Zombie Army 4: Dead War
The original Zombie Army Trilogy provided players with hours of undead sniping action, so it’s no surprise to see the fourth installment. Although it started as a Sniper Elite spin-off the B-Movie charms of the Zombie Army games made them very entertaining games in their own right. However, in between the release of Zombie Army Trilogy and Zombie Army 4: Dead War, Rebellion also made a game called Strange Brigade. It was a more lighthearted take on the genre but refined a lot of elements found in the Zombie Army games and its influence can be seen all over Dead War.
Dead War is a direct sequel to Zombie Army Trilogy and is set one year after the brave heroes defeated Hitler and his undead army. Unfortunately, the dead are still refusing to stay in their graves and it quickly becomes apparent that more evil is afoot. Two of the heroes from the previous games, Karl and Boris return to do what they do best and this time they are joined by two new characters, Jun and Shola. Of course, Rebellion isn’t shy when it comes to downloadable content, so additional characters can be yours if you splash out on the Deluxe Edition of the game. These characters, who include a French resistance fighter, Paratrooper zombie, and American sea captain can also be bought individually. No matter who you pick, though, your goal is still to shoot lots of zombies, preferably with the aid of friends.
Zombie Army 4: Dead Wars allows for up to four players to team up and this is honestly the best way to play the game. Going in solo is possible and even fun, but it really can’t compare to the dynamic of a group of friends. Whether you are competing to see how gets the most kills or shouting at each other after accidentally causing death or injury due to poor aim, playing in a group elevates the experience. It also means that you usually have someone who can cover your back while you are shooting zombies in the distance or who will wade into the fray and revive you if you get overwhelmed.
Despite the hordes of zombies and abundance of blood and gore, the original games were not exactly scary, and Dead Wars even less so. Yes, the creepy dolls are back and can still provide the occasional jump scare, but it’s hard to take a game with zombie sharks and even zombie tanks very seriously. The older enemies also make a return along with a few new ones like flamethrower wielding zombies and “Screamers” who are blind, but ferocious. The grenade lobbing zombies hiding behind shields also feel like they came straight out of Strange Brigade.
It would have been nice if Dead War included more of the puzzle elements introduced in Strange Brigade, but this is not the case. There’s the occasional locked safe that can be opened by solving a mild puzzle in the same room, but nothing that really stands out. We are however glad that the blood bottles from ZAT are gone and have been replaced by zombie hands that can be found and shot. Not only are they more visible, but each one has a name and is usually doing something goofy like dancing or scuttling about. In addition to the zombie hands, there are also other optional collectibles like comic books scattered about. The upgrade kits are the most useful, though, and worth tracking down to improve your weapons.
Despite being a compilation of three games ZAT felt a little short, although it made up for this with plenty of replay value. Dead War improves on this with nine chapters, most of which have four levels. The levels also feel larger than the original and take players through locations ranging from Milan and Venice to abandoned zoos and creepy forests. The game supports DirectX 12 as well as Vulkan and looks pretty decent. The color palette is a little drab, especially when compared to Strange Brigade, but fits in with the whole zombie theme. There are plenty of options to tweak and a built-in benchmark to ensure that you are not sacrificing too many frames per second for all the eye candy. The blood and gore are also back with a vengeance and those slow-motion x-ray “killcam” moments remain very satisfying.
One of the criticisms we had with the original games was that they can become very repetitive as most levels involve doing the same things. Dead War is still a very linear game, but appears to be a lot more talkative and populated with NPCs. Some players might appreciate this as it fleshes out the setting more, but others will find it annoying. We found it rather hard to concentrate on the conversations happening in the background over the radio as taking on the hordes of zombies demanded more of our attention. The story is also filled with the usual cliches, but this is honestly not the type of game to play if you are looking for great or original dialog. The music is still very synth-heavy and B-Movie-inspired while the sound effects are realistic and have impact.
Along with the slow-motion shots of heads, internal organs, and testicles exploding, combos also make a return in Dead War. Consecutive kills without missing or taking too long between shots build up your combo meter, which also boosts your score. They also have additional benefits, such as the “takedown” attack that can be performed after a ten kill combo. Not only can it be used to instantly kill a close-range enemy, but also rewards you with health. Players can also perform special melee attacks to get a little more breathing room if the zombies get too close, but these are on a cool-down timer. Furthermore, ten kills with a weapon make its special ability available, which ranges from faster reloading, targeting multiple enemies at once for a headshot bonanza, and much more. The inclusion of traps to shoot in the environments also contributes to the arcade-style score-attack feel of the game.
One thing is for sure, with Dead War Rebellion has focused on creating a game with lots of replay value. Playing on the harder difficulties means gravity and wind will affect your shots, which makes for a very different approach to the point and kill shooting of the easy modes. Being able to injure your team members on the harder modes will also make you think twice about just wading into the fray with a flamethrower. It has to be said that the unlockable “Brutal” mode takes things a little too far by completely removing your HUD, which makes it impossible to see your health, ammo count, and even what grenades or mines you are carrying. Another thing that will keep players coming back for more is the persistent character progression. Whether you are playing the campaign levels or the horde mode, which makes a welcome return, the experience, and levels you earn carry over. New character levels unlock new perks, which in conjunction with the weapon upgrade system, allows you to really customize your characters to your liking. Rebellion has also gone to town with the cosmetics and along with new outfits and taunts for your characters, you can also attach small charms to your guns or change their paint styles.
Overall, Zombie Army 4: Dead War offers more of the same that made the original games so much fun to play. It can still get very repetitive, but by sticking to a chapter per evening we always found ourselves looking forward to the next one. Horde mode also offers a great way to jump into the action without having to worry about the story and the inclusion of weekly events ensured that we came back for more every week. It’s still not the most original or innovative third-person shooter on the market, but there’s just something about shooting Nazi zombies in the head that never grows old.
OS: Windows 10 64-bit / Windows 7 64-bit*CPU: Intel Core i3-6100 (or AMD equivalent)Memory 4 GB RAMGPU: Nvidia GT 1030 2GB (or AMD equivalent)Storage: 50 GBOther: *Windows 7 64-bit version 7601 supported only via the Vulkan launcher option.