Black Ops 4's Latest Zombies Update Is A Lurch In The Right Direction

By S. E. Doster on at

Black Ops 4’s Zombies mode wasn’t a big hit with the community when it arrived last fall, and what’s happened in the months since then hasn’t helped its reputation. But this week’s update is a step in the right direction.

In my initial review of Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, I professed my frustrations of being a long-time Zombies player feeling overwhelmed at the menus. There was a buffet of content, offering a million options to decide how you wanted to play. Eventually, the menus became less daunting, and I found the modes and maps I enjoyed the most. I liked the frantic pace of the arcadey Rush mode, but I often wanted to hunt Easter eggs or go for high rounds with my friends. Unfortunately, all of Black Ops 4’s Zombies maps were prone to high-round blue screen crashes, which was especially annoying to the Zombies players who live for speed runs, high rounds, and complex Easter egg hunts.

The crashing plagued Zombies for almost an entire month without any real communication from Treyarch, leaving the community feeling frustrated and forgotten. Treyarch finally addressed the mode’s instability on November 7 in a statement, and patches slowly resolved crashes across all of the maps. Within that announcement was also the promise of more updates and transparency going forward.

When Black Ops 4’s Contraband Streams were announced, a loot progression system similar to Fortnite’s Battle Pass, the Zombies community was bummed to learn that playing their preferred mode wouldn’t help them level up at all. Only gameplay in standard multiplayer or Blackout would advance players in the Contraband tiers, so Zombies players felt left out once again.

On December 11, the “Dead of the Night” DLC map became available for Black Ops Pass holders. Treyarch also added Daily Skip Tiers to Zombies, which allows players to have a match of Zombies count towards advancing one tier in the current Contraband Stream. Regular gameplay still doesn’t count towards the loot grind, but Daily Skip Tiers are a start, I guess.

Personally, I haven’t indulged in very much zombie slaying since the arrival of the Contraband Streams because I’ve been grinding tiers for new guns and colourful Specialist skins. Gunning down the undead in a casual match of Zombies just feels like punishing myself with gameplay that won’t get me much closer to the high-level guns or skins I want.

Up until this week, Black Ops 4 Zombies has felt like a tonne of content with very little reward. Treyarch is the original creator of Call of Duty Zombies, so where’s the love?

Some love finally arrived on January 15, which is also known to the community as 115 Day, a nod to the fictional Element 115 that created the zombies in Treyarch’s ongoing narrative. Treyarch kicked off the 115 Day celebration with Black Ops 4’s biggest Zombies update yet.

The most notable feature of the celebration is the arrival of Gauntlets on PlayStation 4, which are 30-round challenges with unique rules that restrict how you must play or finish each round. There’s a melee only round, a headshots only round, and rounds that restrict your perks or guns.The 30 rounds are divided into three sections: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. If you fail any round’s requirements, you receive a strike and must restart the round. Three strikes and you’re out.

This first Gauntlet, “Unsinkable,” takes place on the Voyage of Despair map, but Treyarch has teased that another Gauntlet will arrive later in the month. As always, Xbox One and PC players are waiting a week to have access to the new Black Ops 4 content, so they’ll be celebrating 115 Day on January 22.

There were notable changes to Zombies’ temporary “Elixir” consumable perks. Three new Elixirs were added, and six existing Elixirs received some tweaking. One of the most notable changes is a buff to Sword Flay, which now allows melee attacks to instantly kill basic zombies and vermin enemies for the fixed duration of the Elixir, and it’ll deal 5 times the damage to all other enemy types. The 115 celebration also comes with double experience rewards.

A 115 Day blog post detailed what’s to come in the future for Zombies. Players have been asking for Gold, Diamond, and Dark Matter camos to be available in Zombies, and the 115 announcement promises these camos will arrive in the “coming weeks” along with their own unique challenges. More weapons and a new perk will also be available soon.

115 Day successfully delivered Gauntlet challenges that provide addictive replay value. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to cut down my overall time for completing the challenges, and I can easily see how this could create some intense speed runs for the community.

I finally want to play Zombies again, but I think Treyarch still missed the mark on the rewards as there aren’t enough bragging rights for mastering such a gruelling gauntlet. You receive Bronze, Silver, and Gold Unsinkable Calling Cards for your efforts. A unique camo or face paint could be added to beef up the rewards for future Gauntlets, but I think Treyarch could get more creative here. I hope we’re on the path to seeing more challenge and rewards in future updates, and finally moving away from the stumbles and blue screens.