Call of the Dead (Video Game)
Developed by Treyarch
Published by Activision
Yes, yes, fellow gaming nerds, I know. Call of the Dead isn't a video game. It's not even a DLC-pack. It's one part of a much larger DLC-pack for a much much larger video game. Why is it getting a separate review? If you have to ask, I can't tell ya.
For anyone living under a rock for the last ten years, there's this little game franchise called Call of Duty. The last iteration of that franchise, subtitled Black Ops, is the fastest-selling game of all time, with over seven million copies moved worldwide within the first twenty-four hours of release.
Black Ops is arguably the most popular multiplayer game of all time. Most of the multiplayer modes are competitive, players (or teams) versus players. The only co-op mode available in Black Ops is 'zombies', different maps where a team of up to four players join together to fight wave after wave of the undead and, if they perform the right actions, escape the map alive.
'Escalation' is the most recent DLC-pack released for Black Ops. Escalation contains four new multiplayer maps and a new zombie 'map' called Call of the Dead. It's this final map that brings us here today.
To say that Call of the Dead is the most ambitious map ever to appear in a map pack is an understatement. Treyarch brings together a supergroup of horror luminaries to provide voice and likenesses for the 'map', which has a unique story and cutscenes, something most multiplayer maps don't have.
Michael Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Rooker, Danny Machete Trejo, Sarah Michelle Buffy Gellar, and the one and only Robert Some guy with razors for fingers Englund star as themselves under the direction of George Romero himself in this tale of a film set gone wrong. As Romero explains himself in an interstitial cutscene that is seen between rounds, he found some evidence of real zombies created during world war two while researching locations for his new zombie film. He decided to use the actual location of this, a frozen-in Soviet research ship in the arctic, as the set for his film. Rooker, Trejo, Gellar, and Englund star in the film, and are seen shooting a scene when the game opens. Before long, the Hollywood zombies become prey to the real deal and George is sucked below the frozen surface as mayhem breaks out on set.
The player takes the role of one of the Hollywood horror elite as play starts. This choice is random, so no, you can't be Danny Trejo every single round. It also only affects the lines said during combat by your character. In the first stumble of the game, Gellar fights the same as Rooker, Trejo doesn't use his machetes in combat, he uses the same firearms and combat knife as Englund. Having these characters able to use distinctive weapons or combat styles would have been a nice addition, because it's clear within minutes of play that the characters are nothing more than varying voiceovers. Purely cosmetic.
George returns from the grave as a sort of super zombie, wielding a giant hammer and electrical attacks. He functions more or less as the Witch from Left 4 Dead, except that he's mobile. Bump him, attack him (or too close to him) and he'll go postal, slamming and zapping everything in sight. The only way to calm him down is to lure him into the frozen water populating the lower levels of the map, which can be tricky if you're up in one of the ships or structures.
As with all the Black Ops zombie levels, the goal here is survival. You have to gain money by killing zombies and completing some minor tasks in order to remove barriers around the map that you need to clear to gain access to the next goal. Complete the goals without every member of the squad dying, and you win.
None of the Black Ops zombie round goals are easy, but the requirements here are downright absurd. Most squads online that complete the game do it around the 25th-30th 'wave' of zombies. To give you an idea of what that means, none of my many, many games went past the 9th wave. By the 9th or 10th wave, zombies move incredibly fast, all but the most powerful weapons are useless, and you're forced to move around the very claustrophobic innards of the frozen ships in order to complete goals, making it very easy to get pinned down and killed where a teammate can't revive you.
Treyarch do absolutely nothing to assist you, either. If you're downed, you have a short amount of time before you bleed out and die. A teammate can revive you, but while doing so they're vulnerable. If you die, you don't respawn until a new wave of zombies starts. That doesn't happen until the existing wave is killed...by a team that's now down at least one member.
There are power-ups spread throughout the level, but many don't function at all until some basic goals are completed. This means that many games won't even see them come into play, and they're both expensive and minimally useful even then. Some power-ups are gained just by killing zombies, but those are short-lived and also have limited usefulness when you have three fast-moving zombies on you and only the basic pistol or the combat knife to defend yourself.
For all the groundbreaking stuff going on here with the all-star cast, unique story, and cutscenes before and after the game, what we have is just another zombie level for Black Ops. What's more, it was my LEAST favorite map. The maps that came with the main game were far more enjoyable. A cool and spooky level that takes place in a nazi castle/mansion, a funny map where you play different political figures trying to escape an office building (JFK shooting zombies next to Castro never stops being funny), and an old-school top-down arcade shooter map are all a blast...Call of the Dead is just, well, dull.
The problems are these. The goals are not terribly clear. Unless you have a dedicated team who has either spent LOTS of time discovering the goals or reading spoilers online, you're going to spend a great deal of time running around and dying. The map is HUGE. Vast. Big, big, big. Thus, it's incredibly easy and common to become separated from your team. Since zombies can spawn throughout the map and and angry George can plunder across great distances in very little time, there's every chance you're going to run into trouble when the nearest teammate is halfway across the map and unable to revive you. Then there's George...unlike the Witch in L4D, it's impossible to avoid George. Once you get into the ships, you will bump into him or be forced to fire a weapon too close to him. At that point, you have to run breakneck to some spot where water is exposed, or you're toast. You're probably toast anyway, as there's no harming George and he's unbelievably powerful. One or two hits and you're pizza under his hammer.
An unforgiving difficulty level, a huge and unmanageable map and a lack of unique game features despite the unique cast and story left me with a very disappointed feeling. $15 for four multiplayer maps and this unexciting zombie map feels like a massive ripoff. Stick to the core game unless you're one of those obsessive Black Ops fanatics who plays every map fifty times a night and you just absolutely have to have this pack. I do recommend looking up the cutscenes featuring the horror celebrities, because those cutscenes will fill you with joy. They just aren't worth $15.
1 out of 5
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