Black Ops 2 Zombie Mode Interview -- Learning How To Survive The New Modes

Posted October 23, 2012 - By Adam Rosenberg

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Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 Zombies Mode Screens Shamble Forth

The coming of a new Treyarch-developed Call of Duty game can only mean one thing: more Zombies. The mode has come a long way since its inception as a bonus unlockable in Call of Duty: World at War. Map pack releases wrapped a fictional universe around the wave-based survival mode, with Call of Duty: Black Ops taking things further using an elaborate series of Easter eggs.

Now, Black Ops 2 arrives on November 13, 2012 with an even bigger take on Zombies. Survival returns, but it's joined in the new game by Grief, an adversarial multiplayer showdown, and TranZit, a story-focused mode in which players explore an open world as they fend off the brain-munching hordes. There are still many questions about how this new take on Zombies will work, and while we don't typically go for email Q&As here at G4, we couldn't resist this opportunity to pepper Zombies lead Jimmy Zielinski with questions about what to expect.

Read on for our deepest look yet into what the new Zombies mode looks like and how it continues to service the passionate community of fans that has formed around it.

Black Ops 2 Zombie Mode Interview -- Learning How To Survive TranZit

How large and how small do the new maps get compared to previous Zombies maps? How many will there be to start with?

Zielinski: Within Zombies, there are three different dimensions of play: Tranzit (the story mode), Survival (classic Zombies gameplay) and Grief. Across the board, this Zombies experience is the biggest, most ambitious to date and provides players with a huge world to explore and survive.

The story mode, Tranzit is a huge map with a number of different areas to explore, all of which are connected by a bus route. The bus route is also part of the world and can be explored, either on foot, or by bus, which travels to each of the areas of the map. You’ll meet a few new characters, some new zombies and fight them off using weapons ranging from new near-future weapons, some faithful stand-bys and a few wunderweapons. Ultimately, strategy is the name of the game here.

When playing Survival, the team has taken the individual areas and tailored them for classic survival play. The individual Survival areas are adaptations of the locations in Tranzit, but they’ve been designed to accommodate survival-style play.

Finally, there’s Grief, or what we like to call “4Z4.” There are two human teams that go head-to-head; however, they can’t kill one another – they can only fight to repel the oncoming zombie horde. The name of this game is “last man standing” – whoever is left, that team wins. So to achieve this, we provide some griefing mechanics that enable teams to “encourage “zombies to cast their attention on the other team. If used properly, the other team won’t be able to overcome the zombie attack and the remaining team will be left victorious.

Between Tranzit, Survival and Grief, there is an absolute ton of gameplay here – Zombies is really its own stand-alone game.

Black Ops 2 Zombie Mode Interview -- Learning How To Survive TranZit

Progression and profile-building has been a hallmark of the Call of Duty series since Modern Warfare, and it's something that Zombies fans have been hoping to see more of. How will TranZit, Grief, and Survival, separately or together, provide that sense of investment outside of leaderboards?

People play Zombies and have no possibility of ever really wining; length of survival is the only real victory. This shows great investment on the part of Zombies players. This was our motivation and direction on how we should honor that commitment. Rank in Zombies is a “live” reflection of the player actual skill in Zombies. It will rise and fall as the player’s abilities increase or decrease in game. This allows the community to see just what a particular player might bring to the team. This also allows us to match make based on skill and create better teams, which means better more consistent games. And with everything Zombies, there is also a bit of mystery embedded in the ranking system so fans might discover something extra as well.

Calling TranZit a "campaign" in a Call of Duty game carries certain structural implications, but Zombies mode has always been more open-ended than that. Can you talk about the ways in which TranZit's structure as a campaign experience differs from the core Black Ops 2 campaign mode?

We’re not calling it a campaign; rather, we’re calling it a Story Mode. For us, a Call of Duty campaign is about an entertainment experience, complete with a story arc, characters, rising and falling actions. Zombies fiction isn’t that neat and tidy kind of script – in fact, many times, what makes Zombies fiction so much fun are the questions that are left and the passionate discussion around them by the community. In the Zombies story mode, let’s just say that if you joined us for Moon, you’ll find that a number of decisions that you made in the past will follow you into the apocalyptic setting you find yourself in here. We’ll introduce you to some new characters and set you on a journey, but you’ll still be left with more questions than answers. As you set out to find those answers, you become a participant in the ultimate creation of Zombies fiction. To us, that’s what makes Zombies so special.

Black Ops 2 Zombie Mode Interview -- Learning How To Survive TranZit

The bus presents some interesting possibilities. Based on what we've seen, it reminds me of the opening section of Black Ops' Moon map, a sort of appetite teaser to get you set for the main course. Is that an accurate comparison? How does the bus do things differently?

The bus is what you make of it. The bus is not simply a onetime event; rather, it’s an ongoing decision for players; stay or go? Go on foot or ride the bus? And with every decision in Zombies there can be rewards or death. It can be as helpful as a bus can be, getting from place to place; it also comes with risk and challenge.

Talk more about the buildables. Are these restricted to items that individual characters can carry? What kinds of things can you piece together?

We don’t want to get too deep in to buildables, what they are, what they do etc. – we want fans to be able to discover that for themselves. What we can say is that there are items in the world – various parts of the world – that can be combined and used to help you achieve tasks, open new areas, and so on. Some can be carried by characters, while others – well, you’re just going to have to wait to find out.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 Zombies Mode Screens Shamble Forth

Is the Mystery Box still around? Perk-a-Cola machines? Wonder weapons?! Where do these fit in?

All these features are part of the bread and butter of Zombies and fans can surely expect their return, albeit with a few twists and some surprises …

Zombies mode has developed something of a reputation for its sprawling Easter eggs. I see some of that alive and well in TranZit's move to focus on a story, which has always been a core feature in your Easter eggs. But can fans still expect to pore over message boards and come together to puzzle as a group over figuring out some elaborate, deeply buried treasure hunt?

Absolutely, and I think that this goes back to what makes Zombies so special in the first place. Zombies Easter eggs and side quests factor significantly in making the mode so special. It’s that passionate discussion around the various Easter eggs that connect the Zombies community in a special way, but then they spin up on the fiction: what they know, what they don’t, what they can piece together. Then there’s our favorite, which is when fans take the discussion in a direction that we never saw coming. But that’s all part of the deal and what makes Zombies such an interesting phenomenon.

Is Survival mode a literal carbon-copy of the Zombies mode we've seen in past games? In what ways has it changed? Is making crawlers still a viable strategy?

The play spaces are cut from the larger Tranzit map, and have been retooled with new layouts and features sets that create a unique experience from the story mode. As a result of more confined game spaces, as well as the strategies that they entail, Survival mode maps will challenge players while staying true to the Zombies mechanics that made the mode so popular to begin with.

Please... just one, tiny hint: will we hear Richtofen's shrill, heavily accented voice again?

Sorry, you’ll need to wait and see!

Black Ops 2 Zombie Mode Interview -- Learning How To Survive The New Modes


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