Call of Duty’s Zombies mode gets a retooling. The changes, well, aren’t as inspired as one would hope.

Alert the presses: Another Call of Duty arrives next month. The tenth game overall and sixth developed by Infinity Ward, Ghosts borrows Battlefield‘s passion for collapsing buildings amid other changes meant to spice up multiplayer. Which has become a challenge as the franchise reaches a decade old.

Evolving on the co-operative nature has been a priority for the various studios involved. A zombies survival mode may not have fit into the image of a military shooter, but it exploded in popularity. For Black Ops, Treyarch included both multiplayer and cooperative maps in DLC packs. Rezurrection was zombies-specific. This has been a growing problem for not just Call of Duty either; most of the industry has had to battle the resurgence of non-competitive centric modes since Epic brought out Horde for Gears of War.

But as Call of Duty ages, concocting novel or innovative ideas becomes a problem. Especially for a series that relies on a formula that has so far worked. Infinity Ward, tasked with creating the successor to one of the most profitable titles of all-time, needed inspiration. It underwent a long and difficult search for an idea different from terrorists and zombies. Something to shoot that wouldn’t generate controversy nor make players naturally xenophobic. What is that target? Aliens.

Yes, Infinity Ward went Hollywood. In a new mode titled “Extinction”, players fight against otherworldly visitors in what Ghosts‘ Facebook page calls “co-op survival madness, with aliens.” It’s a move taken directly from Hollywood’s playbook: When producers run out of things for their protagonists to murder, aliens enter the picture. Or, what everyone else calls “that time those guys ran out of ideas”.

If Activision plans on stealing back the bragging rights crown from Grand Theft Auto 5, who knows, Aliens might be the way to go. Zombies was nearly as outrageous, and it ended up reinvigorating the Call of Duty brand. It gives players a reprieve from a hectic multiplayer mode. But what does this say about Activision’s collection of studios creatively? Do they expect to substitute one aspect for another annually and expect players to continue purchasing? I don’t think so.

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  • Jay Dorsey

    The survival mode in MW3 wasn’t nearly as fun as Zombies. I’d be surprised if the Aliens fared any better. But who knows? Maybe it’s just the right touch of Halo to make it stand out.

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