New Skills, Perks And Upgrades In Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Zombies Revealed

Activision and Treyarch have given players a deeper look into what gameplay we can expect for the Zombies mode of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (first announced here). Perks, skills and upgrades have been baked into the sub-series' DNA since the very beginning, and no new incarnation of the fan-favorite mode would be complete without these. That said, this latest take on Zombies isn't just a rehash, and the developers have a lot of innovations and surprises up their sleeves.


Perks and skill tiers will be the backbone of your build in Zombies, and can be sued to tailor your operator to your play style. At launch, there will be six Zombies-specific perks for you to equip, all named after some kind of beverage, which you can upgrade over the course of the matches - permanently. The new skill tiers system will allow you to power up your favorite perks to be even more effective against the hordes of undead.

The six starting perks mostly draw from the series' past, but one of them is all new:

  • Stamin-Up: Buffs run and sprint speed.
  • Speed Cola: Buffs reload speed by 15%
  • Jugger-Nog: Buffs max health by 50.
  • Quick Revive: Health regeneration speed is doubled, revival speed is halved.
  • Deadshot Daquiri: Scope sway eliminated, aim assist increased
  • Elemental Pop (New): Every shot fired has a low chance of applying a random Ammo Mod effect.

Elemental Pop adds a nice bit of RNG to the gameplay, giving each shot a chance to be augmented by some kind of special modifier, which is bound to ramp up the excitement during tougher fights - maybe fortune will bless you with that life-saving incendiary effect at the exact right moment. We imagine this perk will be a favorite among content creators for the wow factor.

Zombies will use Aetherium Crystals as its 'currency' with which you can buy weapon upgrades, equipment and Perk upgrades. Skill Tiers give each perk 3 purchasable levels of upgrades, each further increasing the effectiveness of the given Perk. These tiers aren't as simple as increasing the percentages or stats of the perk, but add new angles to their functionality as well. So far Activision has only revealed the tiers of the new Elemental Pop Perk:

  1. Equipment Damage also has a chance to get a random Ammo Mod effect.
  2. Ammo Mod cooldowns are reduced by 20%.
  3. Random Ammo Mod effects use current skill tier instead of Base.

Perks aren't alone with having Skill Tiers, as the 3rd tier above hints. Just about everything your operator can do and has access to can be upgraded, including Ammo Mods, Field Upgrades, proficiency with Weapon Classes and more. Additionally, more Perks will be added to the game over the months following launch. Don't expect RPG levels of character customization, or even RPG-Lite, but there will be plenty of ways to tailor the game to your preferred style. RPG-Lite-Lite, maybe?

The weapon system has been given a good once-over by the development team to clear up past confusions over what gun is best in what situation - the solution was to make any weapon the best, depending on rarity. This new system attaches a rarity stat to every weapon bought off the Buy Wall or found in Mystery Boxes, which can be Common/Loadout, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, or Legendary. This stat affects the damage boost compared to Loadout weapons, as well as the number of randomized attachments on each gun. While Uncommon guns have a 50% boost and 2 attachments, Legendary weapons pack 300% more punch and is tricked out with 8 attachments.

The Buy Wall has been tweaked to give a higher % chance of getting funky attachments that make the purchase more worthwhile, and Mystery Boxes have increases chances for rolling higher rarity weapons to skew the gambling in your favor a wee bit, with the chances increasing even further as the rounds drag on. You're less likely to find yourself in a situation where you get lucky with your first box only to roll trash for the rest of the game - the longer you survive, the better and better weapons will drop.

The same Custom Loadouts from Multiplayer and Warzone that you know and love will be usable in Zombies as well, so that facing down the shambling hordes won't mean leaving your carefully crafted build behind. This means all of your unlocked cosmetics, weapons and more will be usable in Zombies - with the caveat that your loadout weapons will be of the Common rarity starting out. You can keep upgrading your loadout weapon as the match progresses, but this is still implemented to promote the use of mystery boxes.

Field Upgrades in Zombies will be a little more wild than the multiplayer mode which is grounded in reality. Fitting the Dark Aether setting, these upgrades will pack more of a punch and serve to turn the tide in your favor when you are being overrun. Field Upgrades can mean the difference between victory and a grisly death, and are appropriately scarce, so you'll need to make sure to use them at the right moment lest they get wasted.

  • Ring of Fire: Summons an ethereal blaze around you, boosting damage and harming any normal enemy that steps inside. Lasts 15 seconds.
  • Frost Burst: Summons an icy wind causing frost damage and slowing enemies. Affected enemies become brittle, increasing damage taken.
  • Healing Aura: You are your allies are healed back to full health.
  • Aether Shroud: Become invisible for 5 seconds.
  • Energy Mine: Plant an explosive of pure Aether energy which detonates for massive damage when enemies get close.

Armor works a little differently than shields did back in previous iterations, this time being a full-body defense that protects from damage coming in from any direction. It drops occasionally from enemies, but usually is bought with salvage, and can be partially repaired with armor shards. Armor doesn't negate damage, just decreases the intensity - the degree to which can be upgraded as the match progresses, and you will definitely need it.

Since Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is unifying progression across Multiplayer, Warzone and Zombies, this was the perfect opportunity for the developers to bring Scorestreaks into this game mode as well. The same Support and Scorestreaks used in the more down-to-earth modes will be usable against the undead as well, giving you a familiar tool in your arsenal to unleash when it is most needed:

These Supports can appear in Mystery Boxes too, and the ones that temporarily relieve you of control over your operator - like Chopper Gunner - have been tweaked to also grant temporary invulnerability, allowing Solo players to make use of them too. Another way to boost your chances of survival is by keeping an eye out for crafting materials that drop from killed enemies, as the items you can put together will become increasingly necessary for victory as the rounds drag on.

The Exfil system was hinted at in the original Zombies reveal, but now Activision has detailed how it will work. After Round 10, and every 5 rounds from then on, the option to use a radio in the starting area to call for an evacuation will be available. This needs a majority vote in co-op matches to trigger, and is a great way to end the match with special rewards if you can't take the heat anymore. Calling for Exfil will spawn a massive wave of zombies, and your objective is to get to the evac zone within the time limit, clear out the zombies from said zone and board the chopper.

Activision also brought the ping system used in Warzone to Zombies, making quick, non-verbal communication much easier with your squad.

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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