Call of Duty: Vanguard will be the start of a new arc in the zombies and Dark Aether storylines that have been unfolding parallel to the FPS game’s main narrative over the past decade. For this entry, Activision has put developer Treyarch in charge of zombies mode, and the studio says it plans on telling a new, brutal story set against the horrors of the Second World War’s Eastern Front.

The setup for the story, called Der Anfang, involves the experiments at Project N Station, which wound up blasting a rift from our dimension into the Dark Aether – a plane of existence so horrible that it’s indistinguishable from scriptural descriptions of Hell. Nazi scientists recovered powerful artifacts from beyond the veil, and each of them is associated with a powerful demonic force: the four-armed fellow we’ve seen in the teaser, for instance, is known as Kortifex, the Deathless.

Kortifex is joined by Saraxis the Shadow, Norticus the Conqueror, Inviktor the Destroyer, and Bellekar the Warlock. All of them look like the types of people the Ghostbusters might have run into at the top of a haunted skyscraper in New York. However, players can use their associated artifacts to wield unique abilities that are effectively magic spells.

Here’s the full reveal presentation, which includes the new trailer:

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Senior writer Tony Bedard says using the artifacts creates a symbiotic bond between the player’s character and the Dark Aether entities associated with them. “It’s almost like being possessed,” he says, “except the entities can’t control their hosts – they can only offer guidance and their powers.”

However, a prominent Nazi officer has also gained access to the Dark Aether’s powers, who has formed a bond with good old Kortifex. Using the Dark Aether entity’s powers of resurrection, the officer plans to settle some scores by marching an army of zombies back across Europe and into Russia, where he presumably plans to capture Stalingrad and win the war.

That’s where Vanguard’s Zombies Mode will take place – within the devastated city of Stalingrad, sealed inside by Kortifex’s power. The team says it was shooting for a more “grounded” feel to the levels in Vanguard’s Zombies mode, and the presentation above shows some snippets of what you’ll encounter this time.

In addition to the standard grunt zombies, Treyarch has added ‘boom screamers’ who run toward players and explode on contact, as well as hulking ‘heavies’ who carry belt-fed machine guns and are extra tough to bring down.

You’ll begin in a forward operating base in Stalingrad that has a few upgrade stations available from the start. As your team completes objectives, that base will open up, offering new ways to enhance your abilities and loadouts, but presenting new threats as well.

One of the fundamental ideas this time around, Treyarch says, is to make zombies mode accessible to new players – you won’t need to have played any of the previous zombies experiences to jump into this one and start blasting the undead, the studio explains.

Zombies mode will be available on the Call of Duty: Vanguard release date next month.

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