What could be better than mowing down hordes of zombies Call of Duty style? Mowing them down in public on your iPad, that’s what. Activision’s massively popular mini-game is back with Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies, an iOS port that preserves all of the undead fun of its original console versions. BOZ is the spiritual successor to 2009′s Call of Duty: Zombies for iDevices, and this time around it offers improved graphics, more content and limitless hours of epic online zombie hunts with your friends over Wi-Fi. “The perfect game?!?” you ask? Almost. Disappointingly, a frustrating control scheme and laggy multiplayer connections keep this app from maximizing its potential and earning a full five stars.
For those who aren’t familiar with the formula, BOZ is about as simple as it gets: kill zombies and stay alive as long as you can. The core game mode spawns players in an empty room equipped with a pistol and a combat knife. Gradually, waves of undead Nazi soldiers attempt to breach the room with a voracious appetite for (what else?) your brains. It’s up to you alone to repair broken barricades, headshot zombies when they break through, and eventually access new rooms to take shelter – classic “Nazi zombies” in its purest form. Various shotguns, rifles, and a few space-tech weapons for purchase are scattered throughout the environments for extra firepower. Be warned: this game can be extremely difficult. More than once I found myself alone, without ammo, and surrounded by enough zombies to fill my entire tablet screen. I typically spazzed out on these occasions and accidentally hit the Home button, but I think it’s safe to say I didn’t survive.
Thankfully, BOZ comes with a multiplayer version of the same mode in which players can connect with up to 3 others for cooperative zombie-killing. My multiplayer connections, unfortunately, were spotty more often than not, even over a strong Wi-Fi network. The few 4-player sessions I did get to play smoothly, though, were nothing short of absolutely glorious. Tearing through 30+ waves of zombies with other online players is truly a beautiful experience, especially when you can take that experience wherever you go. This mode also offers a voice chat option through your speakers or headphones, but again, I rarely found a decent connection.
BOZ’s final game mode is an easily unlockable one called “Dead-Ops Arcade,” advertised in the App Store as “a 50-level zombie gauntlet that provides the ultimate undead challenge.” Here, players take on an arcade-style overhead view of their character, clear levels of zombies, and collect quirky power-ups like the ability to become a helicopter. Online multiplayer over Wi-Fi is available for this game type as well. Personally, I wasn’t impressed. This mode is a little too simple and not particularly exciting; it takes 10-15 minutes for any type of formidable enemy to even appear. Mobile gamers thrive on quick, on-the-go sessions. If we wanted to play video games in forty-minute blocks, we’d simply turn on a console with better graphics on a much bigger screen. To be fair, Dead-Ops Arcade is more of a bonus game mode than anything else.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies really is a gem of a game. Fans of the original console versions will undoubtedly find a few hours of nostalgic enjoyment here, and gamers new to the idea will be delighted. The core mode’s gameplay provides a healthy helping of fast-paced, good-natured, Nazi zombie-slaying fun. The inclusion of only two maps is pretty measly, though, especially considering the game’s steep price. On the plus side, BOZ’s menus (shown below) are surprisingly creative and fun to navigate. This game’s overall presentation is simply superb, which is perhaps to be expected from a big-name publisher like Activision (and from a $6.99 app). In the end, I had a great time with Black Ops Zombies, but it could have been made exponentially better with a more fluid control system and more consistent online connections.