Zombie Army 4: Dead War Review – Gory, Goofy, and Gripping
Zombie Army 4: Dead WarFebruary 4, 2020
Will fans ever get a worthy Left 4 Dead successor? With Valve seemingly disinterested in continuing their beloved series, numerous other developers have attempted to step up with their own Left-4-Dead-style shooters (Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Strange Brigade, and World War Z being notable recent examples). Unfortunately, none of them have quite measured up. Zombie Army 4: Dead War is the latest potential usurper to take aim at the 4-player co-op king.
Zombie Army began as a series of expansions for Rebellion Developments’ Sniper Elite V2, but Zombie Army 4 is a full-fledged standalone game with more content than the previous Trilogy combined. Of course, bigger ambitions mean bigger expectations. Can this series really stand on its own? Or is Zombie Army 4 just begging for a headshot? Time to put this one in the crosshairs…
For those just joining us, the Zombie Army series takes place in a world where Hitler managed to raise the dead in the final days of World War II. It’s not enough to save him though, as the original ZA Trilogy ends with you literally throwing the evil bastard into Hell. So, uh, all’s well that ends well? Unfortunately, Europe is still overrun with the undead in Zombie Army 4 and monster-spawning hellgates have begun appearing over major cities. Gosh, who could possibly be behind this?
Don’t expect much complexity from Zombie Army 4’s story, as it’s just a vehicle to shuttle players from one location to the next, but hey, at least those locations are interesting. From the zombie-polluted canals of Venice to an undead-infested zoo, to the depths of Hell itself, each of Zombie Army 4’s nine locations are unique, with many taking surprising turns from mission to mission. As you may have picked up on, this is not a classy game, but I give Rebellion kudos for just saying “screw it” and holding nothing back. The game serves up one absurd scenario after another, culminating in one of the most gleefully tasteless final missions I’ve ever played, but ultimately, it’s all too silly to be legitimately offensive.
Despite all the gore and grossness, Zombie Army 4 is rather nice-looking in its own way. Stages are big and varied, with dark underground sections being appropriately moody and the big set pieces delivering the wow factor. While the game’s hordes aren’t as impressive something like World War Z, things get pretty frantic, with tons of zombies, explosions, and body parts flying around, and yet, I never noticed the framerate flagging. Rebellion’s in-house Asura engine holds up surprisingly well under the strain.
As I’ve said, Zombie Army 4 cribs heavily from the Left 4 Dead playbook, but with enough tweaks to feel unique. You can choose from one of four different characters, each with their own strengths, including Karl (the sniper), Boris (melee), Jun (speedy healer), and Shola (explosives). Regardless of which character you play as, you go into battle with a rifle, pistol, and shotgun or submachine gun of your choosing and can find different guns and a variety of grenades and traps as you work your way through the mission. Zombie Army 4 borrows its physics from the Sniper Elite games and its gunplay is more grounded and realistic than usual for a game like this, but you don’t need to be a hardcore sniper to enjoy yourself.
You can find a good vantage point and pick zombies off one-by-one if you want, but you’re also free to charge into the middle of the fray thanks to an array of powerful new melee attacks. Chain together 10 zombie kills in quick succession and you’ll unlock a melee takedown that will reward you with health and ammo, similar to the Glory Kills in Doom. Also, score 10 kills with any specific weapon, and you can trigger an assist mode that slows down the action and amps up your gun’s power, allowing you to really shred the undead and rack up big combos. So yeah, while sniping is still an option, it’s pretty clear Rebellion also wants you to get in close and mix it up. Overall, Zombie Army 4 has been well-balanced for a variety of different play styles and skill levels.
Ultimately though, there’s one simple thing that separates Zombie Army 4 from Left 4 Dead and most of its imitators – slow zombies. Granted, there are some faster zombie types, but the rank-and-file undead are classic George A. Romero ghouls, which completely changes the pace and flow of gameplay. Zombie Army 4 isn’t as frantic as Left 4 Dead, instead focusing on strategy and endurance. Sure, slow zombies aren’t as much of an adrenalin rush, but there’s something satisfying, and a little scary, about having to dig in and repel the relentless horde one by one.
What Zombie Army 4 sometimes lacks in intensity, it makes up for with variety. Beyond the basic shamblers, there are nearly 20 alternate zombie types waiting for you, including runners, snipers, blind screamers, spider-like creepers, commanders who can summon other zombies, and yes, a zombie tank. Not a tank driven by zombies, but one actually made of rotting flesh. Rebellion breaks every zombie rule in the book, but it’s all in service of making a more diverse, entertaining game. Missions are also a nice mix, offering a wide array of scenery and objectives. Sniping, stealth, close-quarters combat, or holding your own against giant hordes, you never know what’s around the next corner. Zombie Army 4 remains fresh from beginning to end (as fresh as a zombie game can be), which is impressive, because Rebellion has stuffed a lot into this package.
Zombie Army 4 serves up 32 missions, some of which can take half an hour or more to complete. You’re looking at an almost 15-hour campaign here, which blows the likes of Left 4 Dead and entire original Zombie Army Trilogy out of the water. And there’s still plenty to do once you’ve played through the campaign once – attempt missions on a higher difficulty, continue to upgrade your character, search for secret documents, comic books, and other collectibles, fill sticker pages by completing challenges, and more. Even if you’ve collected everything and maxed out at level 100, you can still pursue prestige ranks for extra bragging rights.
One thing you might not spend too much time with is Horde Mode, which starts the player off with basic supplies then challenges you to survive 13 increasingly-tough waves of enemies. You already face plenty of hordes in the main campaign, and with only four missions, Horde Mode didn’t feel particularly unique or fleshed out. But hey, it’s a fine little bonus for those who can’t get enough zombie slaying.
So yeah, expect to sink some serious time into Zombie Army 4, assuming the online community remains strong. As with most games like this, you really need to play with other people. Yes, you can go solo if you want, and the number of zombies scales depending on how many people are playing, but you will be frustrated if you don’t have a team to divvy up certain challenges. Ultimately, the game just gets bogged down with too much repetitive zombie killing when you’re on your own. Get yourself a good band of zombie-slaying brothers and you’ll find Zombie Army 4 offers a meaty meal.
This review was based on a PS4 copy of Zombie Army 4: Dead War provided by publisher Rebellion Developments.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War isn’t the perfect Left 4 Dead successor fans have been champing for, but it’s one of the better attempts to date. What the game lacks in raw thrills, it makes up for with depth, challenge, solid tech, and devil-may-care craziness. If you’re not already tired of co-op zombie shooters, there’s a heck of a lot of fun to be had taking on Hitler’s hellish hordes.
- Perfectly absurd story
- Solid shooting mechanics
- Varied locations and challenges
- Accessible to all types of players
- Solid visuals and performance
- Tons of content
- Not as intense as some competitors
- Playing solo is sometimes a drag
- Horde Mode is a bit underbaked