Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies Hands-On Preview

Activision hasn’t made very many iOS games, but the few they have, like Call of Duty: Zombies, Guitar Hero, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, have been geared towards hardcore gamers. If you’re sick of cuddly Match-3 games, freemium farms, and endless running games on the App Store, you have a reason to hope: Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies is a serious and complex mobile shooter with many of the same features as its console counterpart, like four player online co-op, and it launches tonight.

The Call of Duty: Zombies series has always managed to straddle the line between frightening (zombies closing in around you, tearing down your doors) and goofy (outlines on the wall become real guns in your hand, if you have the cash). This balancing act results in some fun and satisfying gameplay, as you go from nervously checking behind your back to laughing out loud at your character’s silly catchphrases.

On consoles, Black Ops Zombies (the bonus mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops) contains two maps, but the iOS version will only have one map to start, with more content planned as a free update in the months after launch. The map we played was called Kino Der Toten, or Theater of the Dead. It’s a sprawling movie theater with a lobby, staircase, and backstage area, all filled with Nazi zombies.

Like in the last game, you have to survive waves of zombies as they try to break down your barricades. You can earn more money by repairing the barricades, and taking down zombies with your limited supply of ammo. With money earned from defeating zombies, you can unlock new weapons from the wall, and open up new areas of the cinema. Eventually, you’ll be able to turn on the power on, which activates a series of zombie-shocking traps.

The graphics and controls both seem to be improved in this sequel. Zombie limbs fly off wildly when you blast them, and the virtual joystick appears wherever you place your thumb, instead of remaining fixed. The difficulty is punishing on higher levels, too: Activision’s representatives said that this was to challenge players who have already mastered the fine art of killing undead Nazis.

Activision has done an admirable job of packing lots of console features into this iOS game. Besides the four-player online co-op (which we didn’t try out in this hands-on demo), Black Ops Zombies will also feature a bonus mode from the console game called Dead Ops Arcade. Unlocking it is a bit of a secret, but let’s just say you’ll have to pay close attention to the menu’s comic-art graphics.

Dead Ops Arcade is a top-down, twin-stick shooter that could probably have been released as its own game, but Activision bundled it with Black Ops Zombies instead. You don’t have to worry about carefully spending your cash in Dead Ops Arcade– you just have to run and shoot. Compared to the more intense main game, Dead Ops Arcade seems like a nice way to relieve some stress.

We’re really excited about Black Ops Zombies devotion to the console version, making the transition from home consoles to handheld mobile devices appear seamless. Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies will launch tonight at 8pm Pacific in the US App Store for $6.99.

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