Treyarch brought back their much-loved zombie survival mode from 2008's "Call of Duty: World at War" for their just-released latest entry in the series, "Black Ops." For a first-time player, the rules seem simple enough: gun down wave after wave of the walking dead through a series of barriers, fixing entry points as needed and doing your best not to end the day passing through whatever functions as a digestive tract in an animated corpse. As anyone who embraced the mode in "World at War" knows however, if you start a Zombies match without a rough strategy for survival in your head, making it to double-digit rounds becomes a remote possibility.
This guide is for those who are just starting out with Zombies and want a little bit of an extra edge. What follows are some general strategies for surviving the onslaught as well as map-specific tips for the two new areas featured in "Black Ops."
GENERAL TIPS FOR SURVIVING THE ZOMBIE HORDES
Safety In Numbers
If zombie movies have taught us anything, it's that going it alone is a very, VERY bad idea. So make sure you've got at least one friend to bring along into your match, preferably two or three. The more eyes you've got, the better the chances of preventing or plugging those zombie breaches before they get out of hand.
Much of the tension in Zombies comes from having to manage your limited resources. All players start with a pistol and 500 points to spend, enough on either map to buy a rifle or a shotgun. Feel free to pick one up, but don't bother using it until round three or four. Rely on your trusty knife melee attack instead. First-round zombies go down with one knife swipe, second-round zombies with two, and so on. To maximize your points, put 6 pistol bullets into each zombie BEFORE knifing it into re-death.
One of the scariest words you can hear over your headset when playing Zombies is "Breach!" The zombies have broken through one or more barriers and are now streaming into the relative safety of your play area. If you plan it right however, a breach can be a good thing. During the early rounds when your knife is still a valuable weapon, position yourself so you can cover one or more windows and let them come. Downed zombies will sometimes drop power-ups, but only if they've breached; what you're looking for in the early going is a x2 point boost.
Crawlers Are Your Friends
"Crawler" refers to a still-functioning zombie who has had his legs blown off by an explosive blast (not to be confused with the gas-spewing Nova zombies in "Black Ops" which do, in fact, crawl). Creating a crawler and keeping it alive at the end of a round is an invaluable strategy; they're slow, the slowest enemy in the game, and easily avoided. A round won't end until ALL zombies are put down, so make your adorable, little crawler and then run around re-upping your ammo, buying new weapons and opening doors without the hassle of a pursuing horde. Beware though: crawlers will simply expire on their own after awhile. If you suddenly hear the round-ending guitar riff, quickly regroup with your team and prepare for the next onslaught.
Roll The Dice On Random Boxes
Only a handful of firearms are available on the walls of your play area. As valuable as those locations are for offering the ability to buy more ammo, the most powerful weapons in the game -- including each map's unique gun -- are only available from the Random Box. Spend 950 points and the box will spit a random firearm out. You don't HAVE TO take it -- and probably shouldn't if it's a sniper rifle, pistol or the like -- but this is your only option for getting a hold of the zombie-ending alien Ray Gun or either map's unique Wonder Weapon.
Silent But Deadly
Nova zombies are the worst. They crawl on all fours, giving them a lower-profile. They're fast little buggers. Worst of all, they emit a cloud of toxic, vision-distorting gas when downed... UNLESS you take them out with a knife or a Ray Gun blast. Unless you've got the latter from a lucky Random Box roll, your best bet is to take them out from a distance.
This one really ought to go without saying. The only way to survive in "Black Ops" Zombies is to function as a group. Resist the temptation to wander off. Work with your team. Shout out breaches. Take turns spending points to open doors. Cooperation is necessary for survival.
Kino Der Toten -- Map-Specific Strategies
Every five or so rounds you'll hear different music signaling the coming of hellhounds, which some might remember from "World at War." These pooches won't ever appear WITH zombies; they get their own round. Your best bet for taking on the dog is to pull out a shotgun, form a battle line (preferably behind a bunch of claymores, if you've purchased them) and go for headshots.
Dog rounds can be intense, but there's a bright, shining light at the end of the tunnel: the last pooch to die always drops a Max Ammo bonus. Make sure everyone reloads before you grab it, to better maximize the ammo gains.
Upgrade Your Weapons
Both maps feature a Pack-A-Punch machine, where 5000 points can be spent upgrading one of your weapons (you get an ammo refill for the weapon as well, FYI). Getting there in Kino Der Toten isn't too tough, it just takes some planning. Starting with the set of double doors on the second floor of the room you start in, work your way through a series of rooms (and doors) until you get to the theater.
Flipping the power switch -- located right near the purchasable M16 -- raises the curtain. Jump off the stage and head to the other end of the room, paying to unlock one last set of doors which open back into the starting room. With the power now on, flip the activator switch in that starting room and then head back to the theater stage, where the impossible-to-miss teleporter will now be active. Hop in and you're whisked away to the Pack-A-Punch machine, a completely zombie-free room overlooking the theater. You only have 30 seconds to spend there though, so do your business at the machine as quickly as you can.
Back Alley Bliss
The best place to hole up on Kino is a small alleyway located just a few rooms past the theater. Right near the power switch/M16 (claymores are on the wall opposite the M16, FYI) is another door. Open that and follow the series of rooms until you reach a set of stairs going down to an alleyway. There's a fence you can open here BUT DO NOT OPEN IT! As long as that fence is closed, you can only be attacked from two places: the stairs you came down to get here and a ground floor window off to the right of the stairs. Skillful players won't even bother with a crawler; from here, you can easily keep a single zombie at bay at the window, rebuilding a plank at a time as it tries to break through.
"Five" -- Map-Specific Strategies
Stick To Your Guns
First, the good news. There are no hellhound rounds on "Five" to worry about. Instead you've got a scientist zombie who can't even hurt you. What he does, however, is much, much worse. Appearing less frequently than the hellhounds, this guy will appear all by his lonesome. It's possible to kill him, but he soaks up a TON of damage (four players emptying all of their assault rifle rounds into a scientist MIGHT kill it, with enough headshots). Here's where it gets tricky: if this guy gets close to you, he STEALS whichever weapon you happen to have out at the time. NOT cool, especially after you've visited the Pack-A-Punch machine. Avoid him if you can, or keep your crappiest weapon out and hope for the best. Also good to know: the elevators stop working when the scientist comes out to play, so don't bother trying to escape to another floor.
Upgrade Your Weapons
Much like Kino, a convoluted path must be taken in order to reach the Holy Grail that is the Pack-A-Punch machine. From the starting area, make your way into the hallway and take the elevator down to the War Room, noting the DEFCON switches scattered around the walls. Take the stairs down (paying to clear debris as you go) and make your way to the freight elevator. Take THAT down to the laboratories and locate the power switch, just like Kino. Once you've got the juice on, head back to the war room and hit any DEFCON switch you see with a green light next to it until you hit level 5. An alarm with sound at that point, a cue that ALL teleporters will now send you straight to the machine for a limited time.
Death In An Elevator
There's no single location in Five that is easily defended with a convenient choke point. What you DO have is an elevator, and the breathing room a ride up or down can provide as your reload and revive. Five features two elevators: the one connecting the starting area with the War Room and the larger freight elevator, which connects the War Room and the labs. The latter is the one you'll want to call home. You'll have two entry points to defend, since that elevators two sets of doors both open on each floor, one on a barrier and one on the floor itself. This is offset by the fact that you can buy the SPAS-12 shotgun in the War Room, found JUST outside the elevator. Easy, quick access to ammo and an up/down button you can press for a moment to breathe when the horde gets to be too much.
BIG thanks to my Xbox Live gaming buddies Inflakable, Sloppy Octopus and ESPECIALLY Karmas Remorse for helping me figure all of this out.