Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Zombies Chronicles (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 02.06.2017

Review for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Zombies Chronicles on PlayStation 4

Quick question: Is there anybody out there that hasn't started to grow a little bit weary of zombies yet? Not Call of Duty zombies specifically, just those perennial reanimated corpses in general? TV, movies, video games… These restless cadavers just seem to shuffle into every dark corner of the entertainment industry, stinking the place up with their earthy aroma and constant demands for brain matter. While Treyarch has no doubt played some small part in proliferating the undead spread within the gaming realm, it is pretty hard to deny that connecting virtual bullets to rotten flesh can be a pretty satisfying way to pass the time. COD Zombies itself originated as a relatively minor bonus mode in World at War that has, over the years, taken on a life of its own to become a fairly integral part of the franchise. If the answer to the opening question was a resounding, "No, I can't get enough of those cold-bodied biters," then this latest bundle of filthy foot dragging entertainment should be just the ticket.

The release of Zombies Chronicles is a somewhat unprecedented event in the Call of Duty universe given that technically Black Ops III has moved far beyond its traditional year-long DLC support cycle. While the most recent addition to the series, Infinite Warfare, has still enjoyed very healthy sales, it has reportedly yielded comparatively diminished returns for Activision most likely due to its failure to resonate with a fan base that's been increasingly yearning for a return to 'boots on the ground' combat. This has resulted in Black Ops III retaining a sizable player base that has continued to dedicate countless man hours into the persistent eradication of cannibal corpses.

While it's an infection that has spread to both Sledgehammer Games and Infinity Ward (the other two developers helming the Call of Duty series), it's fair to say that Zombies was always Treyarch's rotten baby, so this curated selection of re-mastered undead experiences shouldn't be that much of a surprise given the considerable back catalogue of festering content sat in the vaults. There are certainly enough people still playing to warrant it.

There are two ways of looking at this. A cynical viewpoint would connect the dots between Activision's perceived love of money with their reputation of wringing out every last possible cent from their sizable portfolio of titles. Of course, this is a business, not a charity, and considering that Zombies Chronicles is exempt from inclusion of the season pass and costs considerably more than the average COD DLC at £24.99/$29.99, it's a fairly easy conclusion to jump to. However, there is a substantial amount of content crammed into this package, with each level boasting unique power-ups, weaponry and Easter eggs - and let's not forget that it's entirely optional.


 
Another, more sensible perspective considers Treyarch's intent to preserve its own legacy given that all of these maps originally appeared in the last console generation. There may well still be some life left in the Xbox 360 and PS3, but a dwindling user base does make it that little bit harder to find regular active players, and when that fateful day that the servers finally close down occurs it would be a real shame if nobody ever got to play these again.

When playing the maps in the order they were originally released, it's easy to spot how the series has evolved over the years, and while none of these undead skirmishes possess the level of narrative that has become synonymous with the more recent episodes, there has been quite a bit of new dialogue added to help drive play forward.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Zombies Chronicles on PlayStation 4

It's far from being a cheap cash-in, as Treyarch has wisely taken the opportunity to lavish the same high production values on these aging maps that has typified the generational leap in quality for the franchise. This translates to greatly enhanced visuals and lighting effects, improved/re-recorded audio, and even some minor layout alterations to accommodate some of the more recent embellishments to the series, such as the Gobblegum, Perk-a-cola and Pack-a-Punch machines. There is no denying the very noticeable upgrade in the level of detail when compared to the source material. It could well be that a lot of the more hardcore fans had their fill of these maps when they originally appeared, but any corpse hunter worth their salt would be foolish to dismiss such a weighty opportunity to get back to work, and there are no doubt plenty of gamers out there that missed out on the majority of these maps altogether.

Of all the classic Treyarch episodes culled from World at War, Black Ops and Black Ops II, which eight made the cut for Zombies Chronicles?

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Nacht Der Untoten is a fairly simplistic level that plays out like a traditional 'Horde' mode, with the only objective being survival at any cost, and given its status as the map that kick-started the whole zombies phenomenon, its inclusion here makes perfect sense. Claustrophobic and intense, it is set in a two-storey building that's under siege by a never-ending stream of Nazis that are long past their expiry date, and while it can be deemed as being fairly compact, it's still too big for a full squad of four to man all the entry points efficiently. Starts to get really hairy around the twentieth wave.

Verrückt is set in a dank, dilapidated German mental hospital in the throes of a power cut, so already the creep factor is through the roof even before the shufflers start to become a nuisance. Again, it's a fairly simplistic rectangle schematic on two floors that is subject to an insurmountable attack emanating from its central courtyard. The upstairs balcony overlooking this area does make a good vantage point for picking off the rotters from a distance; however, it's still very easy to get caught out and overpowered as the narrow corridors and tight stairways don't provide much wriggle room, but do contribute to the lingering claustrophobic feeling of dread.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Zombies Chronicles on PlayStation 4

Ascension takes place in a long abandoned Soviet Cosmodrome, which is a sprawling complex comprised of crumbling buildings and cluttered outdoor areas littered by debris. Once power is restored there are three lunar landers that, once activated, provide a quick airborne transport system around the facility that's instrumental in initiating the launch sequence for the stationary rocket. There are also a selection of vending machines scattered about the map that can be used to buy assorted perk providing drinks to aid survival; however, every few waves sees a horde of space monkeys released that specifically target and attack the machines, drastically shortening the effectiveness of any active perks if not dealt with in a timely manner.

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Moon deceptively starts off on Terra Firma in the mysterious Area 51 where straight from the offset there is an all-out assault from both zeds and hellhounds. As the strength and numbers continue to increase the gang is eventually forced to hop onto the teleporter, which zaps them to the Griffin Station located on the moon. It's another very large map with areas both oxygen free and gravity deprived, and this time around there is the slightly terrifying Astronaut zombie to contend with (singular, thankfully) that slowly wanders around the base (think horror movie It Follows), grabbing anybody he can gets close enough to and teleporting them to a random area. Very creepy.

Shi No Numa takes place at the Rising Sun facility, which is an army base located in a treacherous swamp slap bang in the middle of a verdant Japanese jungle. Plenty of bamboo huts, lush vegetation, wading through swampland as well as a never-ending stream of infected imperial soldiers emerging from the water punctuated by the occasional wave of zombified dogs. It's not an overly big map, although there are a variety of rustic looking traps that can be activated for a small fee, which provide a well organised team with the perfect opportunity to lead a zombie train straight into a messy decapitation.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Zombies Chronicles on PlayStation 4

Shangri La has another jungle setting, but this time around all the action takes place in and around an ancient shrine, long lost from civilisation complete with an underground labyrinth and caverns. Again there are traps galore (mainly floor activated), but for the most part these actually work against the players rather than for them. Plenty of cramped spaces, a rickety rope bridge, yet more monkeys and a waterfall (that doubles up as power source for a pair of generators) with a waterslide, a geyser and a mine cart providing a fast travel of sorts. There are two new types of necrotic to contend with here, namely the Napalm zombie (which unsurprisingly is highly flammable) and the incredibly mobile and noisy Shrieker, both possessing the power to temporarily blind those that get too close.

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Kino der Toten is German for 'Cinema of the Dead,' which is a big clue as to where this episode of restless-dead slaying takes place, a sinister bombed out theatre in West Berlin that's clearly seen better days before the undead infestation took hold. The fight rages on through the foyer, the upper and lower hallways, the theatre, the stage and numerous dressing rooms and backstage areas as well as an outdoor alleyway. Like most theatres it's quite spacious and deceptively big so the teleporter system (once activated) offers a quick route between other terminals as well as access to previously unreachable areas such as the projection room where the Pack-a-Punch machine is located. It's a fantastic setting that feels like a return to the original WWII Nazi zombie experience the series started off as.

Last up, Origins is probably the biggest map of the bunch and it takes place at a former German excavation site in France where Element 115 had first been unearthed, though it feels and looks more like a frontline battlefield with its many interconnected trenches and bunkers. Of course, this episode details the backstory of how the four main protagonists of the Black Ops III DLC zombie campaign formed their unlikely alliance, so its inclusion here makes perfect sense. Expect plenty of movement impeding mud, threat of being squashed by one of the constantly roaming giant robots, the Steampunk inspired Panzersoldats, as well as Templar and Crusader Zombies. A real blast from the past.

Screenshot for Call of Duty: Black Ops III - Zombies Chronicles on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Treyarch has clearly relished the opportunity to revisit and update these seminal undead moments and used Zombies Chronicles as a vehicle to deliver a solid piece of fan service. It's a highly polished yet thoroughly putrid package that, besides preserving the corpse rattling legacy of COD Zombies, also does a great job of providing a wide variety of differing locations to swiftly and repeatedly die in with a few friends (or strangers), thus making it an essential 'no brainer' for veterans and newcomers to the series alike.

Developer

Treyarch

Publisher

Activision

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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