Treyarch’s latest Black Ops 2 DLC offering “Uprising” was recently released on Xbox Live (16th April) after a much hyped marketing campaign that featured the talents of Peter Stormare and Malukah in addition to out of control rumors about everything from cast to content. So let’s discuss what’s on offer before we all part ways with our hard(ly) earned cash.
The DLC contains 4 new multiplayer maps in a diverse set of locations and a new Zombies map “Mob of the dead” which I’m sure will prove to be a lure for many would-be Zombies fans. But first, the multiplayer maps.
Magma is a short to medium range map set in a Japanese village at the foot of a volcano spewing copious amounts of lava, which acts as a map hazard. Visually, the map looks fairly impressive with minor details that are easy to overlook in the heat of battle not to mention, a very bright colour scheme which breaks the greys and browns of the standard maps, it’s good to see Treyarch break out their junior paint box. The lava in particular, whilst having a generic texture (most likely for performance reasons) does project an impressive orange glow onto nearby structures. This asymmetrical map plays well on most gametypes with 6-12 players and caters for multiple play styles such as close range assaults through the buildings and wreckage that flank the sides of the map or medium range engagements across the bridge in the middle of the map and it will be interesting to see how the community adapts their tactics to this. This is actually my favourite of the new maps.
Studio is a recreation of the map Firing Range from Black Ops 1. Although not personally a fan of the concept of resurrection of old content, I have to give Treyarch credit for the way they brought this back. Whilst the structure has been retained and it plays in a similar fashion to the original, a complete visual pallet swap has been performed with the dreary communist era target range replaced with a Hollywood movie set, complete with a Dinosaur and Castle. The trailer did hype this map up a little more than it really lives up to, particularly with camera cuts that showed it’s more of it’s aesthetic beauty than playability, but veterans of the series will no doubt remember and love this map.
Vertigo is a short-range map built on a skyscraper towering over India. This is the only map in which I could actually establish a link between it and the campaign of Black Ops 2, as appears to belong to the Tacitus Corporation, which are responsible producing for the Drones in the in-game canon. Several Drone models and even a parked VTOL warship can actually be seen on that map which acts as the backdrop for this map which offers intense, fast-paced close range skirmishes. Objective gametypes such as Hardpoint and Domination play fairly well on this map in addition to Team Deathmatch and Kill Confirmed. Though, if you do have the opportunity to avoid playing this in a larger playlist, I would, unless you’re perfectly happy to spend most of your time spawning back in. Here’s a fun trick for some of you antisocial types, use smoke grenades near the edges of the map that do not have guardrails, mistakes will be made.
Encore, this last multiplayer map on offer is sent in jolly old London, England in a futuristic open-air music venue alongside the River Thames. The map is a little reminiscent of Stadium from the “First Strike” DLC of the first Black Ops game and offers both short to mid-range battles with good defensible points for objective gametypes. The map is actually much more visually adventurous out-of-bounds where numerous London landmarks can be observed in addition to the futuristic structures. (Maybe the coalition government won’t be so bad for us, after all).
Now for the Pièce de résistance:
Mob of the Dead
We’ve previously had Zombies DLC in all sorts of flavours. We’ve had stories, traveled the globe/through time and even been to the moon. This time around, we take on the undead in the legendary prison of Alcatraz in the prohibition era as inmates of questionable backgrounds.
The game begins with an opening cinematic where we are introduced to our four protagonists:
Albert “The Weasel” Arlington – A mob money-man voiced by Joe Pantoliano.
Billy Handsome – A mafia hit-man voiced by Ray Liotta
Michael “Finn” O’Leary - A gambling cheater voiced by Michael Madsen
Salvatore “Sal” DeLuca – A mafia boss voiced by Chazz Palminteri
You’ll notice here, that all these characters are portrayed by established actors à la Call of the Dead. But it feels a lot less gimmicky in “Mob of the Dead” as these actors are true bastions of the crime film genre with roles in films such as Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, Donnie Brasco, Midnight Run and Reservoir Dogs. Their characters do seem genuine portrayals of prohibition-era gangsters in the moulds of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, which really works with this narrative creating an immersive experience of a prison break.
The map itself is very well-designed and built, although much smaller than recent Zombies maps it utilizes the space much more efficiently with impressive visuals that accurately recreate the once most-feared prison in America, whilst bringing a series of visual effects and textures that show some serious zombie-related apocalypse is going down. The vast array of underground sections and prison blocks make it possible to get lost creating potentially intense moments of being mobbed. Traps also make a long awaited return in three new varieties: Acid, Fan blades and Sniper tower.
The weapons and perks remain largely unchanged with the standard wall weapons and box weapons. However, the Tommy gun makes a return as a wall weapon and the Death Machine makes a return in the mystery box. The new weapon this time is the Blundergat, which is a exceptionally powerful wonder weapon that is upgradable using both the pack-a-punch machine and crafting tables. In addition to this, a new perk aimed at getting players out of tight spots Electric cherry which creates an area of effect lightning around the player when they reload their weapon. Although these new elements are exciting the first few times, they only seem useful in certain situations.
The game has more Easter Eggs than a supermarket in January, including the music of Johnny Cash which is eerily appropriate and Malukah who featured in the marketing campaign. There are also story essential Easter Eggs that drive the plot based around the prison escape, including the construction of a plane among other buildables.
The biggest innovation is that of Afterlife mode, which won’t be elaborated on too much for plot reasons, but when a player is downed or chooses to down themselves they will enter an ethereal state where they have the ability to phase through certain impediments and power-up objects before returning to their body. This creates a brand new experience and will undoubtedly spark a revolution in how the zombies game mode is played, especially if this is the direction Treyarch will proceed in with future DLC.
Mob of the Dead also features the game mode grief on a smaller map with a Guards v Cons slant for the passive-aggressive types among the player base.
In conclusion, Mob of the Dead represents the biggest leap forward in the Zombies series, nothing short of a triumph and in my opinion would have been worth the total cost of DLC on its own, but don’t you get any ideas Activision!
“Uprising” costs 1200 Microsoft Points and is available now on Xbox Live. (Note – If you bought the season pass, you’ve already paid for it.)