The Dark Aether storyline in Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Zombies, a game with an entirely too long title, is taking a new turn in the coming mid-season update. On May 20, Zombies fans will be able to jump into their first "Main Quest" in Outbreak. Main Quests aren't the only thing headed to the mode either, with Activision brewing quite a bit of content.
If you are a fan of the undead horde mode that's grown into a bona fide franchise tradition, then there is plenty of info here to hype you up. Aside of a teaser of what's to come in the Mid-Season update, the devs have also dropped hints of what to expect in Season 4 and beyond. This particular outbreak won't be contained any time soon.
The Evolution of Zombies
Zombies had always been living two lives, as it were - back in the days of the OG, it could be a fun, wackier horde mode to play with your friends and have some laughs, but it also had a storyline going on that kickstarted a winding, complex narrative involving time travel and different dimensions and weird space demons, or something. As more and more games with Zombies modes expanded the mythos and a legitimate "deeplore" grew around the sub-series, some diehard fans would dive into tracing all the connections and exact plot threads going on.
TOP GAMEPLAY HIGHLIGHTS
Black Ops Cold War wanted to start somewhat fresh, while also maintaining that legacy. This latest Zombies mode is a reboot, but it's already laying the groundwork for a deeper mythos than ever before, which was the plan during development. Naturally, publishers will state that their latest game is the biggest/best/most comprehensive/"insert arbitrary self-praise here" version every game, but in Cold War's Zombies mode you can definitely see the signs of a conscious effort to take every lesson learned before and mold it into a new beginning.
So where is this rebooted story going, exactly? As of Season 3, Outbreak has players fighting through the Ural Mountains as agents of Requiem, a secret CIA task force organized to counter the efforts of Omega Group, the KGB branch that caused the zombie outbreak in this universe. The latest story beats showed off just how soft of a reboot this soft-reboot is, bringing in some direct ties to the Aether story - the plot has only thickened.
In gameplay terms, the Outbreak mode has been a long time coming for the sub-series. The developers reveal that they had heard the fans vocally wish for a "large scale zombies mode" long ago - poking fun at the subsequent arguments over on the r/CODZombies Subreddit - but before Outbreak this didn't happen for two reasons: firstly, just about every player saying this had a different idea of what a large scale zombies mode even would be, and secondly because the tech simply wasn't up to snuff.
In fact, the devs had been dreaming of a broader interconnected Zombies game experience with different modes for longer than fans have been requesting it. Simply put, Zombies just wasn't the main focus of Call of Duty games ever, and back before the team had a clear idea on how to make this work, there just wasn't a suitable budget present for experimentation.
Outbreak was the lovechild of these circumstances, wherein Black Ops Cold War finally gave the developers the canvas onto which they could paint this bloody, gory new picture. The Dark Aether story has been propelled in Outbreak ever since it launched in Season 2 to rave responses, with the open world Zombies mode being an instant hit.
Mid-Season Content Update
Outbreak launched back in Season 2, and since then the developers have expanded Zombies as a whole with 56 new Skill Tiers, two new Skill categories, two new Field Upgrades, a new Ammo Mod, and over a dozen Weapon Unlock Challenges. Most importantly, we got 2 additional maps. In the Mid-Season 3 update coming on May 20, Zombies is making its next big leap: Main Quests.
We're not really sure what Main Quests are, but several are going to be added to Outbreak across the second half of Season 3 and throughout Season 4. These will be major stepping stones in furthering the Dark Aether storyline, so think of them as sort of co-op story missions. If we are to guess, they'll likely contain fixed objectives and a more dense serving of narrative content, with less of an emphasis on random world events and bonus objectives.
One of these Main Quests is dropping on the 20th of May, alongside a whole new Outbreak map that will serve as the scene for the Orda Encounter World Event. Logically, the new map coming to Outbreak is Orda. Players will also be able to uncover new New Intel Documents, Audio Logs, Radio Transmissions, and Artifacts across the Outbreak mode.
Possibly the most important addition however will be a Fishing minigame. Again, no clue yet as to how this will work or be implemented, or even what the point is, but you'll be able to fish. Maybe the fish will be mutated and if you eat them you'll get super powers, or terminal illness. Are the fish undead too? We don't know! However, between various perks establishing the tank/healer/DPS trinity, Skill Tiers adding level progression, Outbreak bringing in an open world and now fishing, we will say that Zombies is slowly morphing into an MMORPG. You heard it here first, folks.
Outbreak isn't the only mode getting some love in the Mid-Season update though. Die Maschine and Firebase Z are both getting a limited time Cranked 2: No Time to Crank mode, while the new Silverback Slideways map is coming to Arcade. Onslaught players on PlayStation can expect a new map, a limited-time mode and a new challenge.
Across the board, some significant gameplay changes are also coming to Zombies, affecting every mode. A slew of new weapons are coming to the Mystery Box and Trial Machine drop pools - we've got a full list right here:
- Groza assault rifle
- MAC-10 SMG
- Streetsweeper shotgun
- FARA 83 assault rifle
- LC10 SMG
- R1 Shadowhunter crossbow
- ZRG 20mm sniper rifle
- Sledgehammer melee weapon
- Wakizashi melee weapon
- Machete melee weapon
- E-Tool melee weapon
More features include the ability to bring custom blueprints into Zombies, broadened pinging and cursor freedom, weapon challenges for the Baseball Bat and AMP63 and a bunch of rebalances, tweaks and bug fixes. The biggest change on this front is overhauled Zombies weapon tuning, though which the developers have given buffs to almost every gun in the game scaled appropriately to their current usefulness.
These tweaks generally increase critical damage multipliers in most cases, with the intended effect of making every gun viable to use. This won't throw the entire current meta into the trash, as the best guns will still stay the best guns - it's just that the bad ones will stop being bad.
Season 4 And Beyond
So what can players expect in the updates following this upcoming one that will drop on Thursday? The developers have plenty of further changes and additions planned, both big and small. As far as quality of life updates go, the Challenge Tracker will be displayed on the pause screen at some later point as this feature wasn't ready for prime-time just yet, and further balance tweaks will be implemented, such as one that will affect Dead Wire Tier V.
Of course, the new content is what most players are excited about, not the balance tweaks. While Outbreak has been hogging the spotlight for a while now, Treyarch hasn't abandoned the traditional round-based Zombies mode set on smaller maps - we'll be getting a brand new map in Season 4 with more on the way. This new map will directly pick up the story thread following all the Main Quests that will be released until then.
While details about the map are scarce, we know the developers have been working on it since before the release of Firebase Z, spending a lot of time and effort perfecting the experience. Players should expect the new map to launch during the Season 4 Mid-Season update, not on release, as we'll still be getting Main Quests at that point.
Zombies will evolve further in Season 4 with new Perks, Wonder Weapons, Support Weapons, limited-time modes and other additions that propel the Dark Aether storyline, with content drops peppered throughout the entire season.
New Easter Egg?
Treyarch is also teasing something suspicious, with an odd photo of what looks like a plaster replica of the iconic Monkey Bomb, underpinned by the caption "Look for my mark. -R". We're as baffled by this as you are, though it is safe to assume a new scavenger hunt-based easter egg will be coming to Zombies revolving around Monkey Bomb statuettes. Will they appear in Orda, or only after Season 4 launches? We'll have to wait and see.