Review: Zombie Army Trilogy (PS4)

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Extras:

  • 3D Compatibility
Title: Zombie Army Trilogy
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (9.2 GB)
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Original MSRP: $49.99 (US), €49.99 (EU), £39.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
Zombie Army Trilogy is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The Sniper Elite series has gained somewhat of a cult following with a unique X-Ray kill camera. It follows the projectile as it’s fired from the rifle and hits the intended target where it then shows a skeletal and major organ view and the devastation the bullet makes as it passes through the body and out the other side. It’s a stunning effect that looks great but when it’s implemented into a game that emphasizes realism, it becomes frustratingly hard to get the targets not to run for cover after the first shot rings out. But what if the enemies are all zombies? They wouldn’t run.

Gameplay:
Zombie Army Trilogy began life several years ago on the PC as Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army. It was a fun spin-off project that sold more than anyone expected. Now it’s on the PlayStation 4 and we are being treated to the two campaigns from the first pair of games and an entirely new set of levels, characters, modes, and other improvements.

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There is a massively over-the-top story that steers you through thousands of zombies and puts none other than a zombie Hitler in your sights. You follow a largely linear path through the war-torn streets, sewers, and graves of Nazi Germany playing as one of eight selectable characters, each with their own little back-story. Armed with a sniper rifle, a secondary weapon like a machine gun or 12-gauge shotgun and the last resort pistol, you’ll face a wide variety of the undead.

To help keep the zombies at bay you can also throw a “Stielhandgranate” (the German Stick hand grenade), set landmines and dynamite, or even a trip mine. These can only be set off by the enemy but the explosion can also cause a chain reaction with any other nearby explosives so be careful where you place them. Most of the time you’ll be trying to keep a good distance between your character and the zombies so the sniper rifle is the best weapon to use in this game.

… to say that it’s hard is an understatement …
You can do a few things to get a good clean kill on the enemy. Crouching or even lying down steadies your aim as does focusing your breathing. On the higher difficulties you’ll also have to account for the gravity effect on bullets over distance and less ammunition, so making every shot count becomes a necessity.

 

The level design is good for the most part. You’ll often walk into a long alleyway or courtyard and instantly know a deluge of disfigured corpses are going to come spilling out of every nook and cranny. Or you’ll approach an area with a mounted gun and know you’ll have to use it at any moment. This isn’t a bad thing, just know that this game relies on triggers and set pieces just like many other shooters. Where Zombie Army Trilogy sets itself apart is the fun and absurdity of it all. Everyone knows it’s a crazy-bloody-gory tactical shooter and thankfully it never tries to be anything else.

Because you’re limited to the weapons of the time and are facing an overwhelming horde pretty much the entire game, to say that it’s hard is an understatement. The easiest difficulty (Cadet) still has a few frustrating moments that’ll take a few attempts to overcome if you’re new to the series. For veterans of these games there is the hardest (Sniper Elite) difficulty or worse still, increase the enemy setup to spawn for four players when it’s just you.

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The first time I played Zombie Army Trilogy was also the first time I had properly played a game in this series and I did find it occasionally difficult and frustrating. But after I got to grips with the more tactical style of play and found a rifle I liked the entire game became fun. I was running around kicking skeletons to smithereens and covering my flanks with mines. I even enjoyed playing on the Sniper Elite difficulty and eventually made it a reasonable way into the game before dying.

Obtaining trophies can be quite easy at first but trying to get a Platinum in the game will take a long time and some experienced co-op players. I like that a progress bar will occasionally pop-up showing how many more kills or headshots until the you get the corresponding trophy. Remote Play is excellent with this game as Rebellion included a control scheme for the Vita that works very well. You still (and always will) lose some of the accuracy with the smaller analog sticks but I still found it to be a good playable alternative.

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Visuals:
I’ll begin with the answer to one of the most popular questions of late: Zombie Army Trilogy runs at 1080p and 60 frames per second. The first two campaigns do show their age, even with the improvements that Rebellion added. The graphical effects and lighting are excellent and help hide the imperfections of the aging engine. The balance of lighting, fog, smoke, and deep blacks have been skilfully used throughout the campaigns. It wouldn’t beat Killzone: Shadow Fall in a graphical fight but it could easily last a few rounds.

I played co-op with fellow PS Nation writer Keith and the game pelted us with an awful lot of zombies. At times there must have been around fifty or so lumbering toward us and the game didn’t even seem to struggle. One of us set off an explosion sending undead limbs, blood, and fire in every direction. It was an awesome sight.

… Keith shot me in the back of the head …
Heads will roll and blood will gush, spurt, and spill from the countless zombies you face in these long levels with horrific and gruesome sights around every turn. It’ll be a long while before you see any signs of humanity.

I almost forgot to mention that this game supports Stereoscopic 3D and it works very well. It might be the lower detail in the textures and the sharp edges due to the older engine but everything seems very crisp and pops out of the screen. It also handles depth better than I expected. Some of you may be wondering about the scope, well you can opt to have the 3D on or off independently which will please the perfectionists out there.

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Audio:
I strongly suggest playing Zombie Army Trilogy with the Pulse Elite Headset as the sound design is fantastic. Get too close to an explosion and it’ll send out a deafening shockwave that’ll leave your ears ringing for a while after as the blood and blurred vision fades from the screen. You can feel the kick from the rifle shot through the speakers just enough to be enjoyable and not so much that it’s annoying.

Rebellion didn’t forget about the DualShock 4 and included a creepy zombie groan and eerie undead cry that only seem to echo through the controller at the most perfectly unsettling times. Combine that with a chilling and yet beautifully soft audio score that creeps in and out during the game which makes the silence feel uncomfortable until it’s shattered by a distant zombie scream.

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Online/Multiplayer:
Zombie Army Trilogy includes two to four player online co-op that can be played in a new horde mode or you can jump into the campaign levels and either play through the entire game with your online comrades or pick and choose the levels you want to play. The game automatically increases the amount of zombies depending on how many players there are but just like in the single player mode you can increase it if you want a tougher fight on your hands. I didn’t notice any lag or problems whilst playing online and found it immensely enjoyable.

Depending on how much or little you trust the other online players you can activate friendly fire, an option I had forgotten to turn off, much to everyone’s amusement on our Twitch livestream when Keith shot me in the back of the head by mistake. This helped me find out about the bleeding-out phase that allows you to use your pistol to fend off the hordes whilst being revived.

I must say my time online has been perfect with this game and I highly recommend it to anyone. I didn’t experience any issues or problems and would also like to mention the useful Text Chat box present in the menu before beginning a level for the people who don’t have a mic plugged in.

You have an on-screen score for each person playing that helps create a friendly rivalry and some stats appear at the end of each level. You can still search for the gold bars and bottles just like in the single player. There is also a leaderboard system that shows global and friend scores in the overall game right down to each individual level and of course the new horde mode. That should be enough to keep the score chasers happy.

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Conclusion:
Zombie Army Trilogy won’t be for everyone. It can be a little rough around the edges and a completely different pace to what most people expect. It took me a while to shake off the run and gun mentality and learn to distance myself from the targets by setting traps and trip wires and if all else failed, running. I can’t get enough of this game. With its cheesy story, insane action, brutal X-Ray kill cam, brilliant effects, a new horde mode, and four player co-op that actually works very well, what more could you want?

A steady hand and quick reactions will be needed if you want to make it through till the end. Failing that, just grab some online buddies and have a blast.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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