We have been waiting for Activision’s inevitable entrance into the iPhone gaming space ever since EA started to make big bucks with their large list of franchises gone mobile. With some major names in gaming under Activision’s belt as well, including Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, and Tony Hawk, there is definitely an audience waiting to be served on the App Store. Today marks the end of this wait as Activision debuts its first iPhone game ever, a port of the Nazi Zombie subgame from Call of Duty: World at War. To say the least, it is impressive even with its shortcomings.
Unlike the usual squad-based gameplay seen in CoD, Zombies places you in a walled-in map filled with oncoming undead Nazis. Like most survival games, you are alone and must stay alive for as long as possible. While this starts off easy, hordes of zombies eventually start to rush you in large groups and you must use everything at your disposal, including an extravagant array of weapons, grenades, and barricades, to blow them apart.
Nazis and Zombies: Two types of bad guys it’s always OK to shoot.
Speaking of blowing zombies apart, the graphics in this port of Nazi Zombies are impressive for a handheld game. It looks like a console game, and even when tons of zombies are bunched on the screen, we saw virtually no drop in the high frame rate. A big detail that was tuned well was the lighting, which is just right so that everything stands out while still keeping an eerie feel.
The attention to detail in the game also makes it seem like a console experience. Different guns have their own reload animations, and random objects lying around make the abandoned factory seem as if it once truly existed. Depending on the gun you use and where a zombie is shot, it will have a different animation. Some will make a zombie’s head explode when you get a headshot, or fall to the ground and crawl towards you after being shot in the leg.
One of the most unique parts of Nazi Zombies is its sense of progression. You start off with only a pistol on the base level of a map, but as you collect more money, you can destroy objects blocking your path and adventure throughout the massive area. As you progress, new weapons and secrets can be purchased from pictures on the wall. Eventually you will get classics such as a high-powered dart gun, the flamethrower, and a double-barrel shotgun. Each plays in its own unique way and is potent when mastered. For replay value, you can always do a weapon run where you only play with one until your inevitable death.
Do you smell BBQ?
Controls are always important when it comes to first person shooters, and the dual-stick option (which you can customize with an inverted y-axis and adjustable sensitivity for both axes) make the game feel very easily playable. Movement with each stick is just like a console FPS, and tapping on the right stick fires your gun. Much like Eliminate, double-tapping and holding down on the fire stick shoots a steady stream of bullets. There are two other control options (accelerometer and another somewhat like Modern Combat) but we found both to be imprecise.
An option that cannot be turned off is smart targeting. When your crosshairs move close to an enemy, they will grasp it so that you have a better shot of hitting it. You will still need to make some adjustments in order to get headshots, but ultimately we found it helpful. Note that scope mode does not use the targeting feature.
Zombies on consoles was most popular as a co-op game, and this iteration has this feature in full swing. Online (only over a wireless connection, not 3G), local wi-fi, and Bluetooth multiplayer all work great when in-game. However, occasional connection issues did not allow us to play these modes. Also, we would love to have voice chat for online in the future. Apart from random queuing, there is an option to host a private match. Joining one is a pain since you need to put in a case sensitive name to find the group. This often took us multiple tries to work correctly as well.
The biggest shortcoming in this version of Zombies is the content you are getting for the top price point on the App Store. With only one map available, there will never be much variation in your strategy. Activision has said that new maps are coming in the future as in-app purchases, so we hope they compensate for the high cost of entry and price the extra content accordingly. Currently, there is still a lot of replay value, with about 50 achievements of varying types and online leaderboards.
Ultimately, Zombies is a great port of the extremely successful survival game found in Call of Duty: World at War. The lack of content, high price point, and occasional connection issues with the servers keep it from our highest rating, but don’t let that stop you from buying this if you are a fan.