Zombie Army Trilogy Review – Better Dead (PS4)
While many found Call of Duty: World at War to be a step backwards from 2007’s Modern Warfare, it did introduce a new mode that took the online community by storm — Nazi Zombies. It was a ridiculous take on horde mode with a wacky premise and it was a novel idea in 2008. Now, almost seven years later, developers are still trying to shoehorn the undead into World War 2-themed shooters and the concept is more dead than the flesh-eating corpses you battle in-game. The latest attempt to combine the two is developer Rebellion Developments’ Zombie Army Trilogy.
Rebellion Developments is best known for their shooter series Sniper Elite, which has been quite successful for the English developer. The games were successful enough to receive two zombie-themed spinoffs (released exclusively for the PC market) in 2013, and now the spinoff is getting its own full blown title in Zombie Army Trilogy. Has the developer done enough in remastering its previous two offerings and creating a brand new third campaign for the game to make this console version worth purchasing?
An Undead Nightmare
Since this is a compilation, any of the series’ three campaigns can be selected from the onset. Each campaign, which can be played solo or in four player co-op, consists of five different chapters which can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to beat. The player is constantly given an objective to complete although they are usually as simple as running from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ or defeating waves of zombies. Its a simple set-up and it works to get the player into the action.
While the game’s concept of battling Nazi Zombies was pretty clearly inspired by Call of Duty, the game’s set-up is almost exactly like Left 4 Dead. Stop me when this starts to sound familiar: Each chapter is broken apart by safe rooms where you can stock up on ammo, you face dozens of mindless zombies with a few prominent ones sprinkled throughout and each chapter ends with the player taking on an onslaught of enemies until you are able to escape. While taking inspiration from a great video game is not a bad thing, it doesn’t do you any favors if it turns out your game isn’t nearly as fun as the game it tries to copy.
Everything starts to fall apart once you take a look at Zombie Army Trilogy‘s gameplay. The core of the game, taken straight from Sniper Elite III, actually works very well as the shooting feels great in the game. While a few of the staples of the series have been diminished (for example the series signature slow motion bone breaking occurs much less often), it still feels like a Sniper Elite game at its core. The issues start appearing when you take a look at the game that has been tacked onto these mechanics.
Get Back to the Script
Killing wave after wave of the game’s average zombies is a fine — if not an exactly exciting — affair. But after seemingly wiping out the last of the undead foes you’ll be left wondering what to do next. See, Zombie Army Trilogy has a terrible habit of game scripting, with it not occurring when its supposed to, or just being delayed to the point where the player is standing around for several minutes. It also isn’t helped by the fact that some of the objectives such as “Kill All Zombies” are far too literal — as you in fact do have to kill every zombie that may spawn during an encounter. This can make for some awkward backtracking and searching for enemies that may have gotten stuck in the environment or were just not programmed well enough to actually find the player. The scripting issues, while an annoyance, is not entirely game-breaking in itself and could be forgiven in a better game. Sadly, Zombie Army Trilogy‘s issues do not stop there.
Zombie Army Trilogy is a game that fluctuates from boringly easy to frustratingly difficult in quick bursts. It all depends on if any of the more unique more powerful zombies are present as they single-handedly bring the game’s difficulty up several notches. These enemies, which range from fire spewing demons to a chainsaw wielding brute of a zombie, can take a ton of damage and are unfazed by direct headshots. While a good strategy in co-op can overcome these challenges, anyone playing single player will almost assuredly be crushed at these points. Making the issue worse is that players cannot save during a mission so if you come across a difficult part that you would like to try later, you’re out of luck unless you want to restart from the very beginning of the chapter.
The story mode, which is largely devoid of anything resembling a story, does get better in its third campaign (which is the only one made specifically for this release). The level design gets more interesting, boss fights are more fun (with the one stand-out moment of the game being the final boss battle) and it’s a much more enjoyable experience overall. That being said, two-thirds of the package is terrible so one decent campaign isn’t going to suddenly fix its deep-rooted issues.
In Your Head, They are Crying…
Aside from the three separate campaigns, the game also offers a Horde mode that features more wave based combat. This mode, devoid of the scripting issues that plague the story, allows players to focus purely on the combat as they try to survive as long as they can in several different maps. Once again co-op is the way to play this mode and its probably the most fun the game has to offer from a pure gameplay experience. That is faint praise however, as even the best mode of the game is just a mediocre Horde mode that has been done better in dozens of other games.
Zombie Army Trilogy‘s best quality may be its graphical quality. It isn’t The Order 1886 in terms of graphical prowess, but it does generally look good. Some slight pop-in issues occur when looking down the sniper rifle’s sights but the framerate is stable and the game runs well. One thing that is disappointing is the art design as the game never gets truly crazy until the back-end of the third campaign and it is seemingly a missed opportunity to do something fun and wacky with the concept.
This is certainly not Rebellion Developments’ best effort as they have proven in the past that they can release a quality product. Zombie Army Trilogy may only be a patch or two away from being a decent co-op affair, but in its current state it is a mess of a game. With the increasingly busy release schedule, there is no shortage of high quality games tugging away at your wallet — Zombie Army Trilogy is not one of these.
Review code for Zombie Army Trilogy provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here