Prior to Call of Duty Season 4, Vanguard‘s Zombies mode was struggling to find its footing with a combination of new features and the switch to objective-style gameplay. The launch of Der Anfang stripped Zombies down to a very barebones experience, and the later addition of the Terra Maledicta map was only slightly better, leaving the mode still feeling like a hollow snoozefest. Not only was it no longer traditional survival waves, but it was devoid of all the bells and whistles that made Zombies special. However, Season 4’s map shows the potential that Vanguard Zombies has when combining some of the game’s features with a classic round-based map.
Shi No Numa was originally DLC for 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War, the game that first introduced the mode. The map was released during a much simpler time for Zombies, before the arrival of elaborate Easter egg quests, Artifact abilities, or even custom weapon loadouts. And while I still love the original map, it’s a lot of fun to re-experience Shi No Numa with an all-new narrative and the features within Vanguard.
This enhanced Shi No Numa not only reestablishes traditional round-based gameplay, but it also returns the map’s iconic Wunderwaffe DG-2 Wonder Weapon. Instead of just letting us be at the mercy of the mode’s randomized Mystery Box for a chance at getting the Wonder Weapon, as it was in Shi No Numa’s past, Treyarch added quest steps to let us build ourselves a Wunderwaffe DG-2, and these steps are also integrated into the map’s main storyline Easter egg quest.
Shi No Numa’s main quest feels almost as satisfying as firing up the Wunderwaffe DG-2 for the first time. Part of Vanguard Zombies’ previous misfires was the fact that the game launched last year with the Der Anfang map lacking a main quest, and then Terra Maledicta map followed up with a very simple and unsatisfying story quest. Zombies players love their Easter egg hunts, and while Terra Maledicta was a step in the right direction by including some additional side Easter eggs, the quests still didn’t have enough challenge or spice to bring any replay value to the map.
Rather than overly simplify the quest steps and hold your hand too much, as Terra Maledicta’s main Easter egg did, Shi No Numa’s main quest requires much more effort. Still, it shouldn’t be too overly complex for most casual players. It’s also not boring and tedious, so players should be able to have fun with this one. Basically, Shi No Numa’s quest feels like Treyarch made a real attempt to balance the experience in order to please both the hardcore and casual player groups.
Shi No Numa even has classic music Easter eggs and other hidden bits to uncover, which is something that Vanguard Zombies was previously lacking. Shi No Numa’s map feels rich with features, but they’re all very much optional. Old-school players can bypass all of Vanguard’s add-ons and just go for classic survival, but it’s nice to have some of the newer Zombies mode features, such as the armor bench for crafting equipment, the Tome of Rituals, and the Altar of Covenant. Having the extraction option return from recent maps is also a nice bonus for Shi No Numa, because it gives players an option to end the match on their terms, but it’s something players never feel forced to utilize.
I won’t say that this is a perfect enhancement of Shi No Numa, but this is a really enjoyable map. Treyarch’s enhanced version of the map would’ve been even stronger as an addition to Black Ops Cold War’s Zombies mode, where the upgradable perk tiers and abilities were more interesting and worth grinding to level up. Vanguard’s perk tiers don’t let you add any new abilities, and instead you simply just receive an additional 25% boost for each fountain’s specific perk.
Otherwise, my only major complaint is the addition of Vanguard’s most annoying enemy type– Zaballa the Deceiver–from the Terra Maledicta map. This special enemy type isn’t particularly difficult to kill, but destroying all three of her masks is time-consuming. Zaballa starts showing up after round 15, and she spawns almost every single round after. This feels way too frequent and slows down the pace of the higher rounds. Given Zaballa is tied into Shi No Numa’s main quest, I know we’re stuck dealing with her, but hopefully Treyarch can reduce her spawn rates.
While I commend Treyarch for trying something different with Vanguard’s initial plan, Shi No Numa confirms Zombies is more replayable and at its best when the mode focuses on maps designed as traditional round-based survival. If objective-based Zombies comes back in a future title, it would be best served as a side dish like Black Ops Cold War’s Outbreak mode, which gave players a casual and more enjoyable objective mode without taking away from the classic experience.
For those who either didn’t enjoy Vanguard’s first two Zombies maps or were hesitant to even try them, Shi No Numa is well worth diving into the swampland and crafting yourself a Wunderwaffe DG-2.