Activision seems to be continuing the least liked part of their deal with Sony, giving owners of the PlayStation 4 and 5 exclusive access to a new zombies mode for the first year of the game’s lifespan.
Titled “Zombies Onslaught” the mode has players drop into multiplayer maps in squads of two as they try to survive the zombie horde spawned from a Dark Aether Orb.
Players will still be able to drop in with their preferred weapon, showing Treyarch is fully committed to letting players use their custom loadouts in zombies. The Dark Aether Orb traps players in a specific location in the map in a similar manner to any battle royale’s circle. Killing zombies will power the Orb, which will in turn cause it to spawn tougher enemies and also change locations after a set number of kills.
At higher levels, the Orb also spawns Elite enemies that are more powerful than the regular zombies you’ll encounter. From the PlayStation blog post about the mode, it sounds like Elite enemies could down players almost instantly as well.
The mode apparently has a scoring mechanic more akin to something like the Spec Ops mode from Modern Warfare 2, with earnable Bronze, Silver, or Gold rankings “based on the number of Elites you and your partner can defeat.” It isn’t clear if they’re the only things that count towards score, but the blog post certainly makes it seem that way.
It seems like PlayStation players will also be able to earn special rewards from the mode that can be used in regular zombies or multiplayer, which could make for an interesting balancing problem for Treyarch. If the rewards are too strong, PlayStation players will have a clear advantage in those modes for no reason other than being on the platform. Make the reward too weak, and there’s essentially no reason to bother with the mode. I don’t envy Treyarch in this case.
While we don’t know anything else about the mode, combined with the rumors that Ludwig Maxis is making a return in this game, it seems like the Aether storyline we’ve been following since the original Black Ops game might not be as finished as we originally thought.
Of course, that’s ignoring the issues with the year-long exclusivity this mode has, and what it ultimately means for the health of not only this mode, but the game as a whole. Modern Warfare (2019) kept the Survival mode exclusive to PlayStation for the first year of the game’s lifespan, and Xbox and PC players are only just getting their hands on, and we’re seeing the next entry in the franchise dropping in less than a month.
Console exclusivity like this damages a game’s lifespan, especially since this mode has exclusive rewards and will be tied to PlayStation for a year. How much content is this mode going to see over the first year? If it’s enough to satisfy PlayStation players, odds are that there’s going to be less content when it comes to multiplayer and zombies. It takes time, resources, and manpower to create maps, weapons, and the textures and everything else tied to them. If it isn’t a significant amount of content to keep players playing the mode, then there’s no reason for people to interact with it or market it. When it comes to this, I’m looking at it in the same way as the exclusive rewards from the mode. Treyarch has a difficult balance to manage with this mode, and I can’t imagine it’s going to go well at first.
All in all, PlayStation players have another reason to celebrate the new game’s release, while the rest of the Call of Duty community is left wondering just how much longer we’re going to see these lengthy exclusivity deals before someone at Activision realizes that they’ll probably make more money by not having it in place.
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