.
Even leveling up in WWII Zombies is a long road of disappointment. This is the first time I’ve felt like prestiging was a chore. You unlock a new calling card and class slot for more custom loadouts, but no other rewards are given for the dedicated grind for experience points. No special gear, no gun camos, no Supply Drops. You don’t even get a prestige token to permanently unlock a weapon attachment, like you would receive for prestiging in multiplayer. Considering that the levels are already boring to replay, I don’t really feel motivated to keep grinding out experience just for a lame calling card. Weapon camos and Supply Drops would have been a better incentive.
I do like some of the changes Sledgehammer Games implemented into Zombies, and it’s clear it put a lot of thought into the mode. The playable prologue tutorial, the ability to choose your character, and the notebook to guide players to objectives are all nice additions. I just hope to see more rewards, a little more fun, and maybe fewer jump scares when the first DLC map drops on January 30 for PlayStation 4.