Review – Zombie Army 4: Dead War

Zombie Army 4: Dead War is the newest installment of Rebellion’s co-op horde spin off from the Sniper Elite series and to be honest, I have never gotten into them. I played a bit of the Zombie Army Trilogy, but I was mostly a Sniper Elite fan and enjoyed the zany Strange Brigade much more. For me, Zombie Army always felt like it should have only been a mode within the Sniper Elite games and not its own standalone game. Much like Call of Duty and Gears of War do with their horde/zombie modes. However, with some noticeable improvements learned from Sniper Elite 4 and Strange Brigade, and an introduction of a story campaign, Zombie Army 4: Dead War feels more like a full package.

The biggest addition to this installment of Zombie Army is that it actually has a story campaign that takes you through multiple chapters and attempts to create a cohesive story. I say “attempts to” because while there is a story here, it’s not going to keep you on the edge of your seat. However, it does usher you through some fun parts while it slowly but steadily introduces you to new and dangerous zombie threats. Sometimes you’ll need to do a basic “survive the horde” fight, but most of the time you’ll be running through levels, completing objectives, and taking on bosses. Each act has its own unique feel to it as well as its own unique set of zombies and traps to keep things feeling fresh. While the story campaign is very much doable in single player, it does get a bit boring by yourself in areas.

Zombie Army 4: Dead War

All four characters have their pluses and minuses, and progression saves to the character even if you swap later.

Upon first starting either a campaign or a horde level, you’ll be able to choose one of four characters who all have their own pluses and minuses for their abilities. You have Boris who is your heavy slow character, but has strong melee attacks and bonuses to heavy weapons. Jun has a faster base speed and more stamina, but has weak melee attacks. As you play through the campaign there are upgrade kits that allow you to upgrade weapon perks that alter the gun. Add a shock attachment to your Trench Gun to deliver an electrifying punch. Upgrade your sniper’ s scope to adjust from 4x to 8x zoom. You can continue to upgrade the perks as your character level increases, unlocking additional tiers.

Character upgrades and perks transfer between the campaign and horde mode, but the weapon upgrades and mods do not. In the horde mode you only start off with a pistol and as you proceed through the level you can pick up other weapons. The horde mode is pretty tough, and even on easy my partner and I were getting our asses handed to us. It didn’t feel unfair, but it was obvious we were unprepared for the amount and the types of zombies about to be thrown at us. We ended up connecting with one other player who was a higher level and we did better since he seemed to have some better strategies. But its clear that the horde mode requires a full team who communicates and has an understanding of the map.

Zombie Army 4: Dead War

If you die during horde, your body reanimates and tries to attack your partner. I kinda wish I could control my zombie self though.

While there is definitely a lot of practice to be had in perfecting each wave and reaching the end, I was shocked that the horde mode only featured four levels. It doesn’t seem like much, but the amount of time it would take us to master one map it would likely feel like enough. One thing I did enjoy about Zombie Army’s take on the horde maps is that new parts of the levels unlock as you continue through the waves. This forces you to change strategies, relocate your ammo box, plus it allows enemies to gain flanking advantages. This is a smart way to keep the smaller total amount of levels feeling larger than it looks.

The gameplay itself feels like your typical Rebellion game with some floaty controls and serviceable third-person shooting. There have been noticeable improvements in the shooting that was definitely taken from Sniper Elite 4 and Strange Brigade, and that is welcome. However, if you have never liked how their gameplay feels, this title won’t change your mind. Character movement feels a bit light, it’s easy to get hung up on environmental clutter, and a lack of a jump or dodge button makes it feel more clunky. Actions like performing melee or stomping lock you into an animation that kills the flow of gameplay, and some actions like quick throwing grenades can be unresponsive.

Zombie Army 4: Dead War

Using environmental attacks like activating a zombie shark to kill a group of enemies is pretty satisfying.

As for performance and bugs it has been a relatively smooth experience. With my Xbox One X I opted for the performance mode and while I don’t have an FPS counter, I didn’t notice any big frame dips even with a ton of enemies. At one point there were zombies dive bombing from bomber planes and explosions all around me and it didn’t even chug. As for bugs or glitches, I only ran into a sound glitch with some dialogue and at one point the cinematic black bars that came in from a zombie intro stayed on during gameplay and I did have to reset my game to get rid of it.

The visuals are a bit of a mixed bag and while its certainly not an ugly game, it’s not exactly going to have you take in the scenery. I really enjoy some of the level designs and my favorite moments during the campaign were the introductions of new zombies. They have a nice variety of them and they all have their own unique look so you know what you’re up against. While designs are pleasing and well detailed, the actual quality of the textures can be a bit disappointing. For the most part the main four heroes and the enemies are well done, side characters and environmental textures can be low quality.

Sound design is a bit of a disappointment for me since it lacks a memorable soundtrack. It’s there and serviceable, but nothing that got me pumped during an intense wave. The guns and various zombie sound effects are well done with each gun and zombie being distinguishable just based on their sound. However, much like the gunplay itself, the sound just doesn’t have the punch I’m looking for to really drive home the powerful feeling. Fortunately, the slow motion X-ray effects has some cool visual and sound effects with a slow, squishy, gory sound as the bullet pierces vital organs. The voice acting is B-movie levels of bad, and spatial audio is lacking since a zombie grunt outside of a house still sounds like it’s right next to you.

Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a fun package with a meaningful amount of content, almost to where it finally feels justified by being its own thing. However, it still has plenty of room for improvement in total launch day content and not leaving it up to season passes to fill it out. If you already enjoyed these titles for some fun co-op action then there is enough new improvements and additional included here that make it worth it. If you never jived with Rebellion’s type of gameplay and you’re tired of zombie horde modes/games, then even its campaign won’t be enough. There is one thing for sure though, that slow motion X-ray kill still puts a smile on my face.

Graphics: 7.5

A good amount of variety in enemy and level design, but up close textures and various effects don’t impress.

Gameplay: 7.0

Improvements in the third-person shooting are noticed. However, while shooting feels improved, the general gameplay still feels floaty. Slow-mo X-ray shots are cool though.

Sound: 6.5

Gun shots and general audio of zombie grunts and various items are well done. Unfortunately, the voice acting is B-movie bad and spatial audio is lacking big time with enemies outside a building sounding right next to you.

Fun Factor: 7.5

With the addition of a story campaign, there is more value to be had in this fourth installment, but if Rebellion’s gameplay never jived with you before then this won’t change your mind. There is fun to be had in co-op, unfortunately there aren’t that many Horde maps.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Zombie Army 4: Dead War is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

Reviewed on Xbox One X.

A copy of Zombie Army 4: Dead War was provided by the publisher.