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.
The first of these is the spawning location, Area 51. A minor annoyance with zombies has always been how long it takes for the action to really get going: this is especially notable on maps like Nacht der Untoten, where one player can hold the fort for the first five minutes while the others go and make tea. Area 51 is an open square with a teleporter to the moon at one end which can be used almost immediately - you start, and a few seconds later the horde come crashing in, complete with Hellhounds.
It's easy to die immediately: it's easier to just hop on the teleporter and start the round proper. But you can also stick around, with your measly starting pistol and combat knife, and farm those zombies - and then go up to the moon with a massive stash of points. Only the keenest need apply, but the option's there to get straight into the action.
Once on the moon itself, things get low-gravity and low-volume. Most of the time a spacesuit is essential, which are everywhere and easily equipped - but they dull the sound effects a huge amount, giving an eerily quiet ambiance to your slaughter of endless undead.
It was while I was contemplating the word ambiance that the worst thing in the whole of Rezurrection happened - a terrible droning rawk song that was later identified as Nightmare by Avenged Sevenfold started blasting out of my speakers at full volume, which of course had been turned up to compensate for the vacuum effect. This is an 'easter egg' that activates when a player on the team earns a certain achievement, and f**k you Treyarch.
The low gravity is The Moon's finest addition to zombies: it makes the best thing about Black Ops, which is clearly the running dive, even better, and is great fun to just play with; jumping over zombies with a shotgun, mid-air spins, and all the floating body parts you could ask for. Let's not mention the jump-pads, though, which should be brilliant but instead kill you: despite low gravity, large falls are still fatal.
This is a difficult map: the initial stages are simple enough to manage, but soon there are countless inlets for the ever-increasing zombies, players getting lost in the catacombs, and a monster in a space suit with your buddy's name on it. A wonderfully weird touch, these enemy spacemen look exactly like one of your teammates, except their name is taken from the host's friendlist and displayed in red; they float in an aimless way, but get close and it'll grab and headbutt you. That's not the worst of it: the teleport warps you to a random (open) location elsewhere in the base, which unless you're lucky, or have a dedicated team, means a very short and inglorious last stand.
It's a little touch, but it's a great one, and The Moon could have done with a few more of its ilk. Instead, there are just two new weapons; a Wave Gun that makes zombies vomit blood, expand and then blow up (it's hilarious!) and the Quantum Entanglement Device, which sounds great but must be the laziest 'new' content ever. It's a grenade that, once tossed, has a random effect. Well clearly a lot of effort's gone into that one: or in other words, b****cks is that a new weapon.
Despite the disappointments, The Moon is still a great addition to zombies - but is Rezurrection a good addition to Black Ops? It's tempting to weigh up the pros and cons and say the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but no: Rezurrection is a rip-off. There are only ten maps in existence for COD's zombies mode, and this re-sells the first four.
If you've never played any of these maps, obviously Rezurrection is a good deal. Thing is, at this fourth stage of DLC, who is it selling to but the super-engaged COD audience that has already played zombies to death? Activision expects, and doubtless the sales will deliver. But the COD fanbase is premium: with Rezurrection, they're being served second-hand content with a spoon of sugar, no more. It's a second-rate package.
6 / 10
Black Ops: Rezurrection is out now on Xbox Live. It arrives for PS3 and PC in September.