When Call of Duty: Zombies hit the iOS app store way back when we praised it for what was, at the time, a great adaptation of the console secondary game mode. Now, over two years later, the zombies have finally returned with Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies [$6.99], the first true sequel to iOS CoD Zombies (strange psuedo-sequel notwithstanding). While Black Ops Zombies does succeed in providing improved visuals and extra variety in the addition of the excellent Dead-Ops mode, a frustrating selection of controls, spotty multiplayer, and a very limited map selection on the onset may make some fans hesitant to purchase now.

For the uninitiated, Black Ops Zombies is a first person shooter zombie survival game based off of the survival mode found on some console versions of Call of Duty. Zombies is map-based, with each map typically featuring numerous rooms and weapons that must be unlocked in order to provide the player with better weapons and defense. There are some small secondary objectives, but the primary goal of each play through is to simply survive as long as you can. Zombies come at you in waves, and you earn money for each one you take down, giving you the currency needed to unlock everything. There are also power-ups, such as extra ammo or double currency, which can randomly drop from the slain undead.

If you do a side-by-side comparison between Black Ops Zombie and its predecessor, you’ll see a definite upgrade in visual quality and presentation. The graphics look much better, especially on the most recent iOS devices. Even the menu system looks great and offers personality that isn’t normally found in something of that low a priority in game design. Granted, it’s certainly not the best looking game we’ve seen on iOS, but it’s an improvement nonetheless. Surprisingly, I did encounter the occasional slowdown on my 4S, which seemed odd.

One of the most important questions in my book in regards to first person shooters is its controls. Black Ops Zombies adds additional control functions, such as crouching and sprinting into the mix. In addition, Black Ops Zombies brings back the same three control options (joystick, swap, and tilt) from its predecessor. Each one offers some advantage over the other, but I never found any of them to fully satisfy my expectations and not make me feel like I was compensating for playing on a touch screen. Extras such as various difficulties and auto-aim try to alleviate the problem, but it doesn’t fix it all the way. Also there were some questionable design decisions, such as not having a fire button on the screen and forcing the players to double tap to fire. While this may work on paper, I can’t count the amount of times I wasn’t able to fire my gun when I wanted to.

Another design choice I really don’t understand is the limited map selection in Black Ops Zombies.  Basically, as of release, you have access to one map, Kino Der Toten. While it’s certainly a good map, the fact that players only have access to one map at the onset is a little ridiculous. We have confirmation that there is at least one more map coming in a future update to Black Ops Zombies, but until then, expect to get tired of Kino Der Toten until that happens.

Thankfully, some of the potential tedium is addressed with the inclusion of Dead-Ops Arcade mode, a top-down arcade shooter with dual stick controls. The premise is very simple in Dead-Ops: enter rooms, kill zombies, collect weapon upgrades and score enhancing gems, move into next room, repeat. Even still, I had a blast with Dead-Ops and thought it was a perfect game fit for iOS controls. The weapon variety, fast paced gameplay, and nice graphics all work in tandem to create an incredible experience. In fact, with some modifications, it probably could have survived just fine as a standalone release. Still, I appreciate that it was included with Black Ops Zombies, especially with the current lack of map variety.

Finally we get to the multiplayer, which really is the main draw for Call of Duty zombie games. Black Ops Zombies brings back four player coop mode and ups the ante with support for voice chat. When you manage to get a game going and everything is smooth, multiplayer simply increases the amount of fun exponentially and is well worth the ticket price. Unfortunately for me, I found the majority of my games to be filled with lag and frame rate jerkiness, even when lowering the detail slider. I know it has something to do with the net code, because as soon as my companions would inevitably drop out, the game would run fine. Lag on its own wouldn't necessarily be a big deal, but when you combine it with the spotty controls, the problems just seem to compound. The included voice chat is nice, but in practice I’d usually end up muting my companions because I would just hear a lot of loud noise and static coming from their end. Dead-Ops multiplayer fared somewhat better, but I still encountered some significant lag, which is disappointing.

World at War Zombies was simply revolutionary for its time and, while Black Ops Zombies certainly improves on nearly every aspect of its predecessor, our expectations of what makes a great game have certainly changed. It’s not enough to simply add a new map and a better visual paintjob and call it a day. Yet, outside of Dead-Ops, that’s the sort of feeling I get while playing Black Ops Zombies. I think this feeling would have been far less prevalent if the game launched with just a bit more content than one map or if multiplayer wasn’t so laggy. In any case, if you were a fan of World at War Zombies, and you’re willing to be patient with content releases, you’ll love this sequel. For others looking for improvements in the general gameplay (or control schemes for that matter), you may want to wait for a content update or two.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Chris Aanerud

    Hey, here's a crazy idea: Make a full Call of Duty game for IOS. I know people will buy anything with the CoD name on it (hence why this game exists) but I'm pretty sure that a full-experience CoD game on IOS would print money.

    • Anonymous

      These little ones take a lot less work, and still print money.  Its the brand, baybee.

  • Anonymous

    I think the game is great !! Yes the lag can be fixed on multiplayer to provide the best experience but I love the map ! Well worth 6.99

  • Kyle Trail

    Anyone else having issues getting this puppy to run on an iPad 1 with the latest firmware?  I get to the loading screen and it crashes same spot every single time.  Tried restarting iPad, uninstalling and reinstalling and the whole nine...nothing and I am jazzed to play this sucker.

    • http://twitter.com/lnfinite_loop James V

      looks like it has the same problem that infinity blade 2 has...

      • http://profiles.google.com/fleshman1992 Laszlo Tuss

        yes.... but Infinity Blade runs on 3Gs with slow gameplay.
        CoD is crashing on a 3Gs or runs extremely laggy.... 🙁

    • Noel Underwood

      Yes!! Way the hell? It'll load all menus, etc. but isn't able to start a game! Not even arcade mode. WTF mate?

    • Alex Smith

      OMG, had/have same problem as you, on multiplayer i go to loading screen then goes black and crashes even after update, solo was doing the same but that seems to be working now, but multiplayer will not work no matter what but I only have this problem on Kino, DOA works fine solo or co-op.

  • http://twitter.com/VULTR3 Mike

    Can't wait to let my young children play this game!

  • Anonymous

    Another defense game? Another mini game. And not even good looking one. Thanks for nothing.

    Its a bit frustrating to see every game to cut as many corners as possible, and at the same time hold 700$ /€ -device at hand, starving to get even one game that would take it seriously.

    • Manju Mathew

      Try the latest TowerDefense games,Battleground Defense and Wild Defense. So far the best TD game i have come across..

  • Austin Riddle

    It's apps like these that just make me ask "why".  Why would you play this on a phone?  Don't get me wrong, I love Infinity Blade, and other ambitious console-like games but they add a unique factor to the game that a console deliver, ie. USEFUL touch controls.  This is just a dumbed down, harder to control, worse graphic port, there's no point! 

    • http://profiles.google.com/fleshman1992 Laszlo Tuss

      This is about cooperative game play! This is the best coop game in the store and its way better than MC3 if it wont crash xd.
      Anyway, use the tilt controls and as soon as u learn it, the game will be awesome with a few friends. Imagine it !

  • Anonymous

    This game sucks when compared to the other zombie games and Modern Combat 3, and it disgusts me how people are willing to buy any game that has the title "Call of Duty."

    I realize that MW3 is a slightly different kind of game, but that game has better graphics, more features, and much better controls.

    • http://profiles.google.com/fleshman1992 Laszlo Tuss

      MC3 have disgusting controls if u dont have gyroscope, but CoD: Zombies have an awesome tilt control and if csn use it, the game is awesome

  • S.I.D. CrAzY

    Premature reanimation? You know they got pills for that nowadays...

  • Anonymous

    I think the graphics are pretty good, not console standard but they're a little better than the Cod Waw app. I'm sure they will patch the problems in the next update.

    You can't expect this to be as good as a console. That's just not possible technically. Still a great port and for 6.99 well worth it. The controls aren't hard to use when you get used to them.

  • Anonymous

    There are no technical barriers to get console quality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kate-Jonson/100002965236740 Kate Jonson

    this games graphics is very much realistic and gamers can find real joy to play this game 

  • http://twitter.com/espekayen Sunny Neuroshima

    This game is very poor value for money. One map is ridiculous; it's almost as if they're relying on the COD name to sell this game, knowing people will buy it for that reason alone. It wouldn't surprise me if they released additional maps as IAP.

  • Eric Libran

    For all the TD fans i would highly recomment Battleground Defense, awesome graphics and gameplay

  • Peter Bishop

    Loved their graphics

  • Dylan Weber

    People always going to complain, see this is Treyarchs last chance to make a little extra money as MW3 just came out recently, I'm sure console quality is very possible, but that would take considerably much more time to program, and Time = Money, now did take a while to finally release this, but think about it this app is only $6.99, thats a dinner for 1 at your favorite restaurant, the price you can't beat, plus im sure there are those few that buy this solely for the COD game to brag at their friends, but there are those that really like the COD feel and the way they make a multimillion Nazi Zombies, I respect them and we should give them a break if you ask me 

    • Anonymous

      For $6.99, I can pick up Infinity Blade 2, which is superior to this app in every way: better graphics, better sound, better controls, etc. Given the complete lack of production value, this game should be $.99 at best.

  • Artem Borisov

    Still crashes on my iPod Touch 4Gen, iOS 5.0.1, that sucks. rebooted my iPod 10 or 15 times already. Wont even pass the treyarch ligo.

    • derz place

      Man, I have the same problem and everybody just says "reboot it" and that doesn't work can someone help us with this problem

  • Artem Borisov

    sorry, logo*
    anyway, why was i paying money for it if it doesnt even load??!!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PRAHEOKY7SZ6JTWW4MCEDGF5R4 intisar

    This game is epic
    There's the latest update coming in with the ray gun and other things to murder nazi zombies.
    I mean come on, you may say that the iPhone or iPad should give an edge over consoles in a way but this game was such a huge reason why people stuck on black ops,
    And now you could play this on the go!!!!!

  • Salsander

    It has a good map selection but I found it frankly too buggy and easy. All you had to do was run in circles creating a zombie train and last their heads off. The zombies respond time is terrible and its too easy to escape large groups of them. Not to mention the sound was so quiet I had to turn the volume all the way up to hear it. Even with the sound on the guns and the voice acting sounded grainy. The graphics also weren't on par, the ray gun is terribly underpowered, and the online/local aspect is now completely broken since the last update. It should be rated 2/5. An extra star for the effort and inclusion of 4 maps, but the gameplay is executed horribly!

Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 3.5