NAZIS and supernatural shenanigans are one of those classic combinations that just work together so well.
From the Wolfenstein games to your better straight-to-video horror movies, when you take the paranormal and add the Third Reich, the result tends to be pretty engaging – and messy, too.
Rebellion’s Zombie Army trilogy of games – first released in 2013 as DLC for Sniper Elite – take full advantage of the natural crossover opportunities the two genres provide and take place in an alternate universe where, realising he was going to lose WWII, Hitler summoned an army of the undead to provide two of the most compelling targets a gamer could want – Nazis AND zombies.
I was invited to attend a special hands-on preview session of the new game in the series, Zombie Army 4: Dead War in Sydney recently, giving me a chance to try a few different game modes and neutralise a bunch of zombies in the process.
The game releases on February 4 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and shares a lot of its DNA with Rebellion’s Sniper Elite series – indeed, sniper Karl Fairburne is one of the four main characters, and the series started as DLC for the projectile delivery simulator – but also has elements of a few of the developer’s other titles in the mix, notably co-op horde shooter Strange Brigade.
The game is going for an 80s grindhouse/straight-to-VHS horror movie vibe and from what I saw managed quite well, with atmospheric settings (it’s always evening or night), lots of zombies, and plenty of non-stop zombie-fighting.
There are four characters in the game, and while it’s playable solo, the experience is designed to work most enjoyably in four-player co-op. I certainly enjoyed sitting in a high vantage point with a Mosin-Nagant M91/30 PU sniper rifle picking off Nazi Zombies as my team-mates got in close with Winchester Model 1897 trench guns, MP-40 SMGs and grenades.
As with Sniper Elite, particularly impressive or effective shots can trigger a slow-motion X-ray killcam, which was a nice chance to savour a well-placed shot too.
The action was fast and frantic, but there were also places allowing for a breather – notably Left 4 Dead style saferooms that represented a welcome chance to restock, rearm and pick up medikits and the like too.
The developers have said there will be nine campaign levels in the game, each broken up into a number of chapters.
Senior systems designer Vicky Boyce said the team had worked hard to encapsulate what people loved about the original trilogy, but wanted to take the game beyond that.
“It just is fun making it its own title… giving it more flesh, more body, more attitudes,” she said.
“We wanted to give the game its identity, making its own game, and we really think we’ve got it there.”
The game has several improvements over its predecessors, Ms Boyce said, with plenty for fans to look forward to.
“So, we have our new XP banking system, and along with that you get loads of new rewards which aren’t in the original trilogy,” she said.
“You have the new characters as well – we’ve got Karl and we’ve got Boris, but we do have our new totally new characters too, and the campaign itself is brand new as well.”
Ms Boyce said the game was a lot harder and tougher than its predecessors, and featured all-new locations too, along with loads of new enemies. The game’s limb damage system had been greatly improved as well, further enhancing that aspect of the game.
“That system has improved greatly as well – you can take their legs off and blast one (a zombie) and it’s still coming,” she said.
I experienced this myself in the game, hitting zombies in the legs and seeing them keep crawling along the ground, requiring further shooting or despatching via combat boot to stop them – it certainly kept my on my toes and added to the sense of danger in the game, too.
Ms Boyce said the game was totally playable on your own, but was much more fun with friends.
“It’s a frenetic co-op shooter with players able to drop-in and drop-out,” she said.
“It’s chaotic, it’s gruesome, it’s gory, is a big bloody gorgeous mess… You can customise it (the game) any way you want to without various rewards and upgrades and, and skills.
“We just hope people really enjoy it, and we think they will.”
I enjoyed what I played of Zombie Army 4 at the preview event and am look forward to playing the full game when it releases – especially if I can rope some of my friends into joining in too.
From the Sniper Elite DNA – right down to the slow-mo X-ray kill shots on zombies – to the co-op action, Zombie Army 4 has a lot of promise and is definitely sitting in my crosshairs for its February 4th release.