Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies Review

By Ashley Esqueda - Posted Dec 13, 2011

The sequel to Call of Duty: Zombies is out, rocking the Black Ops moniker and bringing more undead survival to your iOS device. But can this zombie massacre live up to its console brethren, and is it better than the original iOS title?

The Pros
  • Overall atmosphere has been retained from the original
  • Improved visuals from the original game
  • Dead-Ops arcade mode is all kinds of fun
The Cons
  • One map at launch
  • While improved, visuals aren't up to snuff with other AAA iOS titles
  • Multiplayer is unreliable/spotty

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies Mobile Review:

Two years ago, Activision surprised a lot of iPhone owners with a port of the unlockable zombie survival mode in the Call of Duty franchise. It was really fun, and offered a neat micro experience similar to the console version. Now, they’re looking to recreate the magic of the first with the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies, an upgraded version for iOS devices with some new tricks up its sleeve.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies

For CoD Zombie Noobs

For the uninitiated, here’s the basic premise of the zombie survival mode: you’re in a map with various rooms and levels dealing with an onslaught of undead. In order to survive, you must shoot down the zombies, board up the holes in the map where they’re entering from, and collect cash to upgrade weapons and keep surviving waves.

Surviving waves is fairly easy up front, but later on, you’ll find yourself having involuntary panic attacks as you rush from window to window and shoot the hell out of everything that remotely twitches in your general direction. Some people might call that crazy, we call it fun.     

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Getting Control Of The Situation

The controls in BOZ are a bit different than the first one; instead of simply moving and looking around, you also now have the ability to crouch and sprint. While you can choose one of three different control schemes (joystick, tilt, and swap), we honestly didn’t get into a groove with any of them, and found each one had a frustrating element to it that was just on this side of annoying. While controls don’t have to be ultra-precise, I find that in a game like this (where aiming is paramount and saving ammo and being resourceful is key) it can be tough not having perfect control over your character.

In addition, there’s no fire button in Black Ops Zombies -- yes, I realize that sounds crazy to write, especially about a first-person shooter for crying out loud. And I agree. BOZ forces players to double tap the screen to shoot, making for a pretty weird play/control experience compared to other FPS games on the App Store.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies

Multiplayer Madness

Call of Duty: Zombies introduced a very nice multiplayer system in which you could co-op maps with the help of other players, and BOZ continues that tradition with more multiplayer options, like voice chat. Unfortunately, much as I tried to enjoy a full match on multiplayer, the connection was pretty dodgy almost all of the time when other players joined a match, and the lag was unbearable at times.

I did, however, get in one glorious multiplayer match with 2 other people, and I can say that if it worked properly like that all the time, multiplayer would be a huge selling point and would absolutely justify the game’s price. I’m not sure that voice chat was a necessary add-on, but at the end of the day, I understand its appeal to a lot of gamers out there who like to truly cooperate via voice to blast their way through the waves of undead.

Dead-Ops To Save The Day

One of the game’s most redeeming factors actually comes from Dead-Ops, the arcade mode available in BOZ. It’s a top-down, dual-joystick control game that puts you in a room, makes you kill all the zombies in said room, upgrade your gear, and then move onto the next room to rinse and repeat. Honestly, I think this would have been an excellent standalone title with some expansion on the general premise, and breathes a lot of life into an otherwise "meh" title.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies

What’s The Verdict?

I really want to love this game, I do; however, when you’re only given a single map at launch (the infamous theater Kino Der Toten), playing gets repetitive pretty quickly. I have hope that Activision will release more maps, and not as additional in-app purchases like the first Zombies title, but as free updates. In a world of constantly updated graphics and countless options, Black Ops Zombies seems like it’s delivering a formula that was passable (and even successful) two years ago, but doesn’t quite fly now that the App Store and many games in it have evolved beyond one-level jaunts.

If you’re a huge fan of this mode in the CoD franchise, you’ll likely enjoy its iOS version; but beyond that, I don’t know that it has enough replayability or content yet to really keep non-diehards occupied. If you’re on the fence about this one, wait for the next content patch and see if it can’t seal the deal for you.