Those of you that have played the Nazi Zombie Army games will know what’s in store, but for those who have only just shambled in let’s get our summary on. In this alternate WWII timeline, the Allied victory is almost at hand when Hitler decides to activate “Plan Z” – unleashing a zombie apocalypse. It’s up to the last living souls left in Germany to fight their way through the endless hordes of undead, take out Zombie Hitler, and end the madness once and for all.
That’s pretty much all the storytelling you’ll find in ZAT, although the new third campaign does its best to inject the odd bit of world building throughout. That said, the story was never going to be the focus of this game – killing zombies is – and in that regard developers Rebellion have clearly got it down. The weapons available feature enough variation in terms of weight and accuracy to suit most tastes, especially in regards to the bullet physics system in the game (which can be turned off when the easiest difficulty is selected.)
One new move added for ZAT is the kick, which also acts as a stomp for knocked down enemies. It’s an essential part of the zombie-killing repertoire, but I couldn’t help but feel its animation was a little in comparison to everything else going on. Regardless, it’s a much needed addition considering how during the more hectic fights ammo can be a rarity. This leads me to my first proper critique – looting corpses. Not only is the specific angle needed to activate the looting process temperamental at the best of times, but the despawn time on corpses with loot is quite short. The end result means that during the more hectic fights you can lose out on much needed ammo, which may well be the point of the mechanic, but it came off as frustrating at times.
Naturally the X-ray Cam is the star of the show, providing disgustingly satisfying death animations of the player’s sniper shots. I personally found it interesting to see just how accurate my shots were, as while some shots went right between the eyes others were slightly off the mark, separating the head from the neck or shattering the jaw into tiny pieces. I admit that’s a pretty gruesome anecdote, but the point is that it encouraged me to improve my accuracy, especially as headshots are the only way to permanently kill the undead.
Well, I say that. Blowing them up is another option thanks to explosive objects scattered through the levels, along with an array of gadgetry at the player’s disposal. As with previous Sniper Elite titles, setting up traps is essential to survive the more difficult encounters, although the (mostly) predictable AI did make life a lot easier. After all, the garden variety zombie just shuffles towards you until you’re dead. Of course, there are other enemy types to mix things up, including some new additions for ZAT. From kamikaze runners to necromancers who revive fallen zombies, and those damn jumping snipers to the bullet-sponge super soldiers, combining these types can make encounters much more unpredictable.
But here’s the thing – for the most part ZAT is a predictable affair. Corridor filled with zombies that spawns more zombies halfway down, mini arena, safe house. Another corridor filled with zombies the spawns other enemy types, another mini arena, another safe house. Yet another corridor with everything thrown at you, large arena that unleashes hell at you, end of level. Rinse, repeat until the end of the campaign, and then start the process again with the next one. The difficulty curve does stop it from being completely repetitive, but it didn’t stop my solo run through the campaign from being a little samey overall.
Then again, the game isn’t meant to be played alone. It was designed, and meant to be played, as a co-op experience. When played with others, ZAT gets a new lease of life that helps cover over many, but not all, of the game’s faults. Comradery in surviving against the undead is one thing, but the arcade-style scores displayed at the top of the screen give the co-operative gameplay a competitive twist. All of a sudden, you’re not just saving your buddy from being overrun by undead – you’re also using their incompetence to increase your own score multiplier. In this regard Rebellion have got it nailed with ZAT, as the co-op experience is one of the better ones out there thanks of the this mix.
Beyond the campaigns, a brand new horde mode has been added for ZAT. While the score multiplier system does help keep things somewhat interesting, the mode itself doesn’t offer anything particularly new beyond an increasingly more difficult challenge. If that’s what you want from your co-op experience then you’ll be in zombie-slaying heaven here, but I for one prefer the campaigns, despite their linearity.
Another new addition for ZAT is an increased roster, adding four female characters into the mix. Their inclusion is a welcome one, especially with their backstories being somewhat fresher than the original roster, but my personal bugbear with this is how beyond the blurbs on the character selection screen there isn’t any real difference between them. It’s the same with the world design in general – well crafted and fits into the action, but is ultimately unmemorable. A lot of this is down the mute nature of the player characters, and when you consider the memorable banter found in other co-op games it comes off as a missed opportunity. Hell, even audio cues pointing out specific enemies or the safe houses would have been welcome.
Speaking of which, if there’s one area ZAT has perfected it’s in the audio. The synth-heavy soundtrack is highly reminiscent of cult horror films of yesteryear, building up as the action gets more hectic, while the environmental audio helps to keep the player informed of the current situation. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I was made aware of the undead trying to flank me thanks to hearing their groans from their sides, or how the shrieks of a kamikaze runner had me immediately scan the area before it was too late.
When it comes to value for money, the answer will lie on how much you want a co-op experience, and if you have friends to join you for the ride. With a team of familiar faces ZAT shines brightest, while solo play all but highlights the repetitious nature of the level design. Still, those of you looking for a challenge of endurance and skill can always whack up the difficulty up to Sniper Elite and go it alone (although I’d call you crazy for doing so.)
The amount of content included will take a long time to get through, and with collectables to find completists will have their hands full for the foreseeable future. As such, with the current price point being £30 on consoles I’d say it’s certainly worth looking at if you want a shooter experience, but the moment it reaches the £20 I would definitely get hold of it. Likewise, Steam gamers who already own Nazi Zombie Army 1 & 2 should take advantage of the discount available, as £12 for improved gameplay mechanics, new enemies, a new campaign and a new mode is damn fine value.
- Gunplay is as satisfying as ever
- The right mix of co-operative play with a competitive edge
- Lots of game time for the price…
- … although the level design is very repetitive, especially in solo play.
- Mechanics like kick and looting not quite polished.
- Despite never aiming for such, the game’s lack of character is disappointing.
The Short Version:
Its level design may be repetitious, especially on solo play, and it may not innovate on the genre or the Sniper Elite franchise, but if you’re looking for some competitive co-op fun that prioritises non-stop action over narrative, Zombie Army Trilogy hits the mark, and then some.
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Rebellion Developments