Toeing the line between action-packed and tongue-in-cheek, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a delightfully campy zombie shooter with lots to offer.
Going into my scheduled appointment for Zombie Army 4: Dead War at New York Comic Con last weekend (a title we played earlier this year at E3), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from playing it. Having never played any of the Sniper Elite titles (other than being familiar with their infamous slo-mo killcam) or any of the Zombie Army Trilogy, I had some slight hesitation about playing the fourth entry in a series with no prior experience. However, after just a few minutes into my demo where I was punching Nazi zombies with electric fists and blasting their heads off with a WWII-era shotgun, I think any hesitation of playing the game was diminished pretty quickly.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War marks the fourth installment of the Sniper Elite spin-off series that focuses on bringing the fight to the undead in a WWII-setting. In particular, the representatives from Rebellion Developments that were demoing the game at NYCC gave me the sense that Zombie Army 4 is truly aiming to make this series stand on its own alongside Sniper Elite with a full-fledged, proper entry. While the series seemed to take off unexpectedly in its earlier days as standalone DLC for the Sniper Elite games, Rebellion is putting more weight behind Zombie Army and honing its identity, and what I played of its fourth installment definitely was encouraging to see the series break out on its own.
By and large, Zombie Army 4: Dead War at its face value should be familiar to anyone that has played the touchstones of the zombie shooter genre, whether that’s Call of Duty’s Nazi Zombies mode, Left 4 Dead, or otherwise. And while Zombie Army 4 may seem like Another Zombie Shooter at first glance, it ended up taking me by surprise by its sole dedication to letting players take on hordes of the undead and trying to get out alive in the most creative ways possible.
At the beginning of the single-player demo that I saw at New York Comic Con, I was brought into the customization screen to outfit my character before engaging in my war on the undead. This was perhaps one of the areas where I was the most impressed with Zombie Army 4. Even from the limited time that I had with the demo, I could already tell that it seems like there are a wealth of options for players to make their character their own in terms of cosmetic appearance. Given that there is also the co-op multiplayer component of Zombie Army 4, it seems especially appealing for players to make their characters look even more badass than their friends, even without zombies being involved.
Aside from your character’s cosmetic options, Zombie Army 4 also gives a hefty amount of character abilities and weapon customization that allow players to hone their play style over time. While this starts out simply with WWII-era weapons like an M1 Garand or a trench gun, Zombie Army 4 augments its range of weapons with a ton of interesting abilities and attachments. I particularly enjoyed the electric fist melee ability that, as its name implies, allowed me to shock an incoming zombie that got a little too close for comfort. I also made great use out of the ability that gave me a chance to revive myself by killing a zombie while downed, a la Borderlands, making for a nice opportunity to save myself in a heated moment. Those were only a few of the abilities that I got to toy around with in the demo, as the game clearly gives players a lot to work with when it comes to their character’s abilities and skill sets. It will be interesting to see the full extent of it all in the final game, as even my brief time with the game showed me extensive skill trees for players and how they can develop their characters.
While the gameplay should be simple enough for almost anyone to grasp–at least if you’ve played any zombie shooter before–what really drew me into the experience was that Zombie Army 4 completely plays into its tongue-in-cheek premise. Zombie Army 4 wears its ridiculousness on its sleeve, and while the demo I played gave me a few glimpses at a campaign-style structure, I was just taken in by the sheer pleasure of being given wave after wave of zombies to face. This is especially combined with the smaller touches that makes taking out zombies even more satisfying, such as the signature Sniper Elite style killcam that zooms in with gratuitous detail on a headshot, or a slo-mo ability that can be activated for extra gnarly shotgun blasts to a zombie’s torso.
In many ways, Zombie Army 4: Dead War felt like a near perfect mixture of what I’ve loved from games such as Left 4 Dead and the Gears of War series’ Horde mode. Faced with the sheer relentlessness of waves of enemies, there’s an unmatched thrill in trying to take on overwhelming odds and coming out of it all alive, and what I played of Zombie Army 4 so far taps into that tension extremely well. While I would be even more interested to check out the game’s co-op offerings, I still had a blast taking down hordes of the undead in the game and was impressed in how it brings newfound life to the zombie shooter genre.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War will release on February 4, 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.