We've already had three quarters of the Season Pass on offer so far in Black Ops II's lifespan, and we're finally on the last bit of DLC. Apocalypse is a curious prospect, with two remakes, two brand new maps, and a zombies map that features giant robots with the reunion of the original four World at War stars.
But while Treyarch is generally known for their original map design, they played it a bit too safe here, and the package falls a bit flat.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II: Apocalypse DLC (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])
Developer: Treyarch Studios
Released: August 27, 2013 (Xbox 360) / TBA (PC, PlayStation 3)
MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs)
First things first, Pod is a post-apocalyptic style map modeled after a failed utopian style community. Quite literally, there are "pod" housing units scattered about the map, and there are a good amount of structures dotting the landscape (with lots of browns and greens for good measure) to mix things up.
It's a decent map overall, but it pulls no punches, and feels very traditional, like it was designed by Infinity Ward as filler. In short, it's very safe, and ultimately feels like wasted potential -- like they gave up halfway through designing it. There's not a whole lot to say about it beyond that.
Here we are again with another snow themed map! Frost is very similar to Berlin, but not quite as memorable, or good. Lovely cheese and candy shops litter the town, as do bars, and multiple indoor areas -- so if your strategy hinges mostly on aerial support, you're going to be stopped cold in Frost.
But while indoor combat helps mix things up overall, the outdoor areas are extremely dull -- capped off by just one major sniping corridor, and a pretty lifeless bridge area. Camping is an incredibly viable strategy here, as there are tons of corners jutting out next to wide open doorways. Frost does nothing to add to the map pack's value, but it's a decent one to have in the rotation.
Takeoff is actually a take on the original Black Ops' Stadium, comprising one of the two remakes in the pack. You wouldn't know it at first, as it took me around 30 seconds to realize it, but it's almost a shot-for-shot remake. The remodel into a giant tanker rather than a sports stadium is a neat gimmick as it looks superior to the original, but any Black Ops fan has played this map as recently as a year or two ago, and it's simply not that remarkable of a map to charge for in the last bit of Black Ops II DLC.
The space shuttle that takes off looks cool, but it's off the map in the background and you can't actually interact with it. It's quite possible that Treyarch didn't want to mess too much with Stadium's layout, but as a result it feels like a straight-up copy and paste.
Yet another remake is in Apocalypse, as Dig is another take on World at War's Courtyard. Now, I was a huge fan of World at War in general, and most of the bigger maps were some of my favorites in the entire franchise. But Courtyard wasn't one of them, and the same goes for Dig. If there was ever a poster-child for "brown, boring maps," in Call of Duty, Dig would be it.
It's a simple square layout with a circular bowl in the middle, and can barely accommodate even the smallest of game sizes. The areas around the square make for some interesting firefights, but other than that, you've seen it all before, and then some. In fact, the only reason I subjected myself to Dig is for the purposes of this review, and if I had the choice I would not choose to ever play it again.
Origins is the bright spot of the Apocalypse pack, and is most notable for not only reuniting the iconic four zombie hunters from World at War, but also delivering a notable amount of lore into the zombie meta itself. For those who aren't aware, the zombie series has a long running story that's mostly cryptic, but actually connects together with all three of the latest Treyarch Call of Duty titles.
One of the coolest additions to Origins is the debut of the power generators, which require you to power up each room by manually charging them. As you're flipping on the power, special zombies will come out of the woodwork to make your job a bit harder, which helps keep things frantic and fun.
The environment contains a ton of variety, including laboratories, bunkers, a church, trenches, and an outdoor area that actually looks and feels like a battlefield. It's a bit dark at times, but the harrowing site of zombies on pikes and the numerous dead bodies scattered across the trenches add to the theme. Audio logs help augment the experience, offering up more background info on the game's world and the map itself.
Oh, I should also mention that you can dig up piles of junk on the ground to find new weapons, shoot planes out of the sky, build elemental staffs, ride a tank, fight armored zombies (Panzer Soldats), and fight giant robots who periodically attempt to squish you beneath their feet. There's a lot of variety here, and I really enjoy the new school sensibilities mixed with the old school feel of the original game's protagonists.
If you're a dedicated zombies fan, it's almost worth picking up Apocalypse for Origins alone, given how much it adds to the overall lore that's still alive and well after World at War's 2008 release. Treyarch really wanted to mix things up beyond smaller gimmicks here with the power generators and the magic chests, and you'll have to truly re-adapt your playstyle for the first time since Black Ops II's initial TranZit campaign.
Taking into account that this is the final map pack before Activision moves full-swing into Call of Duty: Ghosts, it's fairly underwhelming outside of Origins. Unlike most of the map packs so far, I had no desire to really play through them multiple times, and at this point, I'm content replaying the prior three packs as I wait for Ghosts.
Sadly, two remakes practically no one asked for, and two maps that do nothing to transcend the typical formula aren't enough to justify the price unless you're a hardcore zombies fanatic.