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Zombie Army 4: Dead War

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Rebellion
Developer: Rebellion
Release Date: Feb. 4, 2020


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PS4 Review - 'Zombie Army 4: Dead War'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 4, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Face the darkness in single player or team up with friends as you blast your way through Nazi undead in this spine-chilling shooter.

Buy Zombie Army 4: Dead War

The title Zombie Army 4: Dead War tells you exactly what you're getting: a game featuring zombie armies and a dead war. What more could you ask? Well, we could ask for the fight against the zombie army to be enjoyable. Fortunately, Rebellion, who brought us Sniper Elite and Strange Brigade, delivers on that front.

ZA4 is set in an alternate World War II where Hitler summoned the undead to unleash a swarm of Nazi zombies upon the world. The last game in the series ended with Hitler being thrown into the depths of Hell and peace (seemingly) restored. The peace lasted for a very short time before the zombies returned, as bloodthirsty and violent as ever. The same heroes who killed Hitler need to find the source of the zombie outbreak and save the day once again.

ZA4 is created by the developers of Sniper Elite, so sniper rifles are the default weapon in the game. They are incredibly strong, have realistic wind and bullet drop, and have X-ray shots that show exactly how your armor-piercing bullet turned a zombie's (or multiple zombies) insides to mush. This is a fun mechanic because headshots and zombies go together so well. It also feels less weird seeing a zombie's brain explode in gory detail versus that of a living being.

The other weapons are more standard. Secondary weapons include machine guns, shotguns, and a variety of pistols. None of these are as satisfying as the sniper rifle, but what comes closest are the melee weapons. Ranging from a simple machete to a divine hammer of the gods, these weapons provide an incredibly satisfying crunch but have a cooldown period between uses. There are also grenades and mines to use for crowd-clearing, but they are in limited supply.

The majority of the zombies are swarming, mindless drones. Some only claw at you or wield basic weapons. Others may lumber after you and fire the weapons they held in life, although wildly and inaccurately. Some might have armor or wear helmets. Headshotting zombies is the most effective way to kill them. Massive damage will do the job too, but you run the risk of an intact zombie resurrecting itself. This isn't the worst thing, but it means you've wasted important ammo.

Then there are the special zombies. They come in a wide variety of flavors to encourage you to deal with them in different ways. Suiciders are living bombs that charge at you. They're very dangerous when you're zoomed in to snipe an enemy and don't see them, but they're also a potential boon if you catch them in a crowd of enemies. Flamers have flamethrowers, and the glowing red flamethrower tanks make an easy target to shoot. All enemy types have weaknesses, so you're encouraged to take them on with strategy instead of firepower. Co-op is helpful but not necessary.

However, ZA4 isn't just a game about killing zombies. It's an arcade-style title where your primary goal is to rack up combos. Each zombie you kill builds a combo and starts a timer. If you don't kill another enemy before the timer runs out, you lose the combo. Missing shots also causes the combo timer to decrease, which means spraying-and-praying is a great way to lose a combo. Combos aren't just important for the score, which unlocks more skills and items, but also for takedowns. Every 10 kills, you'll unlock a takedown, which is an instant-kill on many zombie types in addition to refilling your health and ammo. Proper takedown use is necessary to keep yourself healthy during the most hectic sequences, and failing to maintain a combo doesn't just hurt your score, but your character too.

Part of this is also the environmental targets, similar to those seen in Strange Brigade. They let you do things like drop crates, blow up barrels, or activate implausible bullet-powered turbines so you can shock, fry or otherwise end a zombie's life. It's a good feature even if it hasn't seen too much of a change. It adds a nice sense of strategy to each combat area, as you have to decide when and where to use the various environmental hazards to kill zombies — and not off yourself or your co-op partner. Proper use can make your score skyrocket with a single bullet, and failing to use them can lead to a quick and painful death.

There's a fair bit of customization in ZA4. Each playable character has different traits that let them specialize in certain things, such as being faster but having weaker melee. You can also upgrade weapons, some of which have skill trees. One sniper rifle occasionally charges up to explosive shots. One machine gun gradually gains holy bullets that briefly do double damage. Another sets enemies aflame. Even your pistols can be upgraded this way. On top of that, there are the usual perks, ranging from a second life if you kill an enemy while dying to increasing your combo multiplier to good old damage increases. The perks are unlocked by completing certain objectives.

It feels good to find a proper loadout that accommodates everything you want to do. Generally, you'll want something strong at single-target damage for special zombies and good crowd-clearing weapons and effects for the hordes. A single-shot sniper rifle works great against strong enemies, but a double-damage machine gun can do just as well if you're not comfortable with that level of precision aiming.

Overall, ZA4 has a tried-and-true gameplay loop that is plenty of fun. Kill zombies, earn power-ups, kill more zombies, and repeat until you reach your zombie-killing threshold. It's a good arcade-style action game, and co-op makes it even more fun. It'll probably feel familiar if you've played the previous games in the series or Strange Brigade, but it's a solid choice if you're looking to add some freshness to the zombie formula.

The only real complaint I have about Zombie Army 4 is that it's about as generic as its name. There's very little flavor to it that hasn't been seen elsewhere. It's still enjoyable, but it is a slight letdown after Strange Brigade had a very distinct style and flavor all its own. If you want to kill the evil undead forces of the Nazis, then Zombie Army delivers. It's just that there are plenty of other games where you can also kill zombie armies with a variety of weapons, and this one, fun as it is, doesn't really stand out from the crowd.

The same goes for the visuals. They're pretty much standard zombie stuff. There aren't hugely creative designs, and if I weren't playing it, I'd be hard-pressed to tell you which zombie game some of the monsters came from. The X-ray headshots are the shining point of the game, but after the Sniper Elite franchise, they don't feel revolutionary. The character voice acting is appropriately cheesy, and there's some fun banter in the game, which lends lend some flair to the proceedings. The music is mostly forgettable and drowned out by the sound of zombie death.

Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a solid, workmanlike zombie shooting game. It's quite fun to play and makes for an enjoyable co-op experience as you and a friend team up to buzzsaw your way through Hitler's legions. That's basically the beginning and end of it. If you want a game where you kill a lot of Nazi zombies, then Zombie War 4 provides. If you're looking for something more, then it doesn't. It's still a fun co-op experience and worth picking up if you're looking for something new to add to your gaming library.

Score: 7.5/10

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