Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Zombies guide—How to survive MWZ

Modern Warfare 3 zombies attacking a player
(Image credit: Activision)

The new Modern Warfare 3 zombies mode is a little different than its previous incarnations, and takes a fair bit of influence from Warzone 2's DMZ. The aptly named, MWZ, is an open world version of zombies in which you drop into the Urzikstan Exclusion Zone with your squadmates and have to survive to extract. 

Along the way, you'll unlock weird weapons, perks, and battle both mercenaries and the army of the undead. As you complete Contracts and earn Essence, you'll be able to upgrade your guns, and so delve deeper into the dangerous areas of the zone. Here's a full explainer for how the new MWZ mode works, plus a few tips for surviving out there.

How does MWZ work?

Modern Warfare 3's new zombie mode is pretty similar to Warzone 2 DMZ. You run around an open world completing Contracts, raiding Strongholds, and gathering currency to spend upgrading your weapons—but here you're fighting hordes of hungry, hungry undead. 

One major difference is that MWZ isn't PvP, meaning all other players on the map are allies, even if they aren't in your squad. Any other player can revive you if you go down, and you can share Exfil choppers without negotiating any dicey truces on voice comms.

Another key difference is that, while you still have an Insured Weapon slot and a Contraband Weapon Stash, backpacks no longer have weapon slots. MWZ is more focused around powerful upgrade items called Acquisitions, which you can extract with at the end of a match. MWZ also features an understandable layer of wackiness, with Wonder Weapons, strange Tacticals, and buffs like Insta-Kill that drop randomly from enemies.

Here are some quick facts to help you get to grips with MWZ:

  • Threat levels define your MWZ match. As you progress into higher difficulty areas, you'll face more zombies and tougher elite enemies, but you'll also find better loot and more powerful Pack-a-Punch machines.
  • Your main objective is upgrading your weapons and operator using Essence—basically money—and items so you can tackle those tougher tier areas.
  • The best way to earn Essence is by completing Contracts or by finding it in containers and cash registers. You'll also get it from killing zombies, though only a small amount.
  • You can buy new weapons from wall sales, the Mystery Box, or find them in weapon lockers and loot caches. In order to upgrade them, you need to spend Essence at Pack-a-Punch machines, or consume items like Ammo Mods, Aether Tools, and Aetherium Crystals. These add damage effects and increase a weapon's rarity.
  • You can upgrade your operator with specific perks by purchasing Perk-a-Colas from the machines located across the map. 
  • Any weapon you extract with in MWZ is unlocked for use. You can also earn Acquisition Schematics randomly, which allow you to craft an Acquisition to take into MWZ in future.

What should I do in MWZ?

Each match of MWZ lasts for 45 minutes and there are a variety of things you can get up to during that time:

  • Complete Contracts: Just like DMZ, you'll find these mini-missions across the map, and they reward you with about 2,000 Essence. The missions themselves are pretty close to their DMZ counterparts, just more zombie-themed. When you complete a Contract, a Reward Rift will also open up with some items you can take, often including at least one Aether Tool or Aetherium Crystal.
  • Raid Strongholds: There are multiple types of strongholds in MWZ. Mercenary Strongholds require a key to get inside, but since these only drop from Mercenary Convoys or bases, you're better off targeting Infested Strongholds or Aether Nests. These have decent loot and Essence to grab, but bring a gasmask, since you'll have to destroy the glowing yellow cysts inside to get rid of the poisonous gas. 
  • Complete missions: MWZ has a big focus on completing missions for special rewards, with a mystery reward for finishing all three acts, and the promise of a continuing storyline when season one launches.
  • Attack the Legacy Stronghold: The main mercenary base in MWZ is located in the north of the map, but to actually get inside the commander's hideout and kill him, you'll need a Legacy Stronghold Keycard. First, you'll need to acquire a regular Mercenary Stronghold Keycard by taking down a Mercenary Convoy, then you can get the Legacy Stronghold Keycard from inside a Mercenary Stronghold. Before you attempt the main stronghold, make sure you're equipped to deal with an attack helicopter.
  • Push into higher threat levels: The highest threat levels are pretty spicy, especially with bullet-sponge elite enemies hanging around that you have to tackle. Working your way towards the highest tier is a challenge in itself, as you slowly prep and upgrade while you work your way in.

MWZ starter tips

Now you understand how the mode works and what you can do in the Exclusion Zone, here are a few MWZ tips to get your started:

  • Stay mobile: The longer you stick in one place, the more likely you are to get swarmed, so grab yourself a truck or any vehicle that allows you to hit and run and mow down minor enemies. If you need to hunker down in one spot for a while, try and find a Deadlock Turret and use a circuit board if you've got one. It'll kill all the zombies in the area and anything that approaches.
  • Don't forget your Field Upgrade: Rather than just giving you an ammo box or something boring, Field Upgrades in MWZ are powerful special abilities that recharge over time. The default Energy Mine is an effective way of killing early elite enemies or making some space.
  • Bring big mags: Generally, you want to bring a gun with lots of bullets to MWZ, whether that's an LMG, or just an expanded mag assault rifle. Ammo isn't necessarily a problem, but the amount of kills you can get per mag is pretty important when you're being swarmed.
  • Aim for the head: They're zombies, right? Body-shotting the undead hordes will drink up bullets and make for far less efficient slaughter. You'll want a weapon that you can reliably headshot with, but also spray-and-pray when there isn't time to aim.
  • Roll with a squad: As an often solo DMZ player, I hate to recommend always running with a squad, but MWZ really isn't well balanced for a single operator. Sure, you'll be fine in threat level one, which means you can do a bit of looting and weapon upgrading, but anything above is extremely challenging for a single player.
  • Don't sleep on melee weapons: While going hand-to-hand with zombies might not seem like a wise idea, melee weapons are very strong in MWZ, and benefit from Pack-a-Punch, Ammo Mods, and Aether Tools. What's more, you move faster with them, and if you switch into third-person view, they're even easier to use.
  • Re-armor and bewares of mercs: It's easy to forget to re-up your armor, but it's effectively your only defense against zombies, and it'll even help you survive the poison gas of Aether Nests while you're clearing cysts. Also be on the lookout for mercenaries. These soldiers deal way too much damage and are absurdly accurate, so you'll want to fight them cautiously—at least until they get an inevitable nerf.
Sean Martin
Guides Writer

Sean's first PC games were Full Throttle and Total Annihilation and his taste has stayed much the same since. When not scouring games for secrets or bashing his head against puzzles, you'll find him revisiting old Total War campaigns, agonizing over his Destiny 2 fit, or still trying to finish the Horus Heresy. Sean has also written for EDGE, Eurogamer, PCGamesN, Wireframe, EGMNOW, and Inverse.