How much video game do you like in your video game - a lot? If so, that’s good because Zombie Army 4 is the most video game-ass video game that’s ever video gamed.
Hitler has raised the armies of the dead yet again and it’s up to you to travel around Italy and personally shoot each one of them in the head. If you do the deed at long range and with precision, your shots are accompanied by a bullet-tracking camera that slows the action down and displays your kills as a grisly surgery, each bullet piercing rotten organs and passing through multiple soft bodies.
Did you know zombie snipers have testicles? It’s not something I ever considered before playing this; both that there are zombie snipers and that they would have bollocks. You can shoot them off. That’s it - that’s the paragraph.
Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that will take you by surprise in Rebellion’s latest entry into the Zombie Army/Sniper Elite series. If you’ve ever played any video game in the past 20 years, you will know what to expect here.
There are zombies that spit stuff at you. There are big, armoured lads. There’s one that gets in your grill with a meat grinder. Some have guns or flamethrowers. One enemy type runs at you with dynamite strapped to its chest. There’s a zombie that flings grenades at you and hides behind a shield, both flushing you out and forcing you to flank. There’s fast, agile zombies called MRA- I mean creepers. And there’s even Zombie Army’s own take on Left 4 Dead’s witches - an enemy type that you’re supposed to sneak past.
Zombies fall from Venetian rooftops and into the canal like meaty rain. They prowl the city of Milan. They infest the once-beautiful coasts of Sardinia, which now look dilapidated and dead. You go through sewers, a zoo, swamps, research facilities, and caverns. You spend an inordinate amount of time on boats. It’s all very by-the-numbers.
Fortunately, Zombie Army 4 is also extremely competent, whether you’re piercing gonads from a gondola or mushing the horde with a trench gun. Previous Rebellion shooters had a noticeable dip in quality whenever you ended up at close-range, but here it’s just as satisfying to blow the undead into chunks up close as it is to get those precision longshots.
If you enjoy clicking on heads and turning enemies into paste, this game has you covered - literally doused in entrails. The only place the gunplay falls down is in the two primary weapon limitation. At any one time, you can carry a pistol, a sniper rifle, and another primary weapon. I started with the default sniper rifle and trench gun and I finished with the default sniper rifle and the trench gun.
That’s because there’s an upgrade system that lets you imbue your guns with technology, adding explosive rounds, electricity, faster reload times, more bullets, more power - you get the gist. Once you start investing in a gun, there’s no incentive to swap it out for something different.
This is only true for the lengthy campaign, however. Once you’re done with that, you’re free to mess around in the four Horde maps included - each based off a specific campaign location. In these, you start with a pistol and secure new weapons throughout each match, forcing you to swap between the different guns on offer. Because of this, it feels much more tactical than the campaign often is, making every trap you place and every weapon you grab feel significant.
I often found the best tactic in Horde Mode was to leave one shambler alive at the end of each round and pick up extra equipment from the dead. Take every heavy weapon to a defensible position, place down tripwires at the entrances, and only trigger the next wave when you’re properly prepared. Then watch it all fall down in the chaos. And it is chaotic.
When there’s the maximum amount of four co-op players, Zombie Army 4 cranks up the kill count to ridiculous levels. You really feel like you’re battling a horde, and the different enemy types work well to keep you moving and considering your next move once you’re inevitably overrun.
Zombie Army 4 is the reanimated corpse of gaming’s past, stitched together from the best bits of Sniper Elite. It’s a B-movie pastiche stuffed with classic movie references and thousands of heads (and bollocks) to pop. But most importantly, it’s a new game. A new, fairly-enjoyable video game in 2020 - what a concept.
Version tested: PS4 Pro - a review copy was provided by Rebellion. Tech note: the PS4 Pro offers the option between resolution and performance. I went for the latter and it ran at a smooth 60fps throughout, even during busy combat sequences.