Once upon a time, Call of Duty Zombies was only found in Treyarch's series entries. It's now made its way into the other two studios' installments, with Sledgehammer and now Infinity Ward putting their own spin on it.
This year, we're going back to the 1980s in a sinister tale of success, loss, and Satan. Zombies in Spaceland, which is under development in-house at Infinity Ward, features a cast of comedians in the lead roles. Robot Chicken's Seth Green, Neighbors' Ike Barinholtz, and Saturday Night Live's Jay Pharoah and Sasheer Zamata step into the roles of classic 80s archetypes: the nerd, the jock, the rapper, and the Valley girl.
The quartet is lured to meet with a washed up film director played by Paul Reubens (known for his Pee Wee Herman character), who has made a deal with the Devil. The bargain will see his career restored, but only if he can offer up souls in exchange by trapping hapless victims in one of his old films.
The heroes visit Reubens' character to screen his old movies, but find themselves trapped in the terrifying theme park, Spaceland. Along the way, they'll meet another trapped soul, the park's new DJ played by David Hasselhoff. "He's sort of that beacon of hope," says associate project director Lee Ross. "He provides hints for Easter eggs and tells you, 'Look in this place, and not in that place.'"
The soundtrack, which will be revealed in full later, includes a number of classic 80s tracks. You'll be able to chat with The Hoff to get him to play something different from his vinyl repertoire or switch genres entirely.
Zombies in Spaceland features a new "fate and fortune" mechanic. During the pre-game, you'll be able to choose five different power-up cards to take into battle. Simply by unlocking doors, boarding windows, shooting zombies, or partaking in other routine gameplay, you'll charge them up.
You can then unleash them to give yourself an edge, including spawning a nuke right in front of you. Once spent, you can refresh your hand by paying a fortune teller located in the park.
You can also spend your hard-earned cash on amusement rides. These aren't for your enjoyment, though. They all have special effects that can take out a swath of oncoming undead.
There are also traps littered throughout the park that you can use at no cost. For instance, in the center is a large animatronic crocodile. Stepping on a trigger plate unleashes the beast on a two-second timer. You can buy yourself some breathing room if you're being chased by a horde.
Call of Duty Zombies fans know that each adventure includes a number of complex Easter eggs. Those return in Infinity Ward's take on the mode. However, the studio is also adding some slightly easier Easter eggs so newer and casual fans can still get ease into the process.
"We want to give a few breadcrumbs for newer players to experience a few of the Easter eggs who might decide to push forward and kind of unravel a couple more," Ross says. "There's definitely the things that will be driven by the community putting its heads together. It's something amazing to see happen. We hide things in sometimes obscure places, and when we focus test them, we start to see people put it together. We know that's something that drives the experience in Call of Duty Zombies."
Finally, Infinity Ward is making a huge change to how players live (and die) in Zombies in Spaceland. In the past, death has knocked you out for the round, only to revive if your comrades complete the wave. Now, you'll have a chance to buy your way back in.
The Afterlife Arcade includes a number of games of skill. These include skeeball, basketball, and even Activision's classic Atari games. Earn a big enough score in Pitfall 2, for instance, and you can earn a new lease on life.
We inquired about whether Zombies in Spaceland will continue through the year or if things will revert to classic Zombies characters via DLC (like it did in Black Ops III). Activision is unsurprisingly holding off on discussing that.
For now, we'll have to content ourselves with The Hoff and Zombies in Spaceland as part of Call of Duty: Infinity Ward. The game will be out for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 4.