Zombie Army 4: Dead War is basically Left 4 Dead. From the way it marks levels with Grindhouse-style posters to the heavy emphasis on 4-player cooperative gameplay, Dead War wears its influences on its sleeve.
For instance, most levels feature a moment where you hold off the undead while a generator/door/arcane missile warms up. And in periods of calm, eerie piano music tinkles in haunting surround sound. Hell, “4” and “Dead” both appear in the title. It’s uncanny.
It would be easy to dismiss Dead War as an overly-derivative zombie shooter arriving more than a decade past its time. Easy, but hasty. Dead War has plenty of its own merits to bring to the table: fun, frantic battles with seething hordes of undead, atmospheric levels packed with intriguing details and silly visual gags, and spectacularly gory displays of marksmanship. Oh, and hideous, creepy little dolls. Blech.
- What is Zombie Army 4: Dead War? It’s a third-person shooter set in an alternate history where, on the brink of defeat, Hitler summoned a gigantic army of zombies, pushing humanity to the brink of destruction. It’s up to a small squad of resistance fighters to remind everyone that the only good Nazi is a dead one.
- Reviewed On: PC
- Price: $49.99
- Developer: Rebellion Developments
- Release Date: February 4, 2020
- Website: www.zombiearmy.com
- Multiplayer: Online, up to 4 Players
Typically, Dead War’s levels have a particular flow. Early encounters are light affairs, frequently allowing you to take advantage of the robust sniping mechanics (ported over from the Sniper Elite series, also by Rebellion), with the quantity of undead increasing as the smaller chapters progress. Often, some hapless Resistance fighter gets brutalized by a new type of zombie, which you’ve got to put down. And of course, there are numerous sequences where your path is temporarily obstructed, and you pop zombies until the way is clear again. At the end, you’re tasked with destroying a Hell Tower (a diabolical device that generates Hell Storms and spews out undead) before you and your friends are totally overwhelmed.
In terms of the mechanics, Dead War feels great to play. It’s satisfying to methodically snipe Nazi zombies, picking your shots, and watching Wehrmacht helmets spin away from burst skulls. It’s also a blast during big horde fights when you’re using explosives judiciously, conserving ammo, peppering in melee attacks when they’re charged, swapping weapons, all that good stuff. Enemy types are varied, and when taken together, they comprise encounters that are engaging and absorbing to pick apart, piece by piece (often quite literally).
Outside of the primary campaign, you can drop into Horde Mode, where you’ll exterminate waves of undead until you and whatever teammates you’ve brought along can escape. Rebellion did an excellent job tuning the difficulty of this mode. I personally played a game wherein, of my four-person squad, only myself and one other player managed to escape. We were hopelessly outnumbered, barely clinging to life, and gave nearly everything we had to drag ourselves to the exit. When a zombie game creates moments of frantic, desperate exhilaration, something’s being done right.
Now, the premise of Dead War is very over-the-top and silly. In some games, this would result in an endless din of self-aware, tongue-in-cheek chatter. Thankfully, Rebellion opted to play the story mostly straight. The characters treat the situation like the horrific nightmare that it is. And while they’re still willing to throw in a one-liner here and there (which you can actually adjust, interestingly), they don’t bombard you with grating, cringe-inducing dialogue.
This doesn’t mean the game takes itself too seriously, far from it. Rather, the humor is largely visual, presenting the player with absurd images like reanimated sharks and zombie boxers and, importantly, letting those images speak for themselves. The game doesn’t come across like it’s trying to be funny, which is refreshing.
That said, the dialogue isn’t exactly a revelation. The continental European accents on display are mostly vague and inauthentic, with British and American accents getting the best treatment (no surprise there). No character’s personality is particularly memorable, and while the story manages to avoid irritating, it’s certainly not worth writing home about. Luckily, cutscenes are all skippable, and you’re never far from jumping into the next bit of extreme violence.
In all, one of Dead War’s strongest elements is its visuals. Environments are crammed with details, painting a bizarre, intriguing picture of this alternate history. Classic paintings become zombified, Nazi iconography appears alongside the remnants of Satanic rituals, and little dolls knock the heads off of mannequins, saying “peek-a-boo” at random passersby. The developers are clearly aware of this, including a Photo Mode, where you can capture all sorts of exciting moments and run them through various filters and effects, which incidentally made gathering screenshots for this review quite enjoyable. Even if the story being told here is unremarkable, the world of Zombie Army 4: Dead War is an enriching place to inspect and explore.
Zoom Out: Verdict
Gunplay - 9/10
Campaign Mode - 8/10
Horde Mode - 8/10
Atmosphere - 7/10
Despite its derivative structure and lackluster storytelling and dialogue, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a thoroughly enjoyable undead-stomping romp. The sniping is fleshed-out and fun, the horde fights are appropriately frenetic, and the visuals are in turns amusing, spectacularly gruesome, and downright cool. If you haven’t exploded some zombie heads with a friend since 2008, this is the place to go.
- Thrilling gunplay
- Effective humor and atmosphere
- Campaign and Horde Modes are exhilarating
- Derivative design
- Can become a bit repetitive
- Subpar voice acting and dialogue