Until recently, I’ve always noticed that iPhone games are inferior to their console counterparts, generally mimicking gameplay in a less user friendly and intuitive manner. This isn’t necessarily a hinderence to good gameplay, but for the first few years of the App Store, I don’t believe the iPhone could really compete with traditional gaming consoles outside of the casual category.
Over the past year or so, a new culture of gaming has emerged. Games have vastly improved and started to provide near identical gameplay to their more dedicated console brethren. One such game is Call of Duty: Black Ops Zombies, which brings a very similar set of gameplay mechanics and maps to the iPhone.
In the game, the player must fight off hoards of zombies who are trying to break into an abandoned theatre. By killing zombies, players earn points which can be used to open up new areas of the map as well as purchase weaponry and perks in order to better their chances against the strengthening undead. There is no end, and players will need to continue fighting around the map until they are killed. If you enjoy this kind of endless gameplay then you’ll love Black Ops Zombies, but not everyone does.
Unfortunately, the game is slow to start off during the first few levels. Zombies are easily killed and their presence is very limited in the first three or so rounds and you’ll eventually become bored as you wait for the more challenging modes to commence.
The game ships with only one map, Kino der Toten. Out of all the Zombies maps available across platforms, this remains my favourite and I love its incarnation on the iPhone. This particular map is set in an abandoned theatre that is being invaded by zombies, as part of a running storyline in Treyarch’s Zombies games. Although this is the only map included, more will be added at a later date including Ascension, which will be very welcome.
Controls were a big issue in World at War Zombies (a prequel of sorts to COD: Black Ops Zombies) and i’ve found them to be a lot better in Black Ops. It’s always going to be a challenge to bring a first-person shooter to a touch interface, but I feel that the developers have done an amicable job here. It’s certainly not perfect, but Black Ops gives you three options to offer you a control system that best suits you.
The touch option, which requires to you swipe across the screen to rotate the camera, is horrible, and I do not recommend it at all. Similarly, the sticks option attempts to mimic the traditional console controller but isn’t a fantastic system.
My favourite control option is Tilt, which allows you to use the iPhone’s accelerometer to roam the map through the use of a virtual analog stick to control movement and tilting to control direction. This takes a while to get used to, but it definitely feels like the most intuitive on a device like an iPhone.
Dead Ops Arcade
Black Ops also includes a bonus gameplay mode, Dead Ops Arcade, which plays much more like traditional iPhone games. As the name suggests, it’s much more like a retro arcade game. Here, the player has a bird’s eye view of the map where the player must still attempt to execute waves of zombies while collecting perks that drop during the game and progressing through the map.
Dead Ops Arcade is a nice bonus, but certainly isn’t the main attraction of the app. I just don’t find this mode of gameplay very entertaining at all, especially when it’s packaged with Kino Der Toten.
Graphics and Audio
If you played World at War Zombies on iOS, you’ll notice the significant upgrade as soon as you start playing Black Ops. Graphics look great and, while not excellent, are at the same level as most other iOS games. Black Ops does still suffer from “jagged edge syndrome” due to a lack of significant anti-aliasing in parts, but this is still at a much smaller degree than in other games on the platform. Don’t expect console-level graphics, but don’t underestimate the game’s presentation, either.
The soundtrack and audio of Black Ops is another major strength, carrying over much of the same content from the game on other platforms. The beautifully creepy theme blasts out of your phone’s speakers in much the same way it does to those paired with your TV and the trademark Demonic Announcer still narrates your game. The soundtrack is one of, if not the, best game soundtrack i’ve heard on iOS.
I’ve really enjoyed playing Black Ops Zombies, especially due to console-like gameplay. As I’ve stressed, this is not a mobile spinoff; it’s on par with the Zombies game you know and love from other platforms. While not leading the pack, the graphics in Black Ops Zombies look chiefly great and the soundtrack is superb.
The Kino Der Toten map is just the start, and I can’t wait to see more maps released for the game, particularly Moon, the largest Zombies map to date (although, I should note, there’s no indication that that particular map is indeed coming in a future update).
If you want a serious game for your iPhone, Black Ops Zombies will be a fantastic choice and, even at $6.99, it’s fantastic value for your hard-earned cash.