Version Reviewed: 1.00
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Game Controls Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
It's very apparent to me that the Call of Duty team has a thing for zombies. The Zombie levels in the console version of the game are quite fantastic, with each of them chasing after you with 28 Days Late-like vigor. Because the mini game is so popular on the console, I guess that it just seems obvious to put it on the iPhone. iD Software, along with a few others, have made it very apparent that the FPS genre works on the system, so all it really would take is some solid implementation.
The whole goal of CoD: Zombies is, as with every zombie thriller, to survive. Unfortunately for you, you can't, as the whole goal is to last as long as you can. There is only one level, called Nacht der Untoten, that calls for you to kill wave after wave of zombies until you die. The concept is quite simple, but is fairly fun. You start off in a room that is being attacked by zombies, and eventually work your way around the house, killing all the zombies before they kill you first. Some of the zombies are fast, and some are slow, but they all want you quite dead. Throughout the level you buy random guns that are sold through chalk outlines on the wall while boarding up the windows to keep the zombies from getting through. Everything you do, level-wise (opening doors, buying guns, boarding up windows) costs money that is collected by shooting zombies, so use your money wisely.
The main fear of spending money on an iPhone FPS, especially one that costs $9.99, is having unplayable controls. Ever since Duke Nukem, I've been a bit weary of the whole genre... who knows when you'll spend $10 and have movement "pills" all over the screen. Fortunately, CoD: Zombies is an entirely playable game, although there are a few flaws. The base control method, which to me is the obvious best, works with a hybrid two joystick layout. The left joystick is the standard 'look around' joystick, while the "right joystick" is is wherever you put your thumb. Having an invisible right joystick lets you put your finger wherever you want, which is fantastic for intense battles where you really can't afford to miss a 'real' joystick with your thumb. The problem with these sticks is the lack of space that they provide. The left stick, although traditional, is too small, and makes you hit almost directly on it to make you do anything. The right 'joystick', although useable anywhere on the screen, is definitely most comfortable in the lower right, where your hand traditionally lies. Unfortunately for me, my thumb lays right where the 'shoot' and 'aim' buttons are, making me use the 'right stick' much further down on the screen than I would like. Make the left stick larger and make the right buttons a bit higher and I'd absolutely love the controls. Hopefully an update will fix this, as it really wouldn't be too hard to do... I don't think.
The graphics and sound in CoD: Zombies is top notch, which is to be expected for an app by a company such as Activision. The zombies move fluidly and the gunfire shoots appropriately, without any clipping or lag on my iPhone 3G. I'm sure that a 3GS would be a bit faster, but the game is entirely playable on a 3G. If you are a sound guy/girl, be sure to play the game with some good headphones on. Every once in a while you'll get a zombie that sneaks behind you, and it will scare you.
With only one level in the game, replay value is a concern. A single player game could last you quite a long time, but you really just do the same stuff over and over again. Run, shoot zombies, run some more. Once you realize that you've unlocked the whole house, there really isn't all that much to do anymore. Word on the street is that Activision will be adding more levels soon, but as of now, your only replay option is multiplayer, and the multiplayer is quite cool, but doesn't always work (at least it didn't on my device). You have the option of playing with a local network, but the fun is all in the online option. Online pairs you with 4 people in a quest to, you guessed it, defend the house from zombies. In three tries I got a game running (one may not count, my phone locked itself, killing the game), and it went fairly well. With some tweaks, and some more levels, I could see the online multiplayer work quite well.
All in all, CoD: Zombies is an extremely well put together, although short experience. The controls are on the cusp of being perfect for the genre, the graphics and sound are top notch, and the online gameplay is definitely a glimpse into what iPhone FPS multiplayer will be like. It's not perfect though, and once again, it is extremely short, particularly for a game at its current $10 price point. I'd personally wait until the price comes down a bit before I pick this one up, but if you either love zombies or Call of Duty, you won't be too disappointed.