Nazis and the undead are easily two of gaming’s most ubiquitous and disposable foes, yet Treyarch evidently saw something special when the decided to squeeze them together for Call of Duty’s inaugural Nazi Zombies mode back in 2008.
Perhaps it was somewhat cathartic filling shuffling, swastika-bearing baddies full of lead with ease, or maybe it was because that, despite all odds, Nazi Zombies was actually a tough and rewarding romp drenched in strategic depth, not to mention a superb multiplayer time sink.
Then people started taking notice.
It worked so well, in fact, that Rebellion‘s Sniper Elite franchise spawned its very own shambling spin-off, Nazi Zombie Army, which is receiving its fourth instalment in just a matter of weeks on PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One. We managed to get our decomposing mitts on a build of Nazi Zombie Army 4: Dead War to take for a spin.
Our hands-on was entirely co-op based, with four of us ploughing through the undead hordes while solving a bunch of objectives. The mission, Meat Locker, took place across multiple locations, including a creepy forest and a industrialised complex, and was packed full of flesh-hungry mobs looking to take a chunk out of our zombie-mashing heroes.
Much like Sniper Elite, Zombie Army 4 takes place from a third-person viewpoint, but you’ll zoom into a first-person perspective for those wince-inducing critical shots. The trademark X-Ray kills are still very much alive and kicking here, so any chance to get a sniper rifle in my hands was met with a satisfying, visceral punch as my bullet met its mark between a undead’s maggot-ridden eyeballs.
Meanwhile, pistols, shotguns, flamethrowers, and explosives are ripe for the picking, spilling claret by the bucket load. You’ll literally blast zombies to pieces with these things; limbs will be severed, head will pop like ripe water melons, and innards will paint the walls crimson red. It’s evident that Rebellion is embracing its inner bloodlust, and it works great.
Teamwork is paramount to your survival, as we quickly found out. Undead hordes will swarm you thick and fast, and it was only due to swift communication (well, okay, and a pot of luck too) that we managed to dispatch the decomposing masses while avoiding losing a limb or two. The action is frantic – sometimes overwhelmingly so – but always fun thanks to the solid shooting mechanics and inherent pleasure of blowing zombies into bloody chunks.
There’s more to Zombie Army 4 than blasting rotting corpses, though. There’s objectives to tackle, and while some of them are the typical go from A to B and find this-and-that, some of them do require some serious group effort.
For example, one time we had to power up door by filing up fuel canisters. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not really. Not only were the fuel spots dotted across a rather large map, but we were met with increasingly difficult waves of the undead, including some armored behemoths brandishing a mini-gun. It’s tense stuff, and a prime example of how teamwork is very much the beating heart of Zombie Army 4.
Meanwhile, weapons are upgradable, so expect to unlock various perks for each gun as you mow down enemies. One of the best ones I found was a slow-mo effect that really helps you nail a weak point in the middle of a ruck.
I also got to test drive the Horde mode, which as you’ve probably twigged, sees you teaming up and wiping out waves of zombies without any other objectives. There’s a couple of stages to choose from — we pumped for a swampy area supplemented by an old farm house for the majority of our shootout.
Teaming up to vanquish the flesh-hungry hordes is a full-on gore fest and more importantly, great fun. Each wave is increasingly more challenging, and again, if you don’t communicate effectively, you won’t get the best out of it. Aside from your bog-standard zombies, there’s also faster varieties and hulking, boss-like abominations to dispatch, requiring key tactical choices as a group.
You’re not completely helpless, either. You can replenish your ammo at caches dotted across the map, and new weapons are available to snag at key locations, keeping the action fresh and frantic.
While I only had a few hours with the game, the biggest compliment I can give Zombie Army 4 is that it’s utterly bonkers, and offers some of the best cooperative antics I’ve experienced in a while. Okay, so it’s not exactly nuance and is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but really, I’m perfectly down with that.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War is slated for release on PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One on February 4, 2020.