Black Ops 6 zombies is going back to basics with round-based play, dedicated operators, and self-contained maps as Treyarch set out "to create the best version of zombies"

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(Image credit: Activision)

There's one thing Treyarch wants you to understand about co-op in Call of Duty: Black Ops 6: "round-based Zombies is returning." The once-beloved game mode has undergone some amount of mutation in recent years, arguably losing its identity as a variety of Call of Duty installments attempted to expand its scope of play – from the injection of generic multiplayer Operators to the integration of a broader survival-sandbox experience. 

From what I have seen of Black Ops 6 so far, Treyarch and Raven are making a concerted effort to reconnect with what made this sub-series of games so iconic to begin with. The same is true of the Black Ops 6 zombies experience, and associate design director Kevin Drew tells me that his team "really set out to create the best version of zombies" that we've seen in years. 


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Dawn of the dead

Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 screenshot

(Image credit: Activision)

"Part of that is refining what we established in Black Ops Cold War, but it's also about looking to our past – at the elements we thought worked really well that we wanted to bring back," says Drew. Perhaps the best place to begin is with the maps: two will be available at launch this fall, Liberty Falls and Terminus. "Each one offers a very different experience, and serves different narrative and gameplay purposes." 

Drew describes Liberty Falls as "an iconic zombies location" in the making, one where you'll be fighting across a small town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains – the site of Dark Aether incursion, the undead running amok across its abandoned bowling alleys, '90s diners, and comic book shops. Terminus, on the other hand, is a nighttime assault on a remote prison island in the Pacific Ocean: "It's dark, it's broody, and it's a very deep and complex map."

"Each map offers a very different experience, and serves different narrative and gameplay purposes"

Kevin Drew

There's a refined focus on story in the Black Ops 6 Zombies mode too. For starters, Drew tells me that between Terminus and Liberty Falls Treyarch will be "covering a simultaneous situation, telling a story of two places at the same time." As for what those stories are, we've only got the smallest of hints. "At the end of Black Ops Cold War story, we left you on a big cliffhanger. The Director of Requiem, which is the organization that you were working for, was revealed to be none other than Edward Richtofen – a historical figure in zombies of questionable intent. He immediately betrays the entire group, sending all of our handlers to a remote prison. We now pick up five years later, where Dr. Peck – a slightly reformed villain from previous games – is starting a rescue mission to break the crew out of that prison." 

With that backdrop we get around to perhaps one of the most notable shifts: the return of a zombie-specific crew of Operators. "These are our four Operators who are going to be featured in the Zombies story. You can still use any Operator, but when you use these four within our maps, you're going to get a much deeper experience – not only will they feature in the cinematics where we tell our story, but there will be specific and additional VO too," says Drew. 

There's still plenty more we need to see of Black Ops 6 Zombies, and Treyarch has only shared the smallest hint of gameplay, but what I'm hearing so far is certainly positive. Zombies as a concept has become a little bloated, but at its heart is a wonderful concept with the potential to generate nearly endless amounts of good times with the right crew. With Treyarch pointing back to that time, this renewed iteration has all the promise in the world. 

Josh West
Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar+. He has over 15 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.