A co-op zombie game in 2020?! It must be cliche, trite trash right? Well, to put it frankly I haven’t had this much fun in a co-op zombie game in nearly ever. And yes I know the likes of Dead Island, Dead Rising, Dying Light, and Call of Duty: Zombies exist. Zombie Army 4: Dead War might not be as technical as the others, but damn is it the most fun and that’s coming from someone who hasn’t played the first three games in the series. Had I known Sniper Elite mechanics were overlayed with zombie-slaying goodness, I would have been all over this franchise much earlier.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War follows the main series protagonist, Karl Fairburne, alongside a handful of zombie-slaying friends in and around an undead-infested Italy. After Hitler was killed by zombies during WWII, then resurrected as their leader, then thrown right back down to Hell (there’s a lot of B-movie level cheese), the undead persisted in their bloody, unending war. Upon investigation, Karl and friends discover that old zombie types have reappeared and mysterious structures known as Hell Towers have popped up all over the place. These metal and flesh machinations are causing zombies to grow stronger and causing a great deal of damage to the surrounding areas. Naturally, they must be dealt with and their origins discovered so they don’t continue to pop up.
While the narrative has enjoyable grindhouse themes, the gameplay matches quite nicely in visceral, action-packed blood baths. One to four players will be responsible for popping zombie’s heads and exploiting the weak points of tougher undead variants. In due course, you can expect zombies with mini-guns, flamethrowers, necromancy powers, suiciders, and you know how it goes with these types of experiences. There is a decent variety of enemy types and a pleasurable balance to when they appear. I always felt powerful enough to be in control, but aware that not being smart about my actions would lead to quick downfalls. There are also enjoyable set-pieces and moments that will get the blood pumping. Our ever stoic leader, Chris, had to stop playing because of a mission’s end being too tense for his weary, old body. [Ed: I was sick with pneumonia, you bellend…]
Level design is mostly linear with the objective and mission progression always pointed out. Granted, there are some side areas and houses to explore, just nothing that will take more than a minute of your time. I do believe this linearity is a crucial part of what keeps the fun tension intact though so I’m not about to complain about Zombie Army 4: Dead War being something it’s not. Especially in instances where you’re riding on a boat through Venice with zombies literally raining down from the rooftops. The different locales between the nine chapters also do a great job of mixing things up so the browns and grays of WWII Europe don’t start to blend. I’ve already mentioned the canals of Venice, but what about a zoo or even Mt. Vesuvius? All I know is the level designers did a fantastic job.
Enough talk about the atmosphere, I hear you say. We only came for the bloody and gory, zombie’s head exploding combat, you assuredly chant. If you’re familiar with the Sniper Elite games then you should have an idea what to expect. However, there’s much less focus on long-range sniping and stealth. Although there are sections where the immediate area will open up for some good old sniping fun. Most of the time, though, you’ll be able to headshot the undead just a few meters away with several scoped rifles. These act as your primary weapons and have unique, yet minimal differences. They can be upgraded through a small skill-tree that focuses on things like ammo amount, scope size, and some more exotic things like attachments that restore health on critical hits. Your secondary weapons like SMGs and shotguns alongside your firearm pistol or revolver can be improved this way as well. Nevertheless, no matter what weapon you utilize, even single-use pickups, all can cause beautiful mayhem. Chiefly in the X-Ray mode that follows the bullet of a well-placed shot inside the body of a zombie. Just like the Sniper Elite titles, you’ll see brains exploding and sternums cracking. I’m just curious why zombies have working testicles though.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War will take around ten hours to complete the campaign and has plenty of replayability. Each level or chapter completion rewards XP and the possibility of finding upgrade kits for your weapons. It’s always nice seeing the shiny medals and accomplishments to a co-op experience. Plus, upgrading your weapons will lead to mastering them for even more damage output. This will make it possible for you to try the hard difficulty and perform better in Horde mode. In typical fashion, you’ll have to survive waves of ever-increasing zombie difficulties. New areas will open up and supply drops will appear to ensure there’s a fair shot at making it out alive. Or stay and test your luck to see just how far you can go. Lastly, there are weekly challenges which for the most part are completing a story chapter with certain modifiers. You can still acquire collectibles here too if that’s your jam.
On the technical side of things, the graphics are average. However, I played on performance mode which allowed me to experience a buttery 60 frames a second. The sound design, on the other hand, was fantastic. The groans, grunts, and expressions the undead enemies expel really got in my ear. To the point that I thought something was physically around me and I whipped around in my chair to check. I’ve also heard something along the lines of voices coming through the Dualshock 4 controller, but I’ve yet to experience this. Probably because I’ve played so much online co-op with the PlayStation Platinum Headset. So the sound never has a chance to come through the controller. For those asking, there is local co-op as well.
Problems are very far and few between for Zombie Army 4: Dead War. The biggest (and only one depending on who you’re asking) is after playing so much at once the mission design starts to blur. You’ll have to acquire story objects, place them in a certain location, and then defend that area for a set amount of time. This is just one example and there aren’t many more instances. It should be said, though, that everything around the mission design was executed so well that I barely noticed this at all. It wasn’t until my eighth consecutive hour of playtime did I stop and realize the minor repetition.
Zombie Army 4: Dead War PS4 Review
Overall - Must Buy - 9/10
Zombie Army 4: Dead War might not be the first co-op zombie game to exist or the best video game in the world, but it’s certainly one of the best co-op zombie titles in my mind. The grindhouse horror-based story, the sickeningly sweet combat, and all the replayability make this game one to enjoy alone or with friends. Even if certain design choices start to feel a bit samey. Zombie Army 4: Dead War has joined the list of games permanently on my PS4 dashboard and I now will go start my hard playthrough with serendipitous joy. I only wish I got into this series sooner.
- Satisfying B-movie levels of story fun
- Excellent and gore-filled combat
- Plenty of replayability and systems in place to keep you gaming
- Mission design can be repetitive
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.