Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s Zombies in Spaceland is a Retro Love Letter [Preview]
Zombies has always been a cheeky take on the Call of Duty formula, pushing one to four players into co-op survival. Where much of Infinite Warfare looks to the future, its Zombie mode is a comedic look to the past. Zombies in Spaceland sends players back the glitz and glam of the ‘80s to take the roles of one of four characters seeking surviving in an amusement park infested with hordes of undead. It’s far from out of the ordinary, but it’s still one of the most enjoyable scenarios to have come out of the mode.
Zombies in Spaceland isn’t all that different from its predecessors at the start. Players begin in starting area of the park with power shut off. The undead appear in waves, breaking through barricades and spawning at numerous points and it’s your job to kill them all. Cash is earned for kills and rebuilding barricades which can be used to buy weapons off the walls, as well as open new areas and purchase bonuses to help you survive. Restoring power to an area allows numerous power-up machines and attractions as each wave of enemies becomes more numerous and aggressive. As you go, new zombies start to show up --- most notably clown zombies that run after you and explode when they get close.
Where Zombies in Spaceland starts to really set itself apart is in the use of the amusement park attractions. In each area, once powered, amusement park attractions come into play. They feature any number of mini-games that players can undertake to get further along in the scenario. One such challenge was a roller coaster in which two players took BB guns and shot at targets in a moving shooting gallery with waves of zombies trying to spoil the fun. Do well and you get tickets that can be used at special bonus machines that use them exclusively. At these stations, you can buy candies that power you up like Slappy Taffy, which powers up your somewhat useless melee for a short while. These types of amusements are scattered throughout the park and were both engaging and rewarding, although it means your teammates have to survive without you as you enjoy the ride.
Amusement also comes into player deaths in Zombies in Spaceland. Get killed and you’ll warp to the Afterlife Arcade. In this place, you can play any number of parlor games to get soul points in order respawn in the amusement park. It contains everything from a basketball game to skeeball and even a water shooting target game where you aim to get your zombie across a racetrack up above. Each game gives out soul points based on how you do and once you have 100, you’ll warp back to life. There are also arcade games that feature emulated versions of very old classic titles, such as Activision’s Pitfall. It’s a unique and engaging take on death in Zombie mode that was far more enjoyable than just waiting for the next wave in previous games.
Zombie players will be familiar with double cash, instant kill, and mini-nuke drops that come off of zombies, but tokens and Fate and Fortune cards also join the fold. Tokens are drops from enemies that can be collected and deposited into machines. There are different colored tokens and different combinations of three create unique items like the Kindle Pop. This special item leaves a trail on the ground that can then be shot and ignited to create a fantastically flashy wall of fire that will roast any creature caught in the path and those that try to run through.
Fate and Fortune Cards play out like Operator loadouts in Black Ops III and Rig payloads in Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer. Once you’ve charged a bar, you can use one of a few cards loaded into your arsenal to employ special abilities for a short while. One of our favorites caused additional headshot damage upon activation, making even the pistol lethal to zombies with a well-aimed shot. Another great one caused all zombies to catch fire upon being damaged by the activator. Fate and Fortune cards can be earned in-game through challenges and by completing story events.
Speaking of story, that of Zombies in Spaceland is a doozy. Each of the main characters --- a jock, nerd, valley girl and rapper --- are actors who were set to play a part in a movie for the famous horror movie star and director, Willard Wyler, played by none other than Paul Reubens. It turns out to be a trap and Wyler locks the players inside the park to begin orchestrating their demises. Somewhere out there is The DJ: a mysterious man who found a way to survive Wyler’s park and will help the actors along. The DJ has the fantastic voice of David Hasselhoff himself backing him. As players work their way through the park cheating death, completing challenges, thwarting Wyler and being helped by the DJ, they’ll come across numerous bits of iconography ranging from ‘80s glam rock and hip-hop music, guns that look a lot like Nintendo zappers and movie references like a map inspired by the classic film The Goonies.
Zombies in Spaceland is absolutely the most cartoonish that Zombie mode has ever gotten in a Call of Duty game and it works out to be one of the most we’ve had with the mode yet as a result. All of the classic mode elements are there. Players who want that core Zombies experience will be happy to see the chase to get to the furthest waves is still an ever-present quest, but there’s also a grand wealth of new things to do that will keep the game entertaining try after try. This goofy park and cast of characters lies neck deep in post-apocalyptic doom and gloom, but put it all together and it serves to make it all feel like you’re playing through the beats of an over-the-top B-movie.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare will be available Nov. 4, 2016.
This preview was completed at Call of Duty XP 2016. Travel and accommodations for Call of Duty XP were provided by the publisher.