The Zombies game-within-a-game that has infected the Call of Duty franchise since World at War has become a bona fide phenomenon, with last year's Call of Duty: Black Ops offering easily the most thorough and fantastic iterations of the infamous game mode. Whether it was the brilliant Call of the Dead, which set actors like Danny Trejo and Sarah Michelle Gellar against an undead George Romero, or the understated lunar horror of Moon, Zombies for Black Ops turned the proverbial dial up to 11.
Now, we've got Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies for iOS, bringing the endless waves of undead terror to your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Does it maintain the high standard introduced by its console forebears?
With all of the exciting modes and maps that Zombies brought to Black Ops, it's disappointing that Activision decided to give you nothing more than one lone map: an adaptation of Kino der Toten that, as expected, takes place in a castle being overrun by Nazi zombies. It plays exactly like Zombies does on the home systems: you fight off wave after waves of zombies, with your kills adding funds that you use to purchase more weapons and ammo to face off against more zombies. It's a solid formula that, sadly, is hamstrung by the lone map that comes with the game. There are other maps promised in the menu as "coming soon," but there's no set release date.
The second major problem stems from the controls. There are two aiming options in the game: either with a virtual "joystick" or using your iDevice's gyro sensor to determine aim. Neither of them work particularly well, and the game quickly becomes frustrating, even with the very loose auto aim turned on.
Finally, there's the multiplayer, a literal game changer for the platform that could easily make or break this game. Sadly, it looks like this half-baked feature will break the game: any attempts that I made to play with multiple cooperative players were met with horrific lag that rendered the game unplayable. While multiplayer on any iOS device is still a bit of an iffy prospect, when it's pretty much a requirement for a mode like Zombies, it's inexcusable.
However, there is one odd gem buried among all of these gripes: "Dead-Ops," a small twin-stick arcade style shooter that distills the Zombies experience to a fast and furious top-down game that, sadly, is far more entertaining than the game that surrounds it.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies is available on the iTunes Store for $6.99.