The original cast who starred in World at War and Black Ops. Richtofen found the other three and wiped their memories, and allied with them once Samantha set out to wipe out Group 935. Richtofen then led them across the two games from location to location, gathering things he needed for his grand scheme. Takeo recovers fully by Ascension, and Dempsey begins recovering as well, though Nikolai shows no progress. Though they insult each other, they ultimately become (whether they admit it or not) FireForgedFriends. Richtofen's scheme ultimately culminated on the Moon when the others inadvertedly help him take control of the zombies. They realize their mistake, and ally with Maxis to try to stop their former ally, and ended up destroying the Earth to do so. They are only referenced in Black Ops II, until the final map, Origins, in which they fight an outbreak of ancient zombies together during World War I, and have sigificantly different personalities, not as crazy as they were before, and by the map's end, they enter Agartha.
Unwitting Pawn: Nikolai, Takeo and Dempsey as their memories were wiped by Richtofen, and are duped into helping his scheme to control the zombies.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Besides Richtofen and Maxis, the other four disappear from the plot for the majority of Black Ops II, never seen again post-Moon.
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The American character from World at War and Black Ops Zombie modes. Your stereotypical American Marine, ripping his way through the enemies like butter. Takes up the white space on the scoreboard and serves as the host in World At War. Voiced by Steve Blum.
Badass: According to his Bio: "Tank Dempsey gnawed through his bamboo cage, then gnawed his way through his captors, armed only with a Medal Of Honor that he keeps secreted in various orifices."
Brainwashed and Crazy: Thanks to Richtofen, along with Takeo and Nikolai. By Ascension, he's starting to recover.
Semper Fi: He was a Marine before the events of Zombies Mode.
Visual Pun: He debuts in the Origins cutscene riding a tank.
What Happened to the Mouse?: We haven't heard from him and the others since Moon, but Richtofen mentions him in Tranzit. When he does appear in Black Ops II, it's in a prequel, leaving his fate after Moon to remain unknown.
The Russian character, another stereotype who adores vodka and killing his wives in great plenty. He's the only one not showing signs of recovery from his brainwashing. Voiced by Fred Tatasciore and takes up the blue slot in the scoreboard.
An Axe to Grind: Wields a massive axe in the Origins opening cutscene and is able to chop zombies IN HALF with little effort. Sadly, this axe is not available in-game.
Badass: He scared Josef Stalin, who sent him to the front lines, by shaking his hand.
The Big Guy: He's definitely burlier and bigger than the others.
The Bluebeard: In World At War, he had at least five wives and killed them all. The fourth was killed with an axe and the other with varying weapons. By Moon in Black Ops, this has gone up to SEVEN wives..."and new girlfriend".
Enemy Mine: Averted with Richtofen - Nikolai takes Richtofen's... "interest" in him as sucking up for a free drink. Kind of played straight with Dempsey, since the Americans and Soviets became rivals after World War II (admittedly, Nazi Zombies starts a few months after the endwar, but so did the Berlin Blockade).
What Happened to the Mouse?: We haven't heard from him since Moon, but he's mentioned in Tranzit by Richtofen, and oddly in Mob of the Dead, Al mentions he keeps hearing his name somehow. When he finally appears in Black Ops II, it's a prequel, leaving his fate after Moon to remain unknown.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: By Ascension, it's no secret Takeo wants to kill Richtofen, and he had the perfect chance in Moon. But no, he helped his cause and let him take over the Zombies and then nuked the earth!
What Happened to the Mouse?: We haven't heard or seen him in Moon. When he does appear in Black Ops II, it's in a prequel, leaving his fate after Moon to remain unknown.
A crazy German Doctor who worked for Group 935 in the past and is behind everything in the story, including nuking the Earth. Voiced by Nolan North and takes up the green slot on the scoreboard.
Be Careful What You Wish For: In Buried after killing Maxis and taking control of Samuel's body, it seems Richtofen is stuck in a corporeal body. Richtofen's not pleased at the stink, nor having to fight off the minions he's controlling.
Big Bad: Throughout the entire Zombies Mode, extending into Blacks Ops 2.
Big Good: He styles himself as this to Samuel and others who can hear him.
Bigger Bad: Of Call of the Dead, in which he directs the celebrities to deliver to him a crucial part of his plan to control the zombies.
Those Wacky Nazis: Averted. Group 935 was around LONG before the Nazi Party, it's just that Group 935 exchanged their Wonder Weapons for funding, though they never saw service. It's implied Maxis never intended to help the Nazi Party and was just stalling, even when the Wunderwaffe exceeded expectations, and refused to mass-produce it for the Nazi's.
Truth in Television: There WAS a real Wunder-Waffe, but it was just a STG-44 (which was still a leap in tech itself) with a big-arse scope on it.
Ghostapo: Similar to above, but even more so when he gains control of the Zombies.
Troll: To Dempsey and the new survivors in Green Run.
Demoted to Dragon: If the player sides with Maxis in the Easter Eggs, Maxis condemns Richtofen to become a zombie for all eternity.
Expy: Of the Medic from Team Fortress 2 (World at War came out a year after TF2):
They're both German (obviously)
They're both misidentified as Nazis (see above).
Both have created technology has yet to create (Medic: Healing Rays. Richtofen: Electric Rifles)
Both are friends with Russians (Heavy, Nikolai) and Nationalistic Americans (Soldier, Dempsey).
Both hold a certain sympathy towards animals (Medic: Pigeons. Richtofen: Dogs)
Grand Theft Me: Though he doesn't really miss having a physical body, if you've completed all Black Ops 2 easter eggs in his favor, he begins using Samuel's body as his own, though it seems he can't fully take control for some reason.
The Leader: This becomes evident especially during Black Ops, when he's the one leading the others throughout the various maps to achieve his goals.
Obfuscating Insanity: Played with. Even though he's still very much insane, he knows far more than he lets on about the zombies, Group 935, and Samantha. By Shangri-La, the others finally notice he's up to something big.
For the Evulz: All the Brainwashing and amnesia? Richtofen did that.
Maxis' daughter, who took control of the zombies when she accidentally teleported to the Moon after Richtofen's betrayal and entered the alien M.P.D., her soul entering the Aether. Her father's dying wish was to kill all of Group 935, triggering the zombie storyline of World at War and Black Ops.
The main cast of Black Ops II. After the blast from the missiles hitting Earth and reducing it to a zombie wasteland, these four come to band together against the undead. These four seem to get along a bit better than the original four did, but they come into contact with both Richtofen and Maxis. As they grow to depend on each other, they must make their choice between the two otherworldly rivals, their actions determining the fate of the world and humanity.
The Chick: Samuel, though this is downplayed compared to past maps, he's definitely more prone to panic than the others.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: No matter whose side they pick, humanity is doomed - either they're destroyed by Maxis, or be subject to Richtofen's rule.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Their last appearance in Black Ops II is Buried, having either helped give Maxis the power to destroy the Earth to reach Agartha, or give Richtofen ultimate power to turn the Earth into his own plaything. No matter who they help, their fate doesn't look good.
Abigail "Misty" Briarton
An abrasive woman who has a crush on Marlton, likes Russman and will grudgingly get along with Samuel.
A self-loving nerd, who was present at Nuketown when the missiles hit. Afterwards, he met up with Misty (they ended up developing feelings for each other) and later Russman and Samuel, the both of whom he shares a mutual hatred.
Jerkass: While the others will happily snark at each other, they are when it comes down to it friends. Marlton is far more of a jerkass than the others, and is pretty ungrateful when he is revived, usually wanting you to get away from him. The only one he seems soft towards is Misty, and even then he won't exactly openly reciprocate her feelings. While most characters have one character they hate, one they are neutral towards, and one they like, Marlton hates two of the other three, and he's not that much better around Misty as it is.
A paranoid conspiracy theorist, who's the only one who can hear Richtofen's voice in his head. He's friends with Russman, grudgingly gets along with Misty, and like Russman, shares a mutual hatred with Marlton.
An elderly survivor suffering from Alzheimer's, who was a homeless man before the missiles hit. He's good friends with Samuel and Misty, but has a mutual hatred with Marlton. He acts as the group's leader following Die Rise.
Darkand Troubled Past: He was mentioned to be a member of a mysterious organization known as Broken Arrow, but left after an incident and became homeless and soon began suffering from Alzheimer's before meeting up with and surviving with Samuel when the zombie apocalypse came.
Guns Akimbo: Wields them in Die Rise's opening cutscene while defending Samuel.
A group of mobsters who have been incarcerated in Alcatraz for some time thanks to their own misdeeds. Their plan to escape goes awry as they are caught up in the zombie story when Alcatraz is overrun with the undead. Their attempts to escape and even to kill themselves are thwarted every single time, since they just keep coming back. Desperate to escape the hellish nightmare, the four learn the truth behind their fates, and must break the cycle if they've any hope of escaping and finding out where they are going from here.
Salvador "Sal" Deluca
A mob boss who was sent to Alcatraz for his crimes of bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution.
Cold Sniper: Defied, Billy wants to be as close as possible actually.
Billy: I'll take it, but I won't like it.
Sniper weapon brought from the box.
Decoy Protagonist: He's at the forefront of the Mob of the Dead "movie poster" released by Treyarch, and narrated the first trailer. However, it's ultimately Weasel who breaks the cycle and brings the story to its' conclusion.
Face-Heel Turn: in the end of the major Easter Egg, he turns against The Weasel and tries to kill him.
Haunted House: They live in a mansion. You better hope they don't overrun you. Oh, and the Pack-A-Punch Machine is behind the mansion, beyond a maze. Good luck trying to upgrade those weapons you have.
Other Important Characters
Dr. Ludvig Maxis
A top scientist and leader of Group 935, he has seen Richtofen fall from grace and sanity, and has set out some counterplans to thwart Edward, resulting in a power struggle that drives the main storyline of Black Ops II.
Ascended Extra: In World at War and most of Black Ops, he plays a small yet critical role, heard only through audio logs and radios. However, come Moon, Maxis is revealed to be alive, and helps the group deal Richtofen a crucial defeat by nuking the Earth. In Black Ops II, he's a full-blown major character, even becoming the Demonic Announcer if you aid him, and we finally see the man's face in the Origins cutscene, and he appears as a friendly NPC once you build his drone.
Big Good: He first helps the original three and his daughter strike a huge blow against Richtofen's control of the zombies in Moon. In Black Ops II, he enlists the Green Run group, and by extension humanity's aid to stop Edward's control over the zombies. Subverted thought, when he takes control, he just continues the fight anyway.
Brain in a Jar: In Origins. Thankfully, you can build him a new body, a drone.
Unwilling Roboticisation: Although, considering the circumstances, there really wasn't much choice in the matter, considering that he was technically dead.
Cool Old Guy: Is this to the Green Run survivors in Black Ops II (particularly during Buried when he's noticeably on his best behavior), and was this to Richtofen when they were good friends during World War I. in the former case, it was averted hard in Buried when it's revealed he's been manipulating humanity to help give him the power to destroy the Earth.
Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Accidentally causes one at the end of the Black Ops I storyline, setting Black Ops II Zombies into motion, though this ended up playing nicely into his plans when he sought to open the Rift and reach Agartha.
The Faceless: Maxis is never seen, only heard in audio logs and various devices. He is finally seen in an old photograph from World War I in the opening cutscene of Origins, and he makes his first physical appearance when we first see his lobotomized body, and then when he is uploaded into a quadrotor drone.
Faux Affably Evil: Once he's in control of the Zombies, he goes on cheering about how he'll be reunited with his daughter and thanks the players... and then less-than-sincerely announces the impending destruction of Earth and humanity's survivors as he heads for Agartha.
Foreshadowing: Maxis' betrayal is foreshadowed by his maniacal laughing upon the Earth's destruction, and some of the survivors seem to realize he intends to destroy the Earth.
Like a Son to Me: Maxis tried to invoke this during World War I, attempting to be a father figure to Richtofen upon his parents' deaths.
Love Makes You Evil: A familial version, in that when Samantha goes missing, Maxis is happy to first nuke the Earth, lie to gain support among Earth's survivors, ultimately to control the Aether and the zombies, and tear open the Earth to reach Agartha, where his daughter may not even be.
Necessary Evil: What he views his plans to destroy Earth as, though he doesn't sound too sincere when he claims to regret it.
Posthumous Character: Was assumed to be one for World at War and Black Ops, until Moon revealed he's alive and well, albeit as a digital entity following his body's death in front of the MPD.
Sixth Ranger: Well, more like fifth, unless you count Samantha. In Origins, he becomes a valuable ally in the fight against the zombies.
Took a Level in Jerkass: In audio logs for Origins, it's revealed Maxis was good friends with Richtofen and even tried to be a father figure for him when his parents died. Come the time of the audio logs heard in Moon, Maxis is pretty intolerant of Richtofen's discovery of teleportation and is pretty hard on him; though it's clear Maxis is pretty stressed from the dealings of Group 935 and the Third Reich. This harshness is what caused Richtofen's Start of Darkness, eventually leading to his betrayal.
Villain Protagonist: As with Richtofen, it's played with. He definitely seems more heroic than Richtofen from Moon to Buried, but it's all just a farce so he can destroy the Earth to reach Samantha in Agartha.
Villain Song: We All Fall Down in Die Rise. Played with, as at this point in the story he seems to be the good guy and is describing how Richtofen destroyed his life just for power and fun.
Walking Spoiler: Well, he doesn't have a physical form for most of the story, being a digital entity following his body's death. He becomes a flying spoiler in Origins, however, once his drone is fixed up.
The demonic, and possibly Satanic, entity who controls the zombies. In World at War and Black Ops, it's Samantha. Starting from the end of Moon, it's Richtofen, and by the end of one side of Buried's easter egg, it's Dr. Maxis.
Bigger Bad: Of the game mode. While Samantha, Richtofen, and Maxis are the three most direct antagonists you face, whatever this entity is, it's definitely far more powerful than any of them and appears to be behind everything. Samantha even warns Richtofen that something far worse than him lurks in the Aether.
Demonic Possession: Appears to do this to some degree to both the Maxis' and Richtofen once they begin their tenure as the Demonic Announcer.
Evil Sounds Deep: Averted with Demonic Richtofen in Black Ops II, though he still has some "ethereal" sound effects to his voice.
Satan: It is heavily implied to be Old Scratch himself controlling the zombies in Mob of the Dead (although the quotes are Samantha's reused), what with the Satanic motifs decorating the prison, the zombies having red eyes, the characters debate if they are in purgatory. The big clue, however, is entering either 115 or 935 into the electric number pad, and an unknown voice speaks, changing the numbers to 666. Additionally, Samantha had stated that there was something worse than even Richtofen in the Aether... something far worse...