Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Zombies
If you're willing to grind, playing Zombies with DMZ can lead to some tremendous moments.
If you're willing to grind, playing Zombies with DMZ can lead to some tremendous moments.
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Review gameCall of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 ZombiesComments
This is our Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: Zombies review. See our opinions about the campaign in the single-player review or PvP in the multiplayer review.
This year’s zombie mode, akin to much of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, has undergone a process known as “Warzone-ification,” which involves imposing its customary PvE components onto a bigger, more expansive map. Even though the Warzone mode in Call of Duty (or, in this case, the extraction shooter mode, DMZ) is quite popular, combining it with zombies has diluted both of them.
This is more of a DMZ reskin than a fresh take on zombies, with different aspects taken from both modes and thrown together to make them kiss. It can take you to some great, intense moments if you can persevere long enough to reach high-difficulty areas and top-level content. However, because of its enormous scale and the resulting sluggish pace, it frequently feels inconsistent with the enjoyable aspects of zombies in the past.
The Zombies mode in Modern Warfare 3, known as Operation Deadbolt, is set on a map of Urzikstan, which is modeled after the future Warzone. The typical wave-based battles have been replaced with smaller, more focused maps that you can explore and unlock along the way. Rather, the essence of the mode as it exists in the moment is nearly identical to what you experience in DMZ.
Before the 45-minute match timer expires or you’re overrun by enemies, you and your two allies head into the map, look for cool stuff, finish tasks called contracts to earn money to buy upgrades and items, and call a helicopter to escape with your loot. At first, this zombie mode doesn’t feel very zombie-like, save for the zombies themselves, a few well-known temporary power-ups, and Perk Colas.
Operation Deadbolt is characterized by an open DMZ that allows the player to select their own battles, but it is missing a crucial component that adds to the game’s enjoyment: player vs. player action. In an Operation Deadbolt match, there are usually about 24 other players. However, you can only interact with them cooperatively; while this deprives trolls of the thrill of the hunt, it also removes the threat from foolish enemies. As you progress across the map, you’ll face off against strongholds manned by computer-controlled mercenary soldiers and accomplish short, goal-based missions that can net you cash for extras like weapon upgrades. Generally, you choose which encounters to accept and when, and you only go farther inland to areas marked as having a higher difficulty level when you’re ready. The lower-difficulty areas and activities of Operation Deadbolt become rather easy and monotonous without the PvP component.
DMZ’s slower tempo is in contrast to Zombies’ typical setup.
The standard Zombie setup, which focuses on the building tension of finding better weapons, erecting defenses, and exploring the map while continuously fending off ever-tougher waves of enemies, contrasts with the slower and more deliberate gameplay of DMZ. Operation Deadbolt does not pose a serious threat, so you can dedicate an entire session to relatively easy, low-stakes activities that set you up for something more engaging later on.
However, as you progress and enter more difficult areas, the two distinct gameplay philosophies begin to work much better together. The harder the locations (which get harder the closer you get to the center of the map), the more intense the battles become, the more you risk losing all your fantastic gear, the more unexpected complications arise, and the more exciting both DMZ and previous Zombies modes become. The Urzikstan map is divided into three areas, or “threat levels,” and there are significant differences between them. For example, Threat Level 2 is full of larger monsters and unique zombies that appear randomly much more frequently, and you can hardly defeat them with weapons you haven’t upgraded with a Pack-a-Punch machine. Threat Level 3 is even more difficult than you might expect, with massive boss monsters rampaging around and even low-level zombies outfitted in formidable armor. As you advance in difficulty, you still have the option of choosing which activities to participate in, but they are all more difficult, and even navigating through these areas of the map demands you to pay much closer attention to your team’s survival as well as your own.
And the classic zombie gameplay elements become far more significant as the challenge increases. As you battle to defend your exfiltration helicopter from massive zombie throngs of anywhere from tens to what feels like a hundred or more, the extraction mechanics of DMZ add just the right amount of dread. Having the right Perk Colas and searching out Pack-a-Punch machines becomes the difference between a successful session and a painful defeat. While it becomes necessary to plan your moves across the map, the variety of enemies, weaponry, equipment, upgrades, and sporadic, transient zombie power-ups that you can discover along the way adds to the excitement and unpredictability of each session. Operation Deadbolt can make even an undead heart race with the panic that accompanies the worry of losing everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve in a single run.
Operation Deadbolt can therefore be a lot of fun when the DMZ and zombie elements come together, even though they occasionally work against each other. It’s thrilling and terrifying to run around robbing buildings and find out too late that one of them contains a strong special monster, such as the tentacled Mimic. There are some really exciting firefights when you have to sweep a mercenary stronghold room by room, especially when you know that zombies are probably sneaking up on you from behind. As the difficulty increases, playing Contracts with a zombie theme can be enjoyable. These types of spins require you to defend a location from hordes of zombies or fight through mercenaries to defuse missiles before they launch. Just be careful to change up your selections frequently to avoid getting bored.
To gain power, a lot of time is spent repeating simple contracts.
Including other friendly players in a match can also add an unexpected and enjoyable dimension to Operation Deadbolt. A new dimension to the zombie experience is added by meeting other players and forming an agile squad, or by being revived and saved from certain death by an onlooker. Although the mode’s co-op feature with other random players isn’t very important, it still gives you an additional chance to change things up without taking away from your PvE experience with PvP griefing.
Operation Deadbolt’s unevenness is the problem; you have to build up to the fun by selecting the appropriate activities and refraining from anything too strenuous until you have the necessary equipment. A lot of time is spent getting ready, looting, and making money by repeatedly completing simple contracts to level up your character and take a chance on exploring the genuinely entertaining areas. Additionally, searching the map for equipment to return to where you were after a loss is a big, boring time waste, even though the possibility of death adds a necessary tension to more daring expeditions.
Operation Deadbolt suffers greatly from slow pacing, but the story is most severely affected. This campaign follows a straight storyline, but unlike previous Zombies games, it isn’t buried in riddles and easter eggs you have to find on the map. Rather, it’s all implemented through dull, massively multiplayer online mini-games, such as charging a gun with a pack-a-punch and then using it to kill fifty zombies. You can play dedicated story missions once you finish enough of them, but there are a ton of tedious tasks to finish before you can even begin to understand the plot of Operation Deadbolt. It took me almost two dozen hours to grind through enough of them to be able to access the first mission, which I still haven’t played because of a bug.
While some objectives, like those that force you to interact with new content, like mercenary strongholds or zombie nests, are entertaining, most of the objectives are tedious requirements to obtain particular weapons and use them to defeat certain enemies. One needed me to use Cryo ammunition, which drops randomly from contract rewards and specific types of loot stashes, to freeze a bunch of zombies and fiery hellhound enemies. I had to locate the appropriate enemies to shoot with it first. However, hellhounds are rather frail and frequently perish before freezing. Since they’re less common than zombies in the real world, I had to kill a lot of zombies to find enough hellhounds to meet the requirement of freezing 10. If I didn’t finish the mission before we had to flee, I would have to go find another Cryo Ammo upgrade to finish it off. To put it politely, I didn’t enjoy playing Modern Warfare 3’s zombie mode that much.
Making progress on the story quests requires a lot of work.
It takes a lot of work to advance these story quests; frequently, you must locate and use extremely specific power-ups or ammo upgrades against extremely specific enemies. Operation Deadbolt forces you to work on a single objective at a time, which you must select before you drop. These are the kinds of objectives you should be completing while you engage in other, more enjoyable activities. You cannot switch objectives mid-session or work on multiple ones at once, so if you don’t have the necessary tools, you won’t be able to advance. However, if you do succeed in clearing an objective, you will automatically be able to access a new one. This method repeatedly grinds your progress and story experience to a complete, grating stop.
Finding the necessary items—such as perks or ammo upgrades—slows down the game even more because they are primarily awarded at random for finishing tasks. You’ll need more than one drop to finish many objectives because they call for specialized equipment, and some are difficult to finish in one session. And that entails completing the same two or three tasks during session after session in the hopes of receiving the appropriate ammunition reward. All of it adds up to a lot of time wasted on tasks you don’t want to perform in order to complete the tasks you do.
After about twenty-five hours, I was able to unlock the first of the three story missions. At that point, Treyarch updated Zombies, bringing with it a game-breaking bug that prevented players from accessing the story missions. I have to give up at that point. To be honest, my interest in the story mission vanished a long time ago after experiencing so much boredom and irritation. It’s also the reason I haven’t finished the entire Operation Deadbolt story yet, even though I’ve spent dozens of hours playing it. A few focused story missions won’t make up for the time I’ve wasted trying to complete them.
Finally, I should mention that the sessions where something goes wrong make the slow progression worse. Although the aforementioned game-breaking bug—which not only prevented me from progressing in the story but also completely destroyed my ability to exfiltrate from the map, costing me all of my gear—was not the only instance in which technical problems caused significant losses, In my PC experience, I’ve experienced five or six desktop crashes and several instances of losing connection to Call of Duty’s servers. All those are considered losses in Zombies, meaning that you lose your gear due to technical glitches without any fault of your own. It’s enough to ruin otherwise enjoyable runs and take away the motivation to keep returning, even in addition to a few minor problems like lag and stuttering or zombies slicing through walls you thought would keep you safe.
Though it’s not always effective, Operation Deadbolt’s attempt to bring Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s zombie mode back to life by combining it with DMZ’s technology isn’t a bad idea per se. Hitting the sweet spot between difficulty, planning, and chance results in exciting, high-octane moments that make the most of the best aspects of each. However, tedious story objectives, crashes that can kill any desire to play, and far too much time spent grinding for the gear necessary to survive the fierce enemies in the map’s center frequently undermine the fun. Great moments of hard battles against hideous monsters filled me with fear and dread in Operation Deadbolt, but only if I was prepared to invest a significant amount of time and energy in order to make them happen.