Call of Duty: World at War’s campaign was certainly memorable. The fifth instalment in the illustrious series was the first since Modern Warfare’s sizeable success, meaning Activision needed to produce.
And produce they did.
Situated in the thick of a reconstructed WWII, Call of Duty delivered a true and justifiably dark retelling of the darkest time in recent human history. Players crawled through the mud as bullets fizzed overhead. They emerged from the the massacred – equipped only with a sniper and joined by the enigmatic Viktor Reznov.
They fought through the Japanese ranks, knee-deep in the swamp water of Makin Toll, before switching narrative to an under-siege Berlin and firmly planting the Soviet flag atop the Reichtag building – signalling the war’s end.
The campaign was nothing short of enthralling, and with online game-play looming we were all looking forward to putting our shooting practice to the real test.
Only, this wasn’t to be the case. Instead, we awake upon an abandoned airfield, with a distant figure staggering ever closer:
And so began Nazi Zombies. A new game-mode in which players would test their wits against an onslaught of the undead horde. Armed with just a pistol, it would take numerous attempts to understand the mode’s premise and all of its secrets – a theme which continues today.
Supposedly intended as a one-off, the feature now finds itself heading into its seventh chapter and ten-year anniversary.
But just what made Nazi Zombies such an instant hit? And one with such longevity at that?
The feat in itself is futile. All but one of Call of Duty‘s zombie modes are impossible to win and in the end, you will always die. But just how many rounds deep you can plunge into the mode, is where the true challenge is had. As the number of rounds increase, so too does the number of rounds of your magazine needed to take down one of the reanimated.
Furthermore, the difficulty spikes when playing with friends or other players. Less points per character means less freedom to purchase new weapons or open doors into other areas. Teamwork becomes key, particularly when in need of being revived.
Its well known by this point, that CoD‘s zombie mode is notorious for its ‘Easter eggs’ unlocked by completing a number of seemingly obscure and unrelated tasks. In achieving these, players slowly reveal the secrets behind how the zombies came to be (a story-arc which has continued throughout the series).
It is the cleverly constructed and increasingly difficult nature of these methods which keep players interested and searching for another key to unlocking the truth behind the zombies’ origins.
Though the initial fear-factor of facing off against zombies may have faded over the years, what remains is the same adrenaline rush of bursting through the masses in an attempt to revive a friend or purchase more ammo.
Additionally, the backs-against-the-wall scenario in which we often find ourselves fending off wave after wave of the undead and glancing frantically at our final few bullets is nothing short of frantic.
With true fans of the series having invested countless hours into the game-mode, Nazi Zombies has become a staple of their gaming lives for all of the reasons above. When each new instalment arrives, so too does a sense of nostalgia.
Memories of playing with friends and reaching record heights or finally uncovering a secret unknown to most, spring to mind.
New features may modernize or improve the game-mode, but beneath all of those layers remains the same fundamentals which so engrossed players over the past decade.
What Comes Next?
Call of Duty: WWII is set to return both the game and its players to their roots. Following years of jet packs and fluorescent camouflages for guns, game-play looks set to adopt a slower pace and revisit the setting which made for one of the greatest games of all time.
Zombies will return too. With more blood and gore and horror than ever before. But the question remains: can its next chapter recapture the minds and hearts of its players just as its ancestor did? If so, we could be looking at a title with the potential to be both an all-time great and truly, hauntingly horrifying.