As the second of four planned map packs for Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Uprising promises four new standard maps, a new zombie map and a new zombie mode. While the standard maps are interesting, it is the new Mob of the Dead zombie mode, which is set on Alcatraz Island, that really steals the show — especially if you are playing with a group of friends.
Set during Prohibition era America, Mob of the Dead chronicles the attempt of four inmates to escape from a nightmarish version of Alcatraz that is infested by zombies. Fast and relentless, the zombies continually attack in waves, forcing you to work as a team if you want to survive. This is true even in pick-up games with random players. If you're not playing as a team, you're going to die.
Still, even in death, the game isn't over, thanks to the new "afterlife" mechanic introduced by Mob of the Dead. Each round grants the player one afterlife, which is a limited time mode where you exist as a ghost. While in afterlife, you can shock zombies, power up machinery and teleport through ghost-only portals. It is possible to enter afterlife on purpose by grabbing an electrical box. Dying in this manner preserves your perks; getting offed by a zombie doesn't. The only catch to afterlife mode is that you must revive yourself before your afterlife meter runs out.
Objectives in Mob of the Dead appear straightforward, yet the game leaves it up to the players to figure out exactly how to complete those objectives. For example, you need to collect the parts to a plane to escape the island, but there are few clues to their location. Instead, exploration and experimentation is a big part of the game. Expect to play Mob of the Dead for an hour or two before you really start to understand all of the details.
Adding to the challenge is the Alcatraz map. Much of the map is initially locked, only accessible by spending points earned from killing zombies. Though it might seem small at first, Alcatraz is actually quite large and intricate. Once all the doors have been unlocked, there is plenty of room to roam through these claustrophobic halls. Just make sure you always leave yourself an escape route, as the zombies love to swarm, and the narrow passages leave little room to strafe.
Of the four standard maps, Vertigo is easily the most impressive. Set atop an Indian skyscraper, the map offers up both vertical and horizontal movement. The overall design is circular, with a central, indoor area that takes up two playable levels. The inner area is tight and encourages direct firefights, while the outside areas are open and more accommodating to tactical combat.
Some of the outdoor paths run along the edges of the map, making it possible to fall (or be pushed) to your death if you're not careful. Protective railings are made of glass and can be shot out, as can one of the windows in the center tower. This opens up another route to the outside, assuming you can successfully jump to the utility ladder.
Returning from Call of Duty: Black Ops, with a new coat of paint, is Studio. Dubbed Firing Range when it appeared in the first game, Studio keeps the same layout but completely re-imagines the locale. Instead of being set in a military training camp, Studio is now on a Hollywood lot. Each area of the map is themed after a popular movie genre, with one area modeled after a western, one featuring generic sci-fi monsters, a fantasy castle, a Godzilla-scale city, the Jurassic Park T-Rex and even a nod to "Pirates of the Caribbean."
The small size and intense firefights made Firing Range a fan favorite, so it's not a huge surprise to see it return as Studio, and it's just as much fun to play. With that said, the map's popularity is a double-edged sword. Hopping online, it seems as though players are always voting for Studio since it's a map they know, rather than taking the time to learn a new one. As a result, Studio eventually starts to feel like a popular song that's been overplayed on the radio. It's good, but you don't want to play it 24/7.
Magma is set in a Japanese town that has been overrun by lava. The half-destroyed town offers a good mix of indoor and outdoor areas on multiple levels. Shortcuts through the center allow for easy access to both sides of the town, while city streets act as natural funnels and make for good sniping opportunities.
Where Magma misses its potential is in the lava. Yes it's a hazard, but it doesn't move. It's just … there. Ultimately, the lava is an easily ignored element that you're only going to notice if you make a boneheaded maneuver. It's really too bad that Magma couldn't have been designed as a dynamic map, starting out as a normal town and then deforming as the lava poured through.
Finally, there is Encore. The least impressive of the new maps, Encore is a relatively flat arena set in a London concert venue that is preparing for a show. The entire map is basically two concentric circles, with the outer one covering the edge of the stadium and the inner one featuring the stage and the dance area immediately in front of it. Those controlling the stage have the advantage of higher ground, while those in the dance area can use the machinery as makeshift cover.
Encore isn't a bad map, per se; it just doesn't have the intricacies that make Vertigo and Studio so appealing. It's more of a run-and-gun map that rounds out the Uprising DLC package.
Serving up a healthy dose of multiplayer action, Call of Duty: Black Ops II - Uprising is a worthwhile purchase both as a stand-alone download (1200 MSP / $15 USD) or as part of the larger season pass. The standard maps are fun to play, while Mob of the Dead is engaging enough to pull in players of all stripes — even those who always ignored zombie mode in the past.
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