In complicated times we crave simplicity, and there are few things simpler and more primally satisfying than mowing down zombies dressed in Nazi garb. The Third Reich is defeated, Hitler is dead, but now they’re back in undead form and you get to kill them all over again. It’s hell-raisingly wholesome fun.
Rebellion’s Zombie Army series – a spin-off to the excellent Sniper Elite series – has catered to this need for years, and it’s now expanding its reach with a Steam release for Zombie Army 4: Dead War.
So what can you expect from a game whose title and synopsis are so self-explanatory? Well, World War II (you know, the one where Hitler used necromancy to raise millions of the dead to fight the allies?) is over, but zombies continue to roam the world. In the subsequent conflict known as the Dead War, you’re part of a human resistance movement committed to eradicating this ongoing scourge. It soon comes to light that there are still forces at work looking to harness their mindless, ravenous power.
You choose from a number of diverse grizzled characters, kit them out with an assortment of sidearms, explosives and perks alongside a trusty high-power sniper rifle, and head out into war-and-zombie-torn Italy. Zombie Army 4 builds on the great long-ranged combat of Sniper Elite by adding more in-your-face weapons and mechanics like the brutal melee takedown, which restore some of your health.
No game related to Sniper Elite would be complete without the ability to see heads explode like water balloons and guts scramble like eggs in a blender. We’re talking of course about the series’ trademark x-ray camera, which lets you follow your bullet’s journey in slow-motion from your rifle all the way into the head, heart or bowels of your target (and sometimes beyond).
It’s still one of the most viscerally satisfying mechanics in PC gaming, enhanced by the glossy detail of Sniper Elite 4’s Asura engine (and the fact that the guts and bones of zombies seem to react even better to bullet damage than regular evil humans)
The campaign will take you from the festering canals of Venice to the fallen glory of Rome (one of the missions even sees you hop over the Adriatic Sea to Croatia!). You can go at it alone, garnering all those headshots and XP for yourself, or you can team up with up to three friends or strangers online and liberate Italy from undead infestation together (which, the way we see it, multiplies the fun). You’ll be able to crossplay with the existing player base on Epic, though you won’t be able to carry saves and progress over from Epic to Steam.
Playing the campaign in co-op scales up the number and difficulty of enemies, making the already-tight conditions on these levels feel claustrophobic in a way that would give George Romero nightmares. Activating a blood fountain, then having to wait for the zombie hordes to get within the fountain’s perimeter before despatching them is an intense experience, as you and your friends end up back-to-back fending off the walking dead.
Or if you’d rather put you and your friends’ survival skills to the test, then jump into Horde mode, where you’ll be pitted against endless waves of zombies in various hellish environments. Making the call about whether to carry on against the odds or exit with your team really feels like one of those life-and-death calls.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a great B-movie splatterfest, and it’s available to buy now on Steam as well as the Epic Games Store. There’s a lot in the pipeline at Rebellion at the moment (like Evil Genius 2 – yay!), so head over to their Facebook and Twitter channels to keep up with the latest happenings.