Version tested: Xbox 360
Call of Duty: Black Ops Rezurrection is nothing if not a mark of how far this series has travelled. From its early roots in Medal of Honor and a more 'realistic' approach to the historical FPS, through Modern Warfare's futureshock-cum-Bond and finally to Nazi zombies. What an arc.
In that context the zombie mode, exclusive to Treyarch's COD games, seems ridiculous. And of course it is. It's also arguably Treyarch's greatest original contribution to the series, which is not intended as mean praise: the zombies maps, which Rezurrection brings to a total of ten, are surprisingly diverse and the mode itself scratches an itch that 'proper' COD multiplayer never quite reaches.
That would be teamwork. It's said so often about COD that it's become a cliché, but the team deathmatches can often feel like free-for-alls with the score yoked together at the end. Central principles of its system, like the XP rewards, directly encourage lone wolves - a problem not unique to COD, but certainly one that's pronounced by the series.
Zombies sets four players against a never-ending horde of AI shamblers, and in that single stroke forces the outnumbered to stay together. It's the perfect mode for playing with mates rather than randoms, but even with the latter the circumstances dictate working together. Though the three Black Ops DLC packs prior to Rezurrection have contained a zombie map each, this is the first dedicated zombie map pack.
That minor landmark is one indication of how far the series has travelled. But Rezurrection is also a glimpse into the future - because what 'dedicated zombie map pack' means is '80 per cent recycled content for 1200 Microsoft points.' It consists of the four original zombie maps from World at War, which were remade for Black Ops' launch as a bonus for jarheads who bought the limited edition, plus 'The Moon', a new level, and some nonsense to do with the soundtrack.
Rezurrection will be entirely new to a sub-section of the COD fanbase that bought Black Ops without playing World at War, and didn't buy the limited edition. To many more, it's going to be at least partially familiar. But Activision really couldn't care less: no matter how many people bleat about it reheating content, this will sell like the clappers. A quickfire turnaround (it's been two months since the last DLC pack), a nice marketing hook about 'doing a dedicated mode justice', and go straight to profit!
But whatever there is to say about Rezurrection's makeup, zombies is a great mode and this is an extra five maps playable in Black Ops. Nacht der Untoten is the first map, a cramped two-level house to learn the ropes in that only features basic power-ups (though there is a random weapon box), before everything really kicks off in Verrukt.
Verrukt is much larger, and introduces things like perk machines and environmental traps. It's also entirely symmetrical, and at the start of every game separates the players into two teams on either side of a door that can't be opened until a ways in. The playfulness of Verrukt is what makes it so much more exciting to play than Nacht der Untoten, and it's this characteristic that comes to dominate the the succeeding maps.
I feel like I'm reviewing World at War here. Shi No Numa, a swamp-based fight against the Imperial undead, is next, notable mainly for having rock hard mid-bosses called Hellhounds. Der Riese is the final and perhaps finest World at War map, wherein you assault a Nazi zombie-making factory - and that's all you really need to say. These are billed as 'remade' maps, by the way, but 'rearranged weapon boxes and some new lighting effects' comes closer to the truth.
A lot is riding on Rezurrection's new level, The Moon, and it's saying something that it almost lives up to it. Though many of its tricks have been seen before (namely teleporters and a pack-a-punch machine) it's the most unusual zombie map yet by some distance, with some delightful twists to the formula.