- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PC
- Unleashed: Out now
- Publisher: Rebellion
- Developer: Rebellion
- Players: 1 (offline), 2-4 (online)
- Site: http://www.zombiearmy.com/
- Game code provided by Xbox
If this looks familiar, it’s not just because of the massive success of Treyarch’s introduction of the undead to CoD. Two of the three games herein were released as standalone Sniper Elite expansions, now polished up a little and hugging each other lovingly in one package – alongside a third game. It’s the first outing for these fascistic dead people on consoles; does it manage to Hitler the right notes?
The Sniper Elite games are all about patience, timing, planning and stealth. ZAT is not; yet it uses exactly the same controls, and more or less the same weapons. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the resulting Nazi casserole is actually quite tasty. The demand for accuracy and (on higher difficulties) need to allow for pesky things like wind and gravity make scoring headshots against a slow yet large, ever-moving horde both awkward and satisfying. Or you could just, you know, lob a few grenades into the pack while you bravely run away to cower behind a wall.
Actually, that’s not really an option. Not one that will buy you more than about ten seconds of breathing space, anyway. Whether you’re making your way through a village, a subway, a forest, or Hitler’s Nazi zombie factory (yes really), there are hundreds of undead soldiers to kill (again). There’s a strict limit on how many explosive devices you can carry at a time, so the vast majority of your kills will come from good ol’ fashioned bullets. Admittedly, you’ll likely get quite a few from the glowing red explosive things dotted here and there in the levels, but the point stands…
In case you were wondering there is a story, but it never really goes past ‘Angry Hitler makes lots of zombies somehow’. And why should it? It’s all about making as much of a mess with the countless zombies as possible, nipping off limbs or – preferably, for the highest score – chaining together headshots and feeling awesome. There are pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, landmines, trip mines, and more; but ultimately, the best moments come from your trusty sniper rifle, with or without your magical time-slowing powers when you hold your breath. Nothing beats taking down a zombie sniper. While he’s in mid-air. With a headshot.
Speaking of headshots, you’ll want to get as many of those as you can, and not just because (a) it’ll make you feel cool, and (b) it’s the traditional way to shoot a zombie. Leave the head intact, and there’s a small chance that the enemy will rise from the dead (again). That means another bullet to use, and another step closer to the agonisingly slow reloading animation of your weapon of choice. Zombies will start coming at you – sometimes from multiple angles – as soon as you trigger a spawn; so every bullet really does count.
You’ll take down literally thousands of vanilla zombies during your time with ZAT, but there are other enemies thrown into the mix too. The most common are suicide exploding Nazis, skeletons (let ’em get close whenever you can – one kick will kill one), the aforementioned super-jumping zombie snipers, and ‘Super Elites’; who take multiple headshots before dying, and come at you with a machine gun. The introduction of different zombie types in games like Dying Light and Zombi U irks slightly, but ZAT never really pretends to be anything other than what it is; a game that wants you to kill as many zombies as possible. Different flavour enemies just help to keep the experience fresh here.
The three campaigns (and associated horde mode) can be played alone, or online with up to three other people. The option to adjust zombie spawns for both offline and online games give you an extra, pleasing level of control over the difficulty; and for maximum enjoyment, every level is unlocked from the beginning. We strongly recommend playing only on the highest ‘Sniper Elite’ difficulty when playing solo. This leads to the highest number of ‘this is impossible but I can’t stop playing’ moments and, of course, the greatest sense of accomplishment every time you hit a new checkpoint.
The competition inherent in this type of game when played online adds another layer to the experience, especially as there’s an ever-present scoreboard in the corner of the screen showing everybody how far ahead (or behind) them you are. Your determination to maintain accuracy in the face of a huge zombie horde (likely bigger than ever online) increases tenfold. Keep your kill chain going, get as many headshots and multi-kills as you can, and then you’ll show those people you’ve never met and never will who’s the best! Um, that said, you also have the option of playing with friends who have the game (there’s no local co-op, sadly).
ZAT goes out of its way to please, and largely succeeds. It may never try to stray away from the basic premise of ‘get from A to B while killing things in between’ (traditional Sniper Elite collectable gold bars and hidden bottles to shoot aside), but it does what it does extremely well. We could complain that solo sessions can be so intense that they’re exhausting, but that would just be splitting Herrs.