Undead, Undead, Undead.
The latest entry in Rebellion’s campy, team-based, undead shooter saga, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is the most ambitious entry in the series to date. Featuring a meaty campaign, addicting Horde mode, and a satisfying progression system, the game provides some of the best co-op zombie slaying this side of Left 4 Dead.
True to its B Movie title, Zombie Army 4 is a thoroughly tongue-in-cheek affair. Its story doesn’t waste any time trying to pull players in with thoughtful melodrama or complex moral dilemmas. No sir. It’s a game about butchering Satanic Nazis with electrified shotguns and stomping corpses like meaty pinatas to collect the health and ammo pickups that fly out like grisly party favors. A bloodsoaked tour de force that isn’t afraid to pit players against not only zombified fascists but also undead sharks and other horrors of meat and machinery, set to the sound of synthwave melodies that feel ripped right out of some forgotten slasher flick from the 1980s.
No, Zombie Army 4 doesn’t take itself too seriously. And you know what? It’s all the better for it! But with countless zombie shooters on the market, does Zombie Army 4 do enough to stand out from the pack? Read on and find out.
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before.
The game’s story begins in 1946, one year after the events of Zombie Army 3’s campaign. After Hitler escapes to Hell, the fallen forces of the Third Reich have been reanimated and continue to wage war against the living. To reclaim the earth from the invading legions of the undead, you must join the resistance and take the fight to their supernatural aggressors before rotting soldiers and other occult monstrosities can wipe humanity off the face of the globe.
As a spinoff of Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series, it should come as no surprise that Zombie Army 4 emphasizes long-range combat above all else. The game puts a handful of rifles at players’ fingertips, like the trusty American M1 Garand, the Russian bolt-action Mosin-Nagant, and the German Gewehr 43. And each one can be customized with an assortment of optics to suit your sniping style and various upgrades like incendiary ammo to set your enemies aflame, extended magazines, etc.
And, given the game uses the Sniper Elite engine, it should come as no surprise that the game uses the series’ signature X-Ray camera to grisly effect when you send a round downrange and ripping into the heart –or genitals– of a distant ghoul. These flashy kills are as gruesome a spectacle they ever were in Zombie Army 4. However, they do lose a bit of their impact, given the fact your foes are impervious to pain this time around. But they sure do look impressive.
Of course, there are plenty of sidearms to use, like pistols, submachine guns, and more. Still, these are usually best saved for when you’re being overrun or forced to battle in cramped quarters because ammo is almost always in painfully short supply.
Thankfully, most of the campaign’s nine playable stages have plenty of wide-open vistas that lend themselves well to the game’s emphasis on sniper kills. Though you’ll still find yourself in quite a few choke points like cramped sewers and crumbling tenements, these sections are usually pretty brief and mostly exist to hide an item you need to collect or ratchet up the tension before you reach the next killing field.
Gore Tour Du Jour.
Speaking of the game’s stages, Zombie Army 4’s campaign takes you across a wide variety of distinct locales. One minute you’re taking a scenic boat cruise through the canals of Venice and battling Satanic supernatural snipers; the next, you’ll be taking a tour of a haunting zombie-ridden zoo for the first time since 2004’s Resident Evil Outbreak: File 2. Each stage is massive, too. If you plan to tackle them solo, you can easily find yourself spending an hour or more in each; especially if you want to locate all of the zombie’s hands, documents, upgrade kits, and other collectibles littered within.
However, when playing with a gang of like-minded zombie killers, the action does move quite a bit faster as more players can make collecting the items you’ll need to proceed that much easier. Still, whether you’re playing solo or with friends, the game offers a pretty ambitious campaign that should keep you and your friends busy for quite some time.
In terms of multiplayer, Zombie Army 4’s co-op carnage is sublime. Matchmaking is a breeze, and it’s easy to hop online and link up with a squad. Each of the game’s nine playable stages is available from the start, allowing you to dive into a full campaign or blast your way through your favorite map alongside up to three friends. Online bloodbaths can quickly become a competitive affair as players compete to rack up their combo meters the fastest, which can net a massive experience payoff at the end of a match to help level up your character and upgrade their repertoire of stats and abilities.
Plowing through the campaign is a blast. However, there’s also a horde mode to keep you busy once you’ve had your fill of the game’s main story. As you’d expect, Horde mode pits up to four players up against endless undead soldiers and other supernatural threats. Each stage supports this mode, and you can even customize the difficulty, right down to the density of the enemies, or whether or not to allow friendly fire. Seriously, what kind of sadist would enable friendly fire in a game like this?
In case you couldn’t tell, I very much enjoyed my time spent with Zombie Army 4: Dead War. As a bit of a horror buff, the game’s goofy, self-aware narrative and was a joy to blast my way through. And when it comes to online multiplayer, its cooperative carnage is easy to pick up, and nearly impossible to put down thanks to its addicting scoring system, excellent stage design, and a fun, customizable Horde mode. Still, if you’ve had your fill co-op of zombie shooter like Left 4 Dead, World War Z, and Black Ops 4: Zombies, I’m not sure the game will do enough to rekindle your love for the genre. However, if that’s not the case and you’ve still got some fight left in you, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is well worth the price of admission.
Final Verdict: 4 /5
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC; Publisher: Rebellion Developments; Developer: Rebellion Developments; Players: 1-4 (online); Released: February 4, 2019; MSRP: $59.99
Editor’s note: A review code was provided by the publisher.