The living dead have seen better days. It’s been a long time since the last good zombie movie came out, and even the ones where the humans are supposed to be the problem — rest in peace George A. Romero — haven’t been under the spotlight for a while. In games, things aren’t looking that great either, and countless releases have really gone out of their way to mistreat one of the horror genre’s most beloved icons in favor of mere entertainment value. Rebellion’s Zombie Army series was among those, and ironically, up to now, it was supposed to be dead and buried after the original trilogy closed a couple of years ago.
But that was not to be. Zombie Army 4: Dead War made its debut at this year’s E3, and all signs point to it being a pretty darn fun multiplayer game, unless you are a zombie. In that case, you’ll find plenty of reasons to dislike it. As a human I still am, I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed my time testing its demo out on the show floor, alongside a fellow games writer and two Rebellion developers who right from the get go claimed they were “no good at games”. Well, sirs, I hope I have outdone you proudly.
It was day three of E3, two hours to go before the show floor closed. I felt as close to a zombie myself as I ever have before after days of running around covering both the pre-show and show per se, so I can openly admit my already terrible gaming skills were ever worse (check out the gameplay video above if you don’t believe me). And there I was being part of a group of human undead slayers during World War II, tasked with taking out what’s left of Hitler’s army, which was supposedly exterminated in the previous games, according to everyone I asked — sorry, I haven’t played any of those, even though I’m a big Sniper Elite dork.
Like the main series, the Zombie Army game are third-person shooters, but all traces of attempting to go for realism are gone, in favor of a fast-paced and fun get together for up to four players, and to all regards, I had a blast playing it. There were a few different heroes to pick from, including the dude from Sniper Elite, but I settled for another, whose special power had his shots become more precise, but slower. This little wrinkle is new to the series, and builds up the more damage you deal out zombies. You can also dispatch them using environmental hazards, which in the demo’s case was a huge propeller that not only cut up a bunch of enemies, but also myself, after a “friendly” activated the damn thing! *shakes fist in the air*
Honestly, the best thing going for Zombie Army 4, besides the tight gameplay and cooperative mechanics, is its presentation, which although not at all original at this point, helps boost its approachability quite well. I’ve been a big fan of horror B-movies that make use of similar themes for years, like Dead Snow for years, so it’s fun to see developers borrowing from that and building games that play well around it. It’s a thin line that’s easy to miss, but Dead War feels like it’ll balance it out quite well.
I’m way into the idea of jumping into this game once it’s officially out, not only because it draws from those inspirations, but exactly because the demo played so well. The theme helps a bunch, and might do a good job drawing away the toxicity that comes with playing online, but even so, I’ll do my best to get some of my like-minded buddies and squad them together.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War will be unleashed sometime next year for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.