Let us start with saying this review is mainly done from the perspective of co-op play seeing how in my opinion the game is intended to be played that way. Zombie Army 4: Dead War is quite the jump from the previous Zombie Army title in many ways. From the creators of Sniper Elite 4, Rebellion brings a fun and interesting way of disposing of Zombie hordes. It will not be for everyone and if you don’t enjoy shooters then stay far away. However, if you like Ex-Ray shots to the groin then this game is for you! I played the game with three other friends from start to finish and it was a journey of mixed feelings. The question is did the ups outweigh the downs in Zombie Army 4? Let’s decide.
Join the lobby and watch my back!
Starting off a game is a little tricky. For some reason instead of being able to join directly on a person you must first create a session because it is host based. I didn’t really find this thrilling but no big deal. Once you have your squad together you can decide which mode to play, Campaign, Horde or weekly event. Make sure if you don’t want random people joining to put the other player spot on private. The weekly event is a mode for those seeking extra XP and even some juicy rewards. In this mode you will be challenged with some difficult rules while completing different modes.
Horde mode comes with multiple different maps and you can customize it in different ways. As in most Zombie horde modes the waves come at you and get progressively harder. While some of the maps start off in extremely confined places, they do open up after you hit certain points. With crate drops and a slew of pickups throughout each map you can put up a pretty decent stand. The difficulty level is tough though and made even tougher by the odd feel of horde mode. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but even my friends felt the mode controlled differently. Not only did the controls feel off but for some reason it felt as if your player moved different on screen as well. I am not sure why this was implemented but it made the mode a little less enjoyable. While the maps are limited right now there are plans for some free DLC maps later on but I feel the mode needs some tweaking if it’s going to be an integral part of the game.
Bring on the campaign mode. With nine missions and each mission filled with chapters the campaign mode is packed full of zombie killing delight. I wouldn’t expect many to go into the game thinking they are getting George R. R. Martin level of storytelling here but I was at least pleasantly surprised. A good way at describing some of the cut scenes would be surprised as well. The new installment certainly kicks it up a notch with a more polished appearance. The attention to detail is something worth taking note about if you are into that sort of thing. As you progress through the campaign mode of course the challenges become more difficult but there are some very easy chapters, almost too easy. For those that enjoy Easter eggs keep your eyes open because you will find them when you least expect it. Another sweet addition is the locked safes that contain random goodies for you and all you have to do is complete steps during certain missions. These steps can be anything from shooting zombie rats to completing objectives in a certain order. The best part? Not all safes will be worth it. One safe we unlocked had nothing of value for us. You could imagine our disappointment.
While the zombies come fast and usually in horde fashion there are a few boss fights throughout the game. I would have liked more with a little more variety as well. The normal zombies if you can call them that, do provide enough challenge when you are pushed into smaller areas. However, the game really kicks it up a notch with some of the more aggressive zombies. There will be a slew of others that will push you to point of frustration at times. I don’t want to spoil them because that is part of the fun running into these more difficult zombies and the thrill of taking them down. The campaign isn’t just full of defend area from zombie horde points either. There will be times where you must hunt down parts to build a bomb or find a key to unlock a path and some special objectives as well. The key to surviving the campaign is teamwork, a lot of teamwork. Enough about the campaign though, it’s fun, brutal and you are going to die a ton.
Guns, perks, mods and more oh my!
Something my friends and I discussed about at length was the gunplay in Zombie Army 4. It’s good and fun. The limited customization with skins, charms and reticles is lackluster to say the least but I don’t want to be picky. Why? Because more content is coming later. I know, later? Really? Don’t fret though because unlocking weapon skins and other cosmetics is going to take you a long time. Most can be unlocked by leveling up but I finished the game and only made it to level 39. For perspective there are 99 levels as of now and I was the highest in our entire squad. Of course some can be unlocked by completing objectives. The upgrades for your weapons are fantastic. Some upgrades give you an extended magazine, better scope, more damage but my favorite was the incendiary rounds while using the M1 Garand. Once I maxed that out it was zombie disintegrating time and it was joyous. Using the upgrades can also be beneficial to your playstyle so I would thumb through all the guns and see what best suites you.
Perks is another one that you can tweak to your playstyle. By level 35 you can unlock all five perk slots and become the ultimate zombie slayer. Unlock things such as having a second chance if you are downed by a zombie, reduce incoming melee attack damage or my favorite pick up mounted heavy weapons. If you really need to clear a room in a hurry nothing does it better than a heavy weapon. The gunplay is pretty damn good and you feel the impact of each weapon. It’s really great to see when you can feel the difference between a handgun and a rifle. You get a decent amount of weapons to choose from but the real juice comes from the melee attacks. I’m kidding, a little, but the melee attacks can be extremely helpful when the shit hits the fan. The best part is your melee attack can be upgraded to fit your style as well! I know cool right? I went from using a machete to using a ground and pound hammer. Not only did it look bad ass but it knocked zombies back giving me a chance to flee or reload my weapon.
Other than guns and devastating melee attacks you get nice options when it comes to explosives. Working together and knowing when to scream “grenade out” or where to place tripwires is a must strategy. You can find them in chests around the safe points or in surrounding areas. You can stomp zombies and they will drop them or med kits (sometimes) but health is very scarce. That brings us to items mods. These I felt are slightly beneficial but I didn’t really feel the impact of them on the game. You can use them for such things as mod your auto-revive, mod your trip wires to last longer or mod the bait grenades. Simply put it’s a tweak to items. The perks were definitely more helpful in the game. What throws another wrinkle into the mix is the specials you can do while aiming. No I am not talking about takedowns. Yes you can take down a zombie if they are close enough and yes it does look cool. This is a special like slow aiming to help you take out your next victim…I mean zombie. There is even one that activates this sort of auto aim and you can take out several in row. It’s pretty gnarly seeing a slew of zombies heads explode in unison.
Glory to the gameplay
The gameplay in Zombie Army 4 is again a step up but it isn’t all smooth around the edges. There are some rough spots in the game and did cause small amount of frustration. Being able to toss a grenade should always work on command but that wasn’t always the case. It was a complaint we all had in situations where we needed that grenade toss to be precise but it wouldn’t even que up. Not a big deal though. What was a bummer to see was when a gun would drop and you wouldn’t be able to pick it up because it clipped through the surface. I faced this a few times but another player had something far more cringe worthy as he fell through the ground and out of the game. I don’t think it would have been that big of a deal if we weren’t in a critical spot of the game. It only happened once so hopefully it was an isolated incident. Minor issue and only set us back a few times during the entirety of our play through. As I have said though the game looks far much better than before and the gunplay is great. The zombies die in horrific fashion and the kill multiplier is worth keeping an eye on for XP. You want that XP, you need that XP.
I know there are more characters coming in the way of DLCs but I was a little disappointed with not only the available options but the lack of customization. I don’t care about small details such as hair, facial expressions, or physical changes. What I would like though is a decent set of options for headgear and perhaps some new threads. Yes I would have liked to change an outfit to set me apart from my friends. I feel this was a missed opportunity but perhaps it will come in the form of a DLC later on. Seriously it felt like there were more emotes and taunts and why on earth does one need a taunt while killing zombies? I don’t think they care if you laugh at them. This seemed to be a theme though as I wanted more variety with boss fights. Hell I wanted more boss fights period and my co-op friends agreed. While some were fun and provided enough stressful moments for the most part it was lacking.
The environment was thankfully opposite. Moving from place to place it was clear the attention was on where you would be fighting the zombies. The areas give you the sense of certain death and the sounds fill the night air with a chilling tone. There are certain things that will stand out to you if you pay attention. Kind of like a certain picture that changes from a normal depiction of something into an evil blood curdling face. It is the small things in life that keep you going and nothing says it better than discovering an Easter egg right in your face or that grotesque zombie gnawing at your leg.
This game is made for co-op play and I don’t think it would have been as much fun on my own. From screaming run or begging for someone to pick me up the laughter was always in abundance. Tight areas that made it damn near impossible to spray everything in sight kept the tension up along with a downed buddy in larger areas way away from everyone else. Zombie Army 4 looks highly improved and the gunplay is spot on. I don’t recall many complaints from the actual guns themselves just maybe more options. Some of the minor glitches of the game hold it back and the lack of variety with bosses was disappointing. The horde mode was quite different from the campaign as in the way it played and I felt it hurt the overall game. However, there is a lot to discover about the game and that might sound odd when speaking about a zombie game. This isn’t some major story driven game, it’s about kicking zombie ass and it does it pretty well. Just make sure you bring a friend to the fight.