Considering the state of Vanguard's Zombies mode and what's wrong with it

This year's Zombies mode is wildly different from previous versions and the community is not happy.

What started as a side game mode in Call of Duty: World at War, Zombies has developed into something much more. It has transformed the way we see zombies' game modes in every other game.

Treyarch, the American video game developer, was the first to introduce this mode in Call of Duty: World at War back in 2008. The mode has been in almost all of Treyarch's developed Call of Duty games ever since. Some of the most popular titles include Call of Duty: Black Ops, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

Shadows of Evil - One of the most iconic maps in the history of Call of Duty Zombies

During the life cycle of Call of Duty: Black Ops III, the Zombies' mode was pretty much at its peak. Not to take away from the previous two titles, but Black Ops III really took the mode to a whole new level, relatively speaking.

Why is the Zombies mode so popular, and what do you do in this mode? Well, on the surface, it might seem that you simply run around killing zombies. This is true, but there's more to it than just blowing Zombie heads off.

What Makes The Mode Unique?

Call of Duty's Zombies mode has a detailed storyline that has captivated thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Zombie players around the world. Jason Blundell, former Co-Studio Head and Game Director, was responsible for the phenomenal Black Ops III Zombies experience.

These unique features that make Zombies mode in Call of Duty… Zombies:

  • Pack-A-Punch Machine & Camo: The Pack-A-Punch (PaP) machine exists in every Zombies map and helps players upgrade their weapon, which in turn increases the damage. This is helpful as players progress through the rounds. The Zombies' health also goes up, so players have no choice but to upgrade their weapons too.
    Pack-A-Punch Machine as seen in Black Ops Cold War

    Pack-A-Punching the weapon also applies a unique camo to it. Each level of PaP gives a different PaP camo. Players normally need to complete an easter egg to access the PaP machine.

  • Easter Eggs: The storyline can be followed upon by completing easter eggs that each map has to offer. These easter eggs are complicated set of steps' that players must discover on their own when the maps are released. The easter eggs are completely optional, but for a full Zombies experience, it is highly recommended to do them.

    Some maps also offer side-easter eggs for extra added gameplay advantage when fighting hordes of Zombies.

  • Wonder Weapon: A Wonder Weapon is an incredibly powerful weapon that is unique and special in its own way. Each map has its own Wonder Weapon and is always used to complete the map easter egg in one way or another.
    Chrysalax Wonder Weapon on the map Forsaken in Black Ops Cold War

    Wonder Weapons also have their own set of steps or easter eggs to be acquired.

  • Round-Based Maps: Before the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, there were only round-based maps, meaning you needed to kill a certain number of Zombies to progress through rounds and stay alive for as long as possible. It was during Cold War that the infamous Outbreak mode was released - more on that below.

    Round-based maps are the fundamental feature of any Zombies in the entirety of Call of Duty, which makes up the Zombies mode.

  • Perks: Perks are special features in the Zombies mode that helps players by giving them different traits such as sprint speed, faster reload speed, increased critical damage, and more health. All of these perks help the players fend off the undead.
    Mule Kick Perk Machine on the map Mauer Der Toten in Black Ops Cold War

Why Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies is a step backward

The above-listed features have been the core elements of any Zombies mode throughout the history of Call of Duty: Zombies. But, with the release of Vanguard, these features were all entirely removed from the mode except the perks, but even the perk system has been changed.

The perk system of Cold War included gathering crystals by playing the Zombies mode, and then utilizing those crystals to permanently upgrade the perk tiers to make them even stronger and more valuable.

Jugger-Nog Perk tier upgrades in Black Ops Cold War

The tier upgrade system has been removed from Vanguard, and instead, the base level of the perks can be bought from the perk fountains for free and then upgraded to a higher tier by spending points at the same perk fountain. Each tier stacks up to make the perk stronger. To buy all five perks fully upgraded, the players need to spend 75,000 points. That is a considerable jump from the 47,500 points required to buy all ten perks (fully upgraded) in Cold War! By the time you've purchased all the perks, the Zombies have also grown just as strong and take the fun out of the game.

Fiendish Fortitute (Jugger-Nog) Perk Fountain in Call of Duty: Vanguard Zombies

Another classic feature included proning next to the perk machines to get an extra 100 points, this feature has also been removed.

It all started with the introduction of the new Outbreak mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, which was a new "open-world" map for Zombies in Cold War. There was multiple large-scaled maps called regions where the players must loot and complete objectives to progress through the rounds and different regions.

Golova region in Outbreak mode

It was new, and while players enjoyed it initially, it quickly got boring after a while. In our opinion, Outbreak doesn't have any replayability. Replayability is in round-based maps with easter eggs, which Vanguard does not have!

What we have in Vanguard is a mixture of Outbreak and round-based maps which don't work too well. There is a central hub with access to pretty much everything, including the PaP machine. Yup, that's right. No easter egg to build the PaP machine. Players teleport to different small maps using the teleporters around the central hub and complete objectives similar to those seen in Cold War's Outbreak mode.

Teleporter in the central hub which takes the players to the objective called 'Transmit' in Vanguard Zombies

There are only three objectives at launch, and it doesn't even have any main or side easter egg to keep the Zombie players engaged for more than ten rounds. According to the developers, Outbreak had equally as many players as round-based maps during the life cycle of the Cold War.

They clearly wanted to cater to the new player base and more casual players. The hardcore Zombies fans who have been playing the game ever since World at War are not happy with the recent changes and toned-down version of the mode.

But here's the real problem, in Vanguard, the overall "map" designs are not that good considering the jump in difficulty between each round. It is especially critical when you get to Round 10 and above. I've managed to play through to rounds 15-16 from launch day, and certain objectives like transmit gets tough on high rounds. Your space in certain maps is very limited, and you cannot even properly train the Zombies around. So Treyarch's efforts to make the game mode more accessible for the casuals might not work this year unless they push an update with changes reducing the difficulty level.

A floating zombie head during the Transmit objective

What changed from Cold War?

Everything. People loved the Cold War gameplay mechanics. Players finally started to like Zombies again, the popularity of which had been declining since it peaked with Black Ops III Zombies. But, despite seeing the positive feedback, they just went ahead and changed literally everything people loved about Cold War Zombies.

General consensus says that the Zombies player base wants the Black Ops III Zombies easter eggs coupled with the new Cold War/Vanguard gameplay. And without a doubt, that would be one of the best Zombies experiences.

During Black Ops III, there was a DLC packed called Zombies Chronicles (ZC). This DLC pack contained eight classic remastered maps from the Call of Duty titles we had before Black Ops III. ZC took the fandom by storm, and the Zombies community was genuinely enjoying the release.

Zombies Chronicles promotional poster

Now, people are requesting Zombies Chronicles 2 with remastered maps but on Cold War. Gameplay-wise, Black Ops 3 Zombies was not that great. Cold War Zombies has been the smoothest Zombies game to date.

And that's pretty much the state of Zombies as of now. You can sort of get an idea of why the Zombies' community might be mad about the new Vanguard Zombies. We do understand that the game is still in its pre-season stage and hope that the Zombies' mode picks up as the Vanguard life cycle progresses, and we get to see more round-based maps.

Meanwhile, the Multiplayer community is thoroughly enjoying the mode. It is possibly one of the best Multiplayer releases in a very long time, and even Zombie players are jumping on the Multiplayer mode, including me!

Hassan Sajid

Gaming has been a part of Hassan’s life for as long as he can remember. Not only does he game well, but he also keeps his eyes open for gaming-related content to make in-depth guides and is always keen to share his game experiences. He graduated with a degree in engineering from the National University Science & Technology (formerly known as Caledonian College of Engineering). The research and technical writing skills he earned throughout his time in the university have allowed him to contribute to the gaming community by creating in-depth guides for gamers all over the world. Find Hassan on LinkedIn or find him gaming on Steam.
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