Let’s face it, in any other medium the constant barrage of zombie titles would have become the bane of anyone’s existence by now. Perhaps for some gamers, that might also be true. There is however still something hugely satisfying about mowing down these generic flesh-eating enemies that keeps this genre, ironically, alive and kicking. Rebellion Developments’ Zombie Army Trilogy joins the fray and recapitulates that seemingly never ending question… can you survive the horde?
Game: Zombie Army Trilogy
Developer: Rebellion Oxford
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Every time I’ve stepped into World War II themed game in recent years, it’s reminded me of how much I’ve been hankering for Call of Duty to revive its old-time roots, even if it’s just once every 5 years. Whilst that’ll probably only ever be a fleeting dream for this reviewer, we’re all still occasionally reminded of World at War’s oddball zombie add-on in the plethora of games that attempt to recreate its left-field success.
Zombie Army Trilogy is one of those titles that attempts incorporate those ideas into its own ethos. The first two parts of the trilogy come from the PC version of Sniper Elite V2’s DLC and are remastered for the new consoles, whilst the third part is previously unreleased on any system and is completely fresh content. The Nazi undead legion is joined for the ride by a bunch of Sniper Elite’s gameplay mechanics, including the fabled heart-popping, head-splitting and many-a-ball-busting, kill-cam.
So, with Hitler’s back up against the wall as the Allied Forces march on Berlin, he decides to pull out his one last contingency plan – a ‘Plan Z’, if you will. That, of course, entails raising an undead army so that the Third Reich can remain alive-ish to continue the hard fight on all fronts. All three parts of the trilogy can be played from the start by yourself or with up to three other players online co-operatively and each hands you the task of beating down Hitler’s horde by collecting special trinkets and using your apparent shooting abilities.
Visually, the remaster doesn’t do anything special; it’s blatantly obvious that the visuals are nothing more than a sugar-coating to an okay looking last-gen title. It does, however, run really smoothly. Frame rates are solid and very rarely give way to the mass of enemies, players and firepower fighting over resources. And, whilst the design doesn’t vary greatly throughout the game, the mix in locals from battered urban war settings to dark, fire-lit forests do manage to add a little variety to screens full of torn-limbs and combo score pop-ups.
The game bases itself in or around the German capital and each episode is named accordingly – The Berlin horror, Back to Berlin and Beyond Berlin. As I’ve said, there’s not a great deal of variation from one part to the next and the frequent mission objectives rarely teeter from ‘go to this point’ or ‘survive this wave’. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. The action is upon the player from the outset and only breaks briefly to allow a resupply of ammunition and loadout changes. The lack of downtime plays to the game’s advantage by keeping you occupied and engaged, and thankfully the shooting is largely enjoyable with it.
Sniper Elite III felt pretty awkward when it came to the controls and game physics. Here, in a less plausible situation, those bugbears feel slightly more forgivable and in some cases actually make the journey a little more pleasing. Movement is still a little imprecise and janky, but the shooting itself remains ultimately satisfying, especially with the inclusion of the Kill-cam that initiates slow motion x-ray replays of well placed shots – a tool that not only feels rewarding, but can be pretty comical if aimed in less orthodox places. It’s sad that it has to be lessened during co-op play to prevent everyone’s screen freezing every ten seconds, although it’s good to see it not removed altogether as it’s great fun and a great signature of the franchise.
Approaching the game solo is more than doable but holds a high degree of frustration regarding lack of checkpoints, meaning death feels overly punished by setting you right back to the beginning of a lengthy shootout. With other people, waves not only becomes more manageable, but team mates can revive each other which makes the whole process much more forgivable and in-turn, considerably more palatable. In-fact, whilst Zombie Army was probably intended as a co-op experience anyway, it’s definitely the more preferable way to play the game, in truth.
Despite being a Sniper Elite spin-off, a lot of the series’ mechanics such as stealth go a bit awry when placed in this kind of setting. So whilst you’ll still be able to grab your trusty Springfield rifle to pick enemies off from afar, it’s good that there’s a good choice of weaponry to fill your loadout with from pistols and shotguns, to dynamite and trip wires. Co-op comes into it’s own when you’ve got a strong team working together, too. One play through with the NGB team saw us strategically placing traps and plotting our positions as one sniped through an upstairs window, another watched their back, and another stood at the top of the stairs ravenously spamming the kick button – to our utter glee.
So, it’s good that Zombie Army Trilogy works well where it really should, in spite of faltering in a few other areas – namely the longevity. The combo system and additional Horde mode add a little something along side the thin story campaign, but there’s only a certain amount of replay value to be found once you’ve really had a good blast through with friends; perhaps even less if you’ve opted to play it alone. The only saving grace the game has in this respect is that never ending craving for undead headshots that plagues the gaming world, and in fairness that’s something Zombie Army Trilogy will always have in its back pocket. For the pick up and play approach ie. log in, shoot some faces, log out, then it may be a perfect go to title for many – even more so if you enjoy a co-op experience because in that respect, it excels.