Black Ops 2 Zombies mode is an undead road trip across a massive map

By Andrew Yoon, Sep 26, 2012 10:00am PDT

What we expected: the return of zombies in Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. What we didn't expect: for it to be a massive "open world" of sorts. The developer has finally unveiled its ambitious plans for Black Ops 2 zombies--and it is a game unto itself.

The centerpiece of Treyarch's new zombie offering is a mode called "Tranzit." Like before, this is a co-op story mode meant for 1-4 players. However, it now takes place in an expansive world, one that encourages exploration. "Imagine a world where there isn't just one area, but multiple areas and there's land in between that," studio head Mark Lamia described to us.

To get around the world, you'll probably need a ride. That's where the bus comes in.

You'll be able to use the bus to go around on a post-apocalyptic road trip. And because there are so many destinations to choose from, your approach to the game's adventure will drastically change from previous games. "It is an open area you can approach in many different ways. We've exploded the number of strategies you can use," Lamia promised.

Of course, while the bus can give you shelter on your trip, it is also a confined space--something that will undoubtedly cause issues for players on their journey. Some players may choose to go on their trek through the fog on foot. While there is the potential to get sweet loot by hoofing it, there's also the potential of running into terrible danger, of course.

Not only does Tranzit introduce a large world map, it adds a few new gameplay mechanics. There are four new playable characters, new zombie types to face, and new weapons that include some of the future-tech of Black Ops 2's campaign. There's also some "wonder weapons" that are "magical" in nature. And if that's not enough for you, there's even a crafting system that allows you to create new items from objects you collect in the environment. These can be put together to form weapons, or grant you access to previously unreachable areas of the world.

These riot shields look taped together...

Tranzit is a thoroughly massive undertaking, and it's just one of the three zombie-themed modes included in Black Ops 2. "Survival" is for the fan that prefers the classic single-map gameplay offered by Treyarch's previous games. Players take on the undead on "custom made" areas, carved out from the larger Tranzit mode.

"Grief" is the final mode, and it turns the co-op zombie experience into a competitive one. Described as "4z4," it puts a team of four humans against another team of four… against an onslaught of zombies. The CIA and CDC are fighting each other, but neither party is allowed to shoot at each other. Instead, you will use the zombies to "grief" the other team.

All three zombie modes can be customized as well. For example, the impatient can set the starting round to bypass the slow buildup in difficulty. You can also enable specific challenges, like headshots-only. You can also disable the game's magic items, if you want a more realistic zombie survival mode. You can also set the difficulty in single-player, if you just want a casual zombie romp.

The zombie modes in Black Ops 2 now use the game's multiplayer engine, giving it many features that were once reserved for Call of Duty's other online modes. For example, there will be a tremendous amount of stat tracking, and leaderboards based on a variety of different conditions. Treyarch also promises there will be "improved matchmaking," allowing similarly-skilled players to go against the zombies.

What once started as a bonus easter egg in World at War has now blossomed into an undertaking that is as large as many standalone games. The zombies mode of Black Ops 2 is going far beyond its predecessors--and it looks as though fans will want to eat it all up.

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