Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
If Call of Duty cashes in on a trend, is that trend past its tipping point? If that’s the case, 80s nostalgia might finally be on its way out.
Call of Duty’s latest Zombies mode is dubbed Zombies In Spaceland as a nod to schlocky retro horror titles, but this round of wave-based survival borrows from all kinds of 80s culture. The characters playable at yesterday's Call of Duty XP press day were modeled after Run-DMC, Marty McFly, the stereotypical nerd from a John Hughes film, and the cheerleader from same. When a zombie downs you, you see the distorted scanlines of a VHS tape being fast-forwarded instead of a slow fade to black.
It’s an interesting look, even it hass been done to death. This isn’t to say there’s nothing new to see. In fact, if you haven’t been keeping up with Zombies, this might seem like the most fleshed-out version of the mode in years. But for all the tweaks and changes, I couldn’t help but feel as though this pillar of the Call of Duty single-player, multiplayer, and co-op trinity is the one most in need of a substantial shake-up.
The set up is still largely the same. You’re stuck in a small area at first, holding off the hordes of zombies by shooting them and boarding up the windows. You earn cash you can use to buy new weapons and expand the combat zone. Here the map breaks off into different spokes you can follow, though in most of my matches, everyone wound up going in the same direction, which means I didn’t get to see what other surprises the park might have held.
This time around, the amusement park setting means you can shoot zombies while riding a rollercoaster, and a DJ voiced by David Hasselhoff gets to chew the fat over the intercom as you play. The scenery does a lot to liven up the mode, and the inclusion of some influential 80s sets both classic and obscure makes for some great scenery.
Zombies in Spaceland does introduce a few new elements to all the zombie-killing. Dead enemies have a chance to drop tokens, which the team can then cash in to build special emplaments like turrets to help fortify an area. Additionally, the Super concept from the competitive multiplayer has bled in, here in the form of a card system. Depending on what cards you have at your disposal (you can pay in-game money to stock up), you can make headshots one-hit kills or summon a rail gun for a short while. You can also activate short, optional challenges that give you special other boosts.
These new features might make the Zombies formula more intricate, but I’m not sure the experience is deeper for it. Mostly, they add up to more micromanagement between zombie murders, and while they can be lifesavers in the right situations, they don’t drastically change how you engage with zombies. They feel like different methods of dispensing power-ups than real, substation changes to the core structure.
The biggest change in Zombies in Spaceland happens when you die. After dying (as opposed to simply being downed), you enter the Afterlife Arcade, which lets you play carnival games like skeeball to build up a meter. When the meter’s full, you come back to life. This gives players something to do while their friends fight zombies and will likely help teams get farther, but I never managed to fill up the meter by the time the round ended, whether my team won or was killed.
Adding more features to make it feel new while not mucking with the core of the simple, arcadey fun that’s made the Zombies mode such a draw for players over the years does not sound like an easy task. That said, I left my time with Zombies in Spaceland feeling like the new bells and whistles this time around may not be enough to draw me back in this year – which would be a shame. I could do with a just a bit more 80s nostalgia before the fad ends.
For more on the single-player campaign of Infinite Warfare, head over to your cover hub. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will be out November 4 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.