The Zombie Game: Will Activision Step Up?

I’m happy to admit that I only continue play Call Of Duty: Black Ops (when PSN isn’t down) because of the zombie mode. Despite the mighty scope of the multiplayer, it’s the ceaseless blasting of zombie limbs that draws the Black Ops portion of my gaming time, even though it’s pretty much just an extra third of an otherwise large title.

The thing is that I don’t like survival horror games, or anything to do with them. The gratuitous amounts of blood and imaginative gore, the grotesque monsters that drool and gurgle, the barely functioning weaponry, and the chilling atmosphere, it’s not my thing. Zombies normally are traditionally associated with the horror genre and yet since discovering the mini-zombie game within the Treyarch CoD canon, I find the gameplay appealing in the way they’ve presented it. It’s a take on the genre that I can suddenly connect with.

In Treyarch’s undead pits, gameplay doesn’t consist of people screaming in agony, ammo being scavenged a couple of bullets at a time, or monsters trapping you in badly lit kitchens. It’s all about feeling like a badass fending off an entire army of flesh eating pasty folk with the biggest and noisiest guns you can get a hold of. The attitude isn’t avoid it’s confront. It started as a bit of light hearted fun, and more of an experimental parody on the main game, but now it is getting to the stage where gamers are looking straight at the next zombie map when DLC is announced.

Whatever it is that makes the Treyarch zombie formula so enjoyable could be examined and discussed for hours and hours, but the thing that puzzles and interests me is this: why don’t Activision give Treyarch and co. licence to expand their survival mode into a fully fledged self-contained spin off title? It’s arguably the most unique thing about CoD at the moment, and it’s immensely popular.

The most obvious barrier would be the fear of fragmenting their audience and potentially damaging the sales of regular CoD titles (let’s face it they plan to keep on going for quite a while), but then that is not adhering to a goal of progressing the bread and butter of gameplay experience, it’s a financial bridge. Of course they have to think about money, but I for one want them to think about the gamers and perhaps some creativity? It’s not like they wouldn’t be able to bounce back.

Honestly now, think for a second about what sort of game they might produce if they were given the freedom to do so. Think of how they could develop the half chewed narrative and craft it into a clever collection of enigmas, offer twenty maps which might overlap in some way (or perhaps not, novelty maps and silly situations would be welcome too), substantial inventive additions to the core gameplay, it could be fantastic. Ideas could be taken further and new mechanics introduced to create even more depth and challenge.

Just how to present such a package would be the trickiest bit, and how to dress it up and hold it all together pleasingly – but look at what Valve did from the Orange Box to Portal 2. It can be done. I for one would be very interested in such a game, if they ever were bold enough to break off from the repetitive instalments of Call Of Duty, would anyone else? Seriously.

They’re showing us that they have a slightly different take on the whole zombie universe, and they’ve demonstrated just how good their ideas are in fewer than dozen maps. Are developers paying attention to this explicit consumer demand? If Activision doesn’t do it under their banner then someone else may well just beat them to it…and take the winnings. What are your thoughts folks?