Rebellion is back with a brand-new entry in the Zombie Army franchise, which brings back the over-the-top zombie hunting action that fans have loved throughout the series. The Sniper Elite team has packed a full campaign into this year's version, which can be played solo or via co-op, as well as a Horde mode and weekly events that will net you new skins and upgrades, and the result of all that effort is a crazy-addictive experience that just about any fan of crisp gunplay and zombies will absolutely love.
Rebellion brings the vaunted Sniper Elite mechanics into a zombie apocalypse that has humanity attempting to stave off Hitler's undead hordes by any means necessary, and as you'll soon learn, that means lots of heart-piercing sniper shots, explosions, and crazy traps that inject all the gore and gunplay with a bit of lightheartedness. Don't get me wrong, the game has some frightening atmosphere in parts (especially those creepy little occult dolls), but most of the game's tension comes from the moment-to-moment gameplay as you make your way towards your objective, and it's incredibly addicting.
A quiet area can soon fill up with zombies approaching from every corner, demanding that you make use of not only your primary weapons, but of your grenades, electric trip mines, and bait grenades, as well as your actual location. It's beyond satisfying drawing a horde of zombies into a large boat fan, shredding them to bits and preserving your ammo in the process. As I unfortunately learned, you can also be chopped to bits by said fan, but despite the death, it was pretty hilarious to discover.
Another feather in the cap is that Zombie Army 4 never keeps you out of the action for long. Load screens are extremely quick and boot you right back at an oftentimes convenient checkpoint, though there is the occasional checkpoint that demands you redo a section a bit too far back. Most of the time, though, this issue is nonexistent, and it furthers that "one more try" momentum that the game has in spades.
The actual shooting is crisp and rewarding, and the game constantly throws new upgrades and unlocks at you to keep you hooked. The patented sniper slow-motion kills are back, and, while I didn't tire of them, there is an option to hit X and skip the small scene if you want to stay immersed in the action. Everything should be this way, and props to Rebellion for building in the option.
The campaign takes itself seriously enough to get you hooked into the world, but it also knows what you're there for, and that's taking out zombies. That's why the dialogue and story elements are told through conversations as you're on the move, and the few cinematics in the game are more about setting up the next level and are still quickly paced. Playing solo makes for a fun time, and while there are only four main chapters, there's enough meat to those chapters to make you feel as if you've had a full experience without the game overstaying its welcome.
The game truly shines though in co-op. This is an absolute blast, with no lag and sheer chaos happening on screen. Taking on the more advanced enemies like the flamethrower and chainsaw-wielding zombies is always a challenge, but you have the ability to work out strategies with two or more players that the frenzied pace doesn't really allow for in single-player, and it makes the whole scenario all the more fun. Things are happening quickly, and you always feel as if you're right on the edge of everything falling apart, whether playing together in the campaign or in the game's Horde mode, which doesn't let you hunker down but instead keeps moving your ragtag team forward and avoiding any comfort.
The main issues come in the form of customizing your heroes. While you can earn skins, hats, and other accessories for your weapons, the visuals on these leave a bit to be desired. Granted, these things fit within the overall context of the world, i.e. a gold-skinned gun looks as if it was painted gold, but with the outrageous premise, it would be nice to see the creative limitations taken off a bit. You're shooting zombies, so why not a unicorn-themed gun or something that looks cybernetic or just something that is bursting with color? The game's environments and premise don't allow for a lot of color, so it would be great to break that up a bit, and a lot of the customizations just feel too similar. Having another chapter wouldn't be a bad thing either, and perhaps including some additional customizations for your actual characters would help a bit too.
Despite those nitpicks, this a winning formula, and while those looking for an Oscar-worthy narrative or genre-defining mechanics might not be satisfied, those looking for a rewarding, addictive, and above all fun rollercoaster ride will be over the moon. Sniping zombies has never been more fun.
Rating: 4 out of 50comments
Zombie Army 4: Dead War is available now.
A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose this review.