Hitler’s dead, more so than usual at least, and the art school reject has been thrown into the pits of hell where he’ll presumably spend eternity having pineapples hoisted up his chocolate swastika by Harvey Keitel. Only problem? Before he died, ol’ Adolf went for broke in his attempt to win World War Two and unleashed a horde of evil across Europe.
The dead have risen again, reports of flesh-eating ghouls overrunning the forces of the Allied troops are all too common and headshot 101 is now a prerequisite for passing bootcamp. That’s where you come in, because between the rampaging hordes of feral undead, deadly hellstorms and the legions of hell spreading their ghastly corruption into abandoned Nazi war machines of steel and iron, lies a more sinister plot to finally push the living out of Europe and consume the rest of the world in the Dead War.
You’ve got to hand it to Rebellion, because this developer certainly knows its market. After establishing a reputation for crafting games focused on old wars and more phantasmagorical elements, the studio branched out of their comfort zone last year with Strange Brigade. Equal parts pulp adventure and co-operative shooter action, the DNA of that game flows through Zombie Army 4.
It’s a sequel which pinches influence and inspiration from not only Rebellion’s past, but has fine-tuned those mechanics into a lean mean Nazi zombie killing machine. From the moment you reach the main menu, you know exactly what kind of game you’re about to dip into: An over the top foray into the darkest trenches of World War 2 that absolutely delights in giving players a horror B-movie experience across multiple chapters.
Zombie Army 4 knows what it wants to be and sweet D-Day is it good at that singular focus of providing pure catharsis through undead obliteration. Kills beget skills, and in the case of Zombie Army 4’s cast of colourful characters that means more firepower with which to tear through the shambling ranks of Hitler’s horde.
Much like Sniper Elite, players are able to pick the undead off from a distance and briefly slow time down to line up perfect headshots, while more up close and personal business can be settled with melee attacks, shotguns, pistols and other assorted special weapons hidden around levels. Rack up a decent combo and you’re able to make use of special attacks to further thin the zombie army, augmenting your weapons with upgrade kits that bestow bonuses to their firepower.
You’ve also got access to various enhancements and explosive ordinance, weapons you’ll definitely need as the undead have also picked up a few tricks along the way. While a regular mob of ankle-biters can easily be taken care of with a few well-placed headshots and a chokepoint, they’ve upped their game by recruiting more cunning forces to their ranks.
Sniper zombies pounce from rooftops and wait for a perfect killshot, Skull commanders transform cannon fodder troops from George Romero shamblers into Zack Snyder sprinters and more burly zombies have wrapped themselves in steel armour that allows them to close the gap and maul you. If that wasn’t bad enough, you’ve also got to contend with creepier ghouls, undead who are smart enough to man a mounted machine gun, suicide bombers and more.
You’ve still got some aces up your sleeve to deal with the Nazi menace though, in the form of a perk system that allows you to customise your hero with life-saving skills that can prioritise offense, defense and support. Think only wimps take to higher ground and pick off the undead? Choose a perk that allows you to soften the blows of their rotting swipes and introduce them to the business end of your shotgun. Prefer to be a team player? Heal your co-op allies with divine bullets as if you were the Ted Nugent of medicine.
The gist of all this then, is that Zombie Army 4 does a terrific job in providing both thrills and chills. There’s something endlessly satisfying about being able to snipe a dozen zombies to pieces, whip out your shotgun and play dentist with the nearest Sturmmann. There’s just enough heft and recoil to keep the action interesting, with kills creating a satisfying fountain of blood with each pull of the trigger.
Rebellion’s also playing a long game with Zombie Army 4, as the campaign pays off when you take a friend with you for a mission. Optional challenges task you with thinning a horde of zombies within a circle of death, the replayibility factor is high as you increase your level and there’s a horde mode that will absolutely shred you if you go in unprepared. All this and weekly challenges await players, but its comforting to know that Zombie Army 4 doesn’t play like a cash-grab for the nearest live service booty as it regularly dishes out rewards for skill, not cash.
Zombie Army 4 is also a handsome game to look at. The undead are animated with a rolling rigor mortis as they march towards you, with my review copy on Xbox One X allowing for me to split my preferred visual taste according to two criteria: I could lock the frame-rate to 30FPS and enjoy a few more neat visual touches, or I could sacrifice some of that quality in exchange for 60FPS and smoother visuals in performance mode.
Rebellion’s got a talent for environments, and Zombie Army 4 doesn’t disappoint on that front. From the wrecked trainyards of Milan to the rotting waters of Venice, haunted forests and sinister secret missile bases, there’s an authenticity to these levels gleaned from Rebellion’s experience that is augmented with a taste for the spooky. There’s no denying that Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a niche game aimed at a particular market, but it’s a game that is pure in its intent to deliver the most satisfying reason to give the alt Reich a reason to strategically retreat back to the gates of hell.
Last Updated: February 3, 2020