iPad Game Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies (Universal)
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Call of Duty: Blacks Ops Zombies is a 1st person shooter adapted from the survival mode found in some console versions of Call of Duty. It features a single-player campaign, online and Wi-Fi co-op multiplayer, and a bonus game called Dead Ops Arcade, which is a top-down dual-stick shooter.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies (CoD) is a survival 1st person shooter. The main portion of the game is a single-player campaign that will have you progressing through a nice variety of maps in order to kill zombies and collect weapons, which will in-turn, allow you to kill even more zombies and collect even bigger weapons. While the gameplay from map to map doesn't change much, the variety of weapons and terrain keeps the game feeling fresh and interesting. Each weapon upgrade comes at exactly the right time so you never feel over/underpowered. Money is earned by killing zombies, and these funds can be used to purchase additional upgrades, ammo, and health. In a complete departure from a disturbing trend among iOS games, CoD features NO in-app-purchases. That's right; this game actually feels balanced from the get-go, and you won't be constantly nagged to purchase upgrades, cheats, or ammo. Kudos to Activision for not taking advantage of overly impulsive gamers and those of us with kids.
Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and puppy dogs with CoD. First of all, the control schemes didn't quite meet my needs. Whether tilt, dual-stick, or touch, I never quite settled in and got good at any of them. For example, the absence of a "fire" button means that you must double-tap to shoot; a design choice that resulted in me often shooting when I didn't want to and not shooting when I wanted to. Also, movement never felt instinctive as it does with some other iOS shooters, possibly because CoD does not support the gyroscope present on newer iOS devices. The inclusion of this feature would have gone a long way toward alleviating the interface problem, and it's something that I really hope they fix in an update.
The second issue I have with CoD is the multiplayer. CoD hit the app store featuring 4-player co-op with full voice chat, right out of the gate. Unfortunately, the current implementation falls far short of expectations. Online multiplayer is usually laggy, and gets worse as you add more players. Second, CoD shipped with only a single multiplayer map. It's a good map, but it doesn't take long to play it into the ground.
In addition to classic 1st person shooter gameplay, CoD also includes a bonus game mode called: Dead Ops Arcade. Once you collect the required tokens scattered throughout the game's menus, you can unlock this top-down dual-stick shooter, which is polished enough to exist as a stand-alone app. Once again, Activision shows its class by including it in the original purchase price rather than making us pony up via IAP.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies also features achievements via Game Center for the obsessive completionists out there.
The graphics in Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies are truly excellent. Unfortunately, the tradeoff is that the game only runs on 3rd and 4th generation devices. The zombies shamble beautifully, and the decrepit, crumbling buildings look, well, decrepit and crumbling. The excellent attention to detail means that you are in for a very immersive experience, especially on the larger screen of an iPad. Lastly, the menus have a wonderful comic-book feel to them, and are easy to navigate.
Thankfully, CoD's sound effects hold up their end of the bargain. The gunfire is varied and crisp, and the zombies are wonderfully creepy without being jarring or annoying. While there is no music in-game in order for you to be able to hear the much-needed audio cues, the menus play an upbeat yet chilling tune, which is reminiscent of John Carpenter's excellent Halloween soundtrack.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies has all the earmarks of an excellent game that was pushed out the door a bit too soon. The game engine is solid, as is the level design and single-player campaign. However, the controls need some work, as does the multiplayer network code. Additionally, the inclusion of only a single multiplayer map at game launch seems a little thin. The fact that this is a standalone game and does not try to milk you for all eternity with in-app purchases makes it much easier to recommend it, shortcomings and all.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Excellent graphics. Truly a high water mark for 1st person shooters. Sound: - 5 - Solid sound effects really improve the immersion factor. Play it with headphones. Controls: - 2 - Three control schemes and not one of them truly workable. 1st person shooters demand an intuitive interface and you won't get that here. The lack of gyroscope control is also disappointing. Gameplay: - 4 - An excellent single-player campaign, and a bonus dual-stick shooter baked right into the game will go a long way toward easing the nerd rage that will come with any attempt at online multiplayer.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Play through the tutorial a few times using the different control schemes. It may take a few times to figure out which one actually works best for you. Conserve your ammo! indiscriminant shooting will only result in you resorting to your knife, and fighting zombies hand-to-hand is ill advised. Try to cover every square inch of every map to make sure you don't miss anything. Blasting through as fast as you can is not recommended.