Call of Duty’s Zombies mode has gotten a little predictable. Each map follows the same basic structure – a bunch of training points in a loop connected by tunnels and corridors. You see it in newer cards like Die Maschine, but also in the classics Kino der Toten and Revelations. But Black Ops 2’s Die Rise took zombies to new heights. You start in a hall at the top of a skyscraper with the far wall blown away, exposing the second building directly below. You can hop in a sketchy-looking industrial elevator that’s collapsing or fight your way through the ruins while fighting office workers, who are always disgruntled even when undead. Compared to opening doors and defending small rooms from repetitive hordes, this was an adventurous change that made Zombies an action spectacle, while keeping its arcade roots intact.
Once down, climbing the second tower is tricky. You can’t exactly go the parkour route, as most of it consisted of leaps of faith on very unstable platforms suspended in the air. So you have to take different and functional elevators. Usually when there’s a fire you don’t, but damn it, half the building has been ripped out and the world is in apocalyptic chaos – who cares about OSHA violations at this point? But taking the elevator wasn’t popular, nor was Die Rise’s more labyrinthine room design.
It captured the monotony of office life, only now it was littered with zombies nibbling at your heels. That’s what was so lovely about it, though. My favorite zombie movies are the ones where we see average joes fending off impossible odds – 28 Days Later, Train to Busan, Shaun of the Dead, etc. – and the office building harkens back to the Romero fashion inspirations that shaped the zombie genre we know and love today. What if an everyday place was riddled with corpses that wanted to eat your brain?
It made Die Rise trickier, but its approach also made it the most unique leap from Nacht der Untoten to Verrückt, creating a whole new sense of discovery. And to see it so quickly abandoned in favor of the typical formula was a shame. Buried, Mob of the Dead, and Origins are all fantasy maps in the mode’s hall of fame, but Die Rise – albeit a flawed attempt to turn the tide – is still its most interesting idea. On the heels of the equally infamous Transit, it did something completely new, asking us to re-evaluate how we play.
I love Die Rise through all of its goofy quirks and weird flaws. The idea of jumping between skyscrapers while fighting off an endless onslaught, running for ammo from a wall gun ten stories up as the stairs are out, feels like a natural evolution on the mode’s promise. . We started in a small bunker, fought our way through an asylum, fired a rocket into space and went to the moon. Die Rise’s complete structural change made it even more out of this world than getting on a moon base, and that’s what Zombies has always been about: taking on that same hidden World at War base spin-off. and reinvent it, keeping it fun year after year with nothing but the foundations remaining the same.
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