Treyarch’s Zombies has built a loyal fan base since its inception in 2008’s Call of Duty: World At War. And it’s easy to see why — the strategic gameplay, hidden lore, and countless secrets add up to an endlessly replayable co-op gem. It’s been a favourite of mine for years.
But now, Infinity Ward is taking the concept for a spin in this November’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and the results are sure to intrigue veteran Zombies fans.
Dubbed Zombies in Spaceland, this remix of the Zombies experience pits four ’80s stereotypes against a day-glo undead horde, complete with vintage pop songs and new secrets galore. Justin and I got a chance to take it for a spin at Call of Duty XP — here’s what we noticed in our two-game session. I have a feeling we’re just scratching the surface!
Quick note: Some of the details we describe below may change, or be clarified, as the game nears completion. These were our live-in-the-field observations with a not-yet-final version of the game.
- The overall aesthetic is a major, immediate shift from the gritty look of Treyarch’s Zombies series. The comic book-like colour palette reminded me a bit of classic ’80s horror flicks like Creepshow and Return of the Living Dead. The ghouls themselves are decked out in tacky ’80s garb, from day-glo spandex to punk rock and more. It’s a big tonal shift, but a welcome one.
- Mechanically, the game felt much like the Treyarch Zombies mode from Black Ops 3, with a few big twists. I noticed that the starting pistol seemed to pack a bigger punch, and I was able to purchase a larger array of more powerful weapons much sooner. The overall flow is similar, but feels a teensy bit more arcadey. Very satisfying, though.
- All the basic power-ups you know and love are back, from Nuke and Instakill to Ammo and more. Zombies can also drop individual items, such as ammo clips, different grenade types, and cold, hard cash.
- On that note, cash is still king here, but you can now bank it in retro-styled ATM machines for later withdrawal. A penny saved is a penny earned, and all that…
- Zombies in Spaceland also adds a new, rarer currency in the form of tickets. I used tickets to at ticket booths to buy powerful new gear, from laser tripmines to cryo mines and more. This was a welcome addition that broadened my arsenal.
- My ragtag group noticed a robot named N31L cruising the Spaceland grounds. Upon interaction, he seemed to issue simple challenges, such as tasking us with using melee attacks to down zombies in return for tickets. Not totally clear on the big picture here, but it’s a cool concept I’m eager to learn more about.
- Defeated undead would sometimes drop “souvenir tokens,” collectibles that could be placed inside a machine near the beginning area. After the team collectively deposited three tokens, a one-use item would appear. In my case it was “Kindle Pop,” a candy-like substance that I sprinkled on the ground, then ignited with a well-placed shot from my pistol. The ensuing path of flame incinerated any zombies foolish enough to have been following me, and stayed ablaze long enough to take out a few other hapless enemies who wandered too close.
- The ever-popular Mystery Box? I didn’t see it in either of my playthroughs, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t lurking somewhere. That said, I was able to buy a wider array of more powerful guns that were scattered throughout the Spaceland amusement park, most of which were plucked from Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer mode.
- When our match started, we were urged to return power to Spaceland — a goal we didn’t quite meet, but we did get a taste of the rewards it could provide. After unlocking a couple areas, I came across a level that activated a generator, which in turn gave me the option to spend some cash to trigger a trap based on one of Spaceland’s rides. In this case, a massive rocket engine pointed directly at the ground, obliterating all zombies in the vicinity. I’m not sure whether it harms friendlies… I dared not check.
- A new card deck system seemed to work a bit like the special abilities in multiplayer. Upon charging up, I was able to tap Up on the d-pad to cycle between the cards in my hand. Different cards had different effects when activated: one allowed me to summon a railgun with infinite ammo for 30 seconds of mayhem, others added a flaming effect to zombies I shot. I’m not yet clear on how many of these there are, but it’s a unique twist that will add new strategic wrinkles.
- In addition to the standard zombies, we battled exploding clowns (shudder) in bonus rounds. We also faced a hulking, mammoth zombie with an oversized alien head that could pick out a player and zap him with a powerful laser. Ouch!
- The soundtrack is worth a mention, with ’80s hits from Twisted Sister, Animotion, The Specials, and more.
- Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens plays a mysterious horror movie director behind the carnage, and David Hasselhoff is apparently the park DJ. So there you go.
That’s it for now! Zombies in Spaceland is shaping up to be a refreshing take on the classic Zombies formula. I’m looking forward to playing more when this launches alongside Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare on PS4 November 4.
If you have questions, leave them in the comments below!