Facing defeat at the end of World War II, Hitler made a last-ditch attempt at victory by raising his dead soldiers from the grave. But while this led to his own death at the end of Zombie Army Trilogy, the new Zombie Army 4: Dead War (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC) shows that the war against the living impaired is still being waged. And while it may not be going well for those hoping to stay alive and free, those hoping to shoot lots of Nazi zombies from the third-person perspective will mostly enjoy this frantic shooter. Mostly.
Just as the original Nazi Zombie Army…
was a stand-alone expansion for 2012 Sniper Elite V2, Zombie Army 4: Dead War feels very much like it’s based on the most recent Sniper Elite installment, 2017’s Sniper Elite 4, but with a little bit of last year’s S.E.4.-ish Strange Brigade thrown in for good measure. It has the same solid, third-person controls, especially where the sniping is concerned, options to make said sniping as realistic or arcade-ish as you like, and numerous containers of gas and explosive you can use to take out multiple enemies with a single shot.
But just as Zombie Army Trilogy wasn’t just Sniper Elite V2 with slow-moving enemies who don’t shoot back, and Strange Brigade wasn’t just Sniper Elite 4 with mummies instead of Nazis, so too is Zombie Army 4: Dead War not just Sniper Elite 4with the undead. While yes, your enemies do shamble towards you, and most don’t use guns (more on that later), they more than make up for it with sheer numbers, swarming you the way zombies always do in movies and TV shows. Some will even just lie there, waiting until you disturb them before they get up and attack.
Thankfully, these zombies aren’t the Night Of The Living Dead or Walking Dead kind that keep going until you destroy their brains; a couple good shots usually takes them out. But not always. On occasion, you’ll come across a stubborn one who keeps coming even though he’s lost his legs, while still others get resurrected by dark magick.
The places you visit in Zombie Army 4: Dead War are also very different from the picturesque ones you went to in Sniper Elite 4. There’s also a dark cloud that hangs over the land, while the power is out in many of the buildings, and this lack of light impedes your ability to snipe enemies.
the levels in the story mode of Zombie Army 4: Dead War are much more linear and focused than the wide-open ones of Sniper Elite 4. They’re not even as open as those in Strange Brigade, which, like this, still had you going from point A to point B. Though they do have as many side paths and dead ends, which gives you plenty to explore as you make your way from one safe house to the next.
As a result of this fundamental change in who you’re shooting, and where, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is much less of a sniping game than Sniper Elite 4. Even less so than Strange Brigade, which also has swarms of enemies, albeit smaller swarms. While there are times when you can take out enemies from afar, and should, these moments aren’t the norm. Which is too bad, since — like in Sniper Elite 4 — they rank among the stronger moments of this game, too.
Having so many enemies at any given time can also change how you approach these gun battles, especially in the campaign. Most of the time it’s less about clearing an area as it is about clearing a path. That is, unless you’re in an area where you have to kill a certain number of zombies to break the magical seal that’s keeping you from moving on.
The aforementioned safe houses also gives Zombie Army 4: Dead War a similar feel to such fellow zombie shooters as Left4Dead and the “Zombies” modes in such Call Of Duty games as Call Of Duty: WWII. But it’s not the only way. While slow-moving shamblers are the most common type of zombie you face, there are other types that include toxic barfers, suicide bombers, and others we’ve seen before. There’s even blind, sound-sensitive ones who behave like Clickers from The Last Of Us (and are just as infuriating), as well as some who are still holding their guns but don’t know how to aim. But you also take on some new kinds of Nazi zombies, such as necromancers who rile up the undead, ones in improvised suits of armor, and tall guys who not only carry flame throwers, Gatling guns, and chainsaws, but somehow remember how to use them.
In a similar vein,
Zombie Army 4: Dead War lets you modify your weapons in ways that are neither historically accurate nor unique to this series. Along with electrical and explosive attachments for your ammo, you can also get magical augmentations like a rifle scope that gives you a health boost when you land a critical shot.
It’s just too bad that, even with a mod your pistol is still a weak-ass waste of time.
Sadly, this is not the only disappointing part of Zombie Army 4: Dead War. Though it is the least helpful.
For starters, the story in the campaign is half-baked and not told well. It also makes the all-too common mistake of cutting off the cutscenes before the action in them pays off.
It’s also annoying that, for the most part, health packs are usually only found in the safe rooms, and you can only carry one spare at a time. Granted, you can also sometimes find one, or a quick health boost, if you stomp a downed zombie’s body into chunks — which takes the place of rifling through dead people’s pockets in Sniper Elite 4 — but even then you’re far more likely to find bullets than bandages.
Then there’s the co-op survival mode, “Horde,” which is like the mode of the same name in Gears 5…just not as well done. Not to mention redundant, given how often, during the campaign, you find yourself trapped in an enclosed area that’s overrun with zombies.
There’s also a silliness to Zombie Army 4: Dead War that falls flat. Some of the sound effects are carnival-esque, while keeping track on-screen of your score, and giving you score multipliers, makes this more arcade-like than immersive. Though if the goofiness in Call Of Duty‘s “Zombies” mode doesn’t bother you in that game, it won’t bother you here.
Yet, despite these issues,
Zombie Army 4: Dead War is still a frantic and fun third-person shooter, one that once again lets you take down hundreds of Nazi zombies in the name of freedom. Having so many enemies attacking at the same time — and, later on, having many types of enemies attacking — makes for a good test of the game’s intuitive controls, while the relatively less harried moments when you get to snipe provide a good contrast to the ones when you’re running and gunning and looking for that all-inclusive box of ammo, I’m about to run out. We’ll see you in Hell, Hitler.