Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army PC Review
In this day and age, nearly every zombie-based videogame slots into the “unoriginal” category. We’ve had these walking undead featured in first-person shooters, survival horror, tower defence, puzzlers, twin-stick shooters, and have even played as one in Stubbs the Zombie. So when Rebellion announced they were making a standalone title to Sniper Elite V2 but based on zombies, I was a little concerned over how it might turn out. Seems I had nothing to worry about, because if anyone is looking for a cooperative game to play with some friends based on World War 2 and Hitler’s fascination for the supernatural, then you can find lots of fun to be had in Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army.
There is next to no story to this game; instead, you are given a barebones scene that shows Hitler in his last desperate moment as he unleashes his final stance to keep the war going, bringing back the undead as lifeless soldiers to wipe out any living thing in Berlin. I was not bothered that Nazi Zombie Army doesn’t build a fiction. This is a game that I feel was made for multiplayer and only needs a small titbit to build the game’s location, era and what you will be put up against, which of course is a range of nazi-zombified soldiers.
Playing Nazi Zombie Army in single player is not the best way to go about it, and doing so hides away what makes Nazi Zombie Army fun – the cooperative mode and the difficulty increase that comes with it. It is a harder sell for the single player alone, as the difficulty is dropped to take into consideration that there is only one person dealing with the undead waves. A feature that is only used in the single player portion is the X-ray kills that you may remember from Sniper Elite V2, in which the game slows down and shows the inside of the victim (zombies this time) and where the bullet hits. No body part is safe from this effect and you might have seen the incredibly painful testicles shot doing the rounds on the Internet from last year’s Sniper Elite game. These X-ray shots do happen a little too often, even when you set the setting in the options to low (off option is limited to multiplayer, why not both?). So while X-ray shots are disturbingly nice to see zombie innards get destroyed by bullet penetration, it makes the action and suspense a little too stop-and-go for my liking.
Cooperative is where this game shines, especially if you get four people together. I can understand that some people will look at it as a third-person Left 4 Dead, and there are definitely some connections between the two, but Rebellion isn’t trying to hide that from us. Similarities include zombies (obviously); four different characters to pick from; five stages featuring safe rooms, which always include a stock up on new weapons and ammo; and lastly, each stage must be completed in one sitting. There are checkpoints to spawn at if your team ends up meeting their demise to the zombie outbreak, but if you quit the game, then you are back to the start of the level. Rebellion isn’t ashamed for copying a tried-and-tested formula, but saying that, I wish they stole the idea of the AI director. Because the game will play out the same no matter how many times you replay a level, once I had finished it I had no desire to play it all again. At least Rebellion added a bit of their own mix to the formula.
At the start of each level, you can customise your character’s loadout. This includes what sniper rifle, sub weapon, pistol and additional equipment (such as grenades and landmines) you can take with you. Having a setup like this means you can pick your favourite World War II weapons without having to find them. Speaking of weapons, there are plenty scatted around, so you are never locked to the gear you start off with if you fancy a change, and ammo is never scarce to the point you have nothing left to attack with. Nazi Zombie Army switches the focus from the stealth elements in Sniper Elite V2, to simply moving and staying alive. It isn’t completely voided of the Sniper Elite name, as gravity still affects bullets and steady aiming is affected by your current heartbeat. Players can also still use cover to hide, which is very handy against the perfectly aiming zombie snipers that jump across rooftops like mad rabbits. But apart from that, you are fine staying afar from a horde of undead and popping their heads off in an explosion of blood.
I feel that the speed at which Nazi Zombie Army moves at is more methodical in approach than most zombie shooters and makes it feel different to play. Standard zombies slowly walk towards you, using their vast numbers to try and overwhelm the group. Scenes like this usually involve a stand-off, where you barricade yourself in a building using the numerous defensive traps at your disposable, as players camp and take long-range shots at the incoming wave until they become too close for comfort. Killcam isn’t as slow in multiplayer; instead, you get a quick camera movement to the zombie and see the well-placed shot take it down, then you are back to the action.
While zombies are the main enemy, Rebellion has thrown in other undead to change the action. Suicide zombies will come running at you with grenades in their mouths, skeletons require shots to their glowing heart for a quick death, and giant gun-welding generals take multiple headshots to kill. There is just about the right amount of enemies for the five hours you will spend with the game, which I totally advise you play on the hardest setting, as it is much more satisfying and challenging than normal. Saying that, I do wish they would push the enemy variety further. The setting could make way for some potentially devilish enemies, and it makes me wonder why the last boss is just a rehash of another boss and not an insane, super-powered Hitler that sends out sonic booms by doing a Nazi salute.
Even though the game isn’t scary, there is a strange sense of dread that comes with its linear progression. The city of Berlin and its tight passageways make for some great moments, and is helped by nice-looking graphics, locations with eerie atmosphere and a brilliant lighting engine that casts gorgeous shadows of zombies as they lumber towards your destination. There is also the fact that you can be killed quite easily on the harder settings, so you have to try and keep yourself away from being swamped. (If you do die, you have sixty seconds for a teammate to revive you.)
I was impressed how fun Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army turned out to be. I was sure the game would be mediocre at best, and it didn’t help that the game had minimal press and such a short time from announcement to release, which just smelt of a quick cash-grab. But Nazi Zombie Army really isn’t that. Sure it has some shortcomings with its scripted AI design and linear levels, but at a cheap entry price of £9.99 and some solid cooperative gameplay, this is for gamers looking for some fun with friends. If you are, then you should give it a shot, as I think you will find it a pleasantly surprising cooperative game.