Zombie Army 4: Dead War Review — Sharknado: Zombie Edition
Zombie Army 4: Dead War is the most refined entry in the series so far and offers hours upon hours of zombie-killing content for your enjoyment.
From Resident Evil to the upcoming The Last of Us Part II, zombies have been featured in video games for as long as I can remember. It’s a tried-and-true formula that just works. I think the zombies and video games relationship can be best summed up by paraphrasing Forrest Gump; they belong together like peas and carrots. However, it was Treyarch’s hidden mode from Call of Duty: World at War that made Nazi zombies all the rage. The merging of the two evils inspired the creators of Sniper Elite to feature Nazi zombies in the game’s expansions which ended up being so popular with fans, it went on to spawn its own franchise. Now, the fourth entry in the series, Rebellion’s Zombie Army 4: Dead War, will be releasing shortly on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
At the end of the Zombie Army Trilogy, Hitler was defeated and sent to Hell. It’s now one year later and Hitler’s dead army still roams the earth leaving a path of death and destruction in their wake. In Zombie Army 4: Dead War your task is to defeat this leaderless army of zombies before they can revive their supreme evil leader Adolf Hitler and wipe out humanity in the ultimate zombie apocalypse. The all-new campaign starts in Italy and ends in Hell as you encounter the most grotesque enemies ever seen in the series such as zombie tanks and sharks.
There are four characters to play as and as you level up, you can customize and upgrade them to match your gameplay style. This includes up to five perk slots that boost your offensive and defensive tactics along with a special category that provides things like the ability to carry more ammo for weapon types. You need to level up to unlock these slots with the fifth and final one unlocking at level 35. Your character can also get a special melee attack that ranges from giving you a small amount of health to an incendiary axe throw.
Rebellion, who both developed and published Zombie Army 4: Dead War, has improved upon the gunplay quite a bit. The game also still includes the oh-so-satisfying X-Ray Kill Cam made famous in the Sniper Elite series. If you are unfamiliar with the X-Ray Kill Cam, it slows up time so you can watch the bullets shatter brains, organs, and bones. If you have played any third or first-person shooters before, controls and gameplay will feel familiar and easy to master.
Zombie Army 4’s arsenal includes a handful of rifles, assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols that are typical and standard in most WWII shooters such as the MP44 and the Gewehr 43. Making them unique is the fact that they are upgradeable with a variety of cool perks that will enhance your bullets with lightning or Vampir scopes that return a small amount of health on successful critical hits.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War’s campaign can be played solo or with up to three others in co-op. Unfortunately, I couldn’t test out co-op too extensively in this pre-release form. Since I prefer playing campaigns first on my own before joining others anyway, this didn’t really concern me, although it’s easy to see that the game is designed with cooperative play in mind.
I also tested out the new and improved Horde mode and while it’s not impossible to play on your own, it’s definitely not easy taking on progressively more difficult and numerous waves of zombies. Even in my failure, I still had fun with Horde mode but I’m looking forward to being able to play with more friends once the game releases.
There’s a whole lot more to Zombie Army 4 than just killing zombies. There are objectives and obstacles to conquer which provide a little more depth and polish to the overall experience. Traveling down the canals of Venice in a boat, you will have to stop and refuel with the fuel being scattered throughout the level. Once you find the tanks of fuel, you must make your way back to the boat amidst zombie chaos and only the use of your pistol. For those of you treasure hunters, each chapter includes several collectibles to be had including weapon upgrade kits which you don’t want to miss. Of course, the real reason we are here is to kill zombies, and the game does a good job of not getting repetitive by offering several varieties of zombies to blow away. Half of the battle becomes learning the weaknesses of each type so you can quickly eliminate them.
The graphics and art direction of Zombie Army 4 bring lifelike realism to the various zombie forms as well as depict some of Italy’s notable landmarks in a ruined but still lovely state. The sound crew at Rebellion have added to the intensity of the zombie attacks with a perfect mix of sound effects and zombie cries. The scream of a Suicider will become all too familiar as you frantically seek the direction it’s coming from before it’s too late and self destructs in front of you. I was reminded of the Clickers from The Last of Us and how the sound of them haunted my dreams long after I finished the game.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War poses a challenge in its punishing gameplay that feels mostly balanced, with the exception of the lack of health. I’m currently at level 43 in the game and only a very small portion of my health bar regenerates. In order to regenerate to full health, you need a medkit. You can carry one extra medkit with you, but given the length and difficulty of some chapters, sometimes one alone is not enough. Ammunition is scattered around the levels very generously, so you rarely run out of bullets, but I almost never found medkits. After each level, you are sent to a safe house where you can re-supply and often that was the only time I would see them. I’m not saying I didn’t come across the random medkit here and there, but it was an extremely rare occurrence. I even tested all three difficulties to see if they spawned more frequently on Easy, Medium, or Hard and the result was always the same.
Another pitfall of playing games prior to release is that often I’m playing it before it has been fully optimized with the day one patch. That was, unfortunately, the case with Zombie Army 4: Dead War at times. The worst error which took place for me was during the Death Canal mission where I was prompted to pull a lever to lower a bridge but the ability to actually interact with the lever never manifested. For a while, I was stuck here and couldn’t progress. Since it was fairly early in the game, I started over from the beginning and was able to finally move along. There were other similar incidents throughout the game, but nothing as severe as this. Typically, restarting the most recent checkpoint fixed most of my other problems.
Another odd issue I experienced had to do with beating the final boss. Upon defeating this baddie, the game immediately went straight to the main menu, with no story wrap up, cutscenes, or anything. The only way I knew the game was over, was because the achievement for finishing the game popped. Replaying the last chapter properly ended the game for me and I was able to see how things actually wrapped up. Fortunately, these problems I had shouldn’t be an issue for you as Rebellion has sent out the contents of a day one patch that should fix these and a few other minor bugs that are currently plaguing Zombie Army 4.
Unlike the direction the Zombies mode from Call of Duty has taken in the past few iterations, Zombie Army 4 offers a cohesive and fun experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s engaging from start to finish and with its weekly challenges, the arcade-like setup of the chapters and leaderboards, and with Horde Mode, there’s a bunch of replay value here. Zombie Army 4: Dead War has finally broken free of its Sniper Elite shackles and will hopefully give rise to a lasting franchise of smiting out Nazi zombies.