Sometimes all you want to do after a long day at work is shoot zombie Nazis in the head without impunity.
It’s that disposition that the third-person shooter Zombie Army series has been known for – a campy, B (or C, or D) grade plot that fills in the gaps between missions across a wide swathe of Europe. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t ask you too either. And while there is some depth in its systems, it is simple enough that hopping in for a quick game doesn’t feel like a massive commitment.
Despite Hitler’s death in the previous game in the series, Europe is once again on the attack from Nazi zombies, and as a hardened survivor of Alpha Squad it is up to you to investigate why the undead are once again ravaging the land. And that, of course, means shooting lots, and lots of zombies, preferably in the head in a variety of missions hopping around a map of Europe.
There’s a decent variety of zombie enemies, and I appreciate that the different types were introduced slowly, so you can work out how best to deal with each of them. Some require a simple melee attack, some need taking out from afar while others are better dealt with through the use of explosives. Zombie Army 4: Dead War eventually throws various combinations of these monstrosities at you, and it can become a complex undertaking (especially when playing solo) to know how to take them all out with your limited weapon set.
To this end, there’s a decent if not surprising array of weapons to choose from. Though the selection isn’t huge, consisting of your standard pistol, shotgun, semi-automatics, rifles and sniper rifles, customising and upgrading your guns is an important part of surviving and being able to take out enemies stronger than the normal shufflers. These upgrades and abilities keep the relatively small arsenal fresh, especially when you consider the additional temporary enhancements you can find in the field (such as a limited-time ability to make a weapon’s bullets electrified). I found myself settling into a familiar weapon set pretty early on, and as it’s rare that you’re able to change weapons mid-mission, I rarely changed up my approach unless a mission specifically called for it.
The game shows its roots in the Sniper Elite series with a focus on longer-range weaponry, but it was always a careful toss-up whether to use one of just two main weapon slots (plus a pistol) on a slower-firing sniper rifle. Enemy hordes can be large, and a sniper rifle may be effective but not able to counter the sheer numbers of zombies Zombie Army 4: Dead War throws at you. The slow-motion x-ray style cinematic deaths also make a return from Sniper Elite, and it was always a satisfying and unexpected reward when one would turn up. New to this game are traps such as large propellers which feel right out of Fortnite or Strange Brigade. These can be the difference between surviving a wave of tough enemies or being crushed by them, and become less and less optional the further you get into the game.
At least on the Xbox One X, I was pleased to see that I could choose between prioritising graphics and prioritising frame rates. Because it’s a shooter I chose to prioritise frame rate to increase responsiveness and overall smoothness, and the game still looked great on my 4K TV nonetheless. There’s also welcome mouse and keyboard support for Xbox, and if you’ve got your Xbox hooked up to a monitor on a desk, I’d recommend trying that out in place of the generally less accurate controller, especially given the importance of landing headshots in Zombie Army 4: Dead War.
The audio design is basic but serviceable, and you’ll be hearing the same zombie growls over and over throughout the Level. It was hard to tell at times where zombies were located by audio alone, and so sometimes I was caught off guard by a suicide exploder zombie coming up behind me.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War never attempts to be anything but what it is, a chance to blow off steam and hang out with friends working through a Level. In addition to the main story, there’s a decent horde mode where you can attempt endless replays. In solo mode it can be a bit tough and overwhelming, and a relative dearth of checkpoints means one death can be catastrophic to a run. Unfortunately, there’s no split screen mode for local co-op play so you’ll each have to own a copy to play in a group. Zombie Army 4: Dead War is not a complicated game, but that works in its favour, and I’m glad it’s not.
Sit back, relax, and don’t let the zombies bite.