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Zombie Army 4: Dead War review for PS4, Xbox One, PC


Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Rebellion
Developer: Rebellion
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes
ESRB: M

It is hard to make a game stand out in an oversaturated genre, and while the zombie shooter craze may not be quite what it was a few years ago, it is still a genre that is easy to get lost in. For every “Left 4 Dead” there is an “Overkill’s The Walking Dead”. Just like zombie horror movies, you just take the good with the bad. Zombie Army 4: Dead War is, fortunately, able to separate itself from the pack with the inclusion of a suitably ridiculous campaign, which allows for solo play as well as 2-4 player co-op. And while it does not reach the heights that “Left 4 Dead” and “Left 4 Dead 2” did, at this point I think close is all that we will ever get, and that is OK! No zombie movie will ever top the OG zombie movie, “Night of the Living Dead”, and that is OK too. Everything doesn’t have to be “the best” to be good, or even great.

Zombie Army 4: Dead War treads familiar ground in terms of its narrative, but even that feels like it plays in its favor. Having such a campy, familiar trope for a storyline allows the gameplay and co-op shenanigans to hold the spotlight. Each of the story missions stands alone, with their own title card and B-Movie style title. This is a game that does NOT take itself seriously and is serious about not doing so. Every aspect of Zombie Army 4 feels lovingly crafted by someone who spent the entirety of the 80’s on an acid trip watching zombie movies like “Night of the Comet”, “Return of the Living Dead”, “The Serpent and the Rainbow”, “The Beyond” and so many more. The aesthetic, the soundtrack, the visceral crunch of shattering zombie skulls, and the detailed design of the zombies themselves all feel like a love story to a time when low budget zombie movies reigned supreme.

Some of the more arcade-like aspects further allow the focus to remain on the gameplay. Each kill you get increases your combo counter, and the higher the combo the more points you receive from each kill. In addition to the combos, you receive points for headshots, multi-kills, skilled shots, etc. This really helps add a layer of additional focus on top of simply “kill the zombies”. Trying to get your kill combo up, while trying to get multiple headshots with the same shot, while also making sure no crawlers are creeping up at your ankles elevates the gameplay quite a bit.

The diversity of the zombie horde also really adds something fun to Zombie Army 4. Zombies can have helmets, there are the suicide zombies with dynamite bomb vests, zombies in the sewers look like Swamp Thing, and that doesn’t even touch the “super” zombies. Snipers that teleport from rooftop to rooftop, massive hulking zombies with Gatling guns, flamethrower wielding pyromaniacs, and plenty more that I won’t spoil for anyone. The constant changes in zombie attackers keep everything fresh and new throughout the roughly 8-hour campaign.

Although the campaign is only about 8 hours long from start to finish, you will get a LOT more playtime going back through missions, doing the weekly challenges for cosmetic items, playing missions with friends in co-op, all of these add vast replayability to the relatively standard campaign. This is all separate from the Horde mode, which is exactly what you think it is, you survive for as long as you can against wave after wave of zombies. This allows for a little less structured co-op gameplay, and a fun way to try out new weapons and abilities.

There is a pretty solid progression system in place which adds another incentive to keep playing and trying new things. Your points you earn in each mission are what progress your levels, so trying for higher combos and trickier shots is rewarded with new abilities and loot. Each character has abilities you can choose for them as well, and unique capabilities within the game itself. This comes into play much more in co-op where you play those abilities off of your partners.

I keep touching on the co-op aspects of Zombie Army 4, and that is because co-op is where it really shines. Playing with friends is a load of goofy, and sometimes tense fun. I spent the majority of my time with the game playing with fellow editor Benny Rose, and I asked for his thoughts to add to my review as well, which I have put into my own words below.

The focus on co-op is a definite high point for Zombie Army 4, and the majority of the game seems designed for that cooperative play. The solo game might not be the most newcomer-friendly, with some settings defaulting to the 4 player level. Once you dig into mission settings, you choose the density of the zombie horde, and the “default” is for 4 player density, so if you are flying solo without checking that, you might be in for some trouble.

One of the biggest highlights are the traps. Electricity fields, helicopter rotors, and our personal favorite, the zombie shark on a rope all makeup just a few of the traps you can use to obliterate large crowds of zombies with ease. While the Zombie Army Trilogy feels more like an extension of the Sniper Elite games (which it really was), Zombie Army 4 feels like the first REAL entry in the series and a jumping-off point for future games.

Overall, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a worthy game that stands above a semi-oversaturated genre with stellar co-op, fun, and goofy arcade elements, and so many throwbacks to 80’s zombie horror George Romero himself would have loved it. The somewhat cliche campaign and lack of solo care might put some off, but if you have friends to play with, and want one of the best zombie-slaying experiences in recent years, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is the place to be.

Note: Rebellion provided us with a Zombie Army 4: Dead War PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: B