Hitler may only have one ball, but it must be a bloody big one. Because no matter how many times he gets taken down, he still comes back for another crack at world domination. When will he learn to just stay down?
Thanks to the likes of Wolfenstein, Sniper Elite, and the Zombie Army series, we’ve killed Hitler more times than we can care to remember now. It never loses its appeal though. In fact, Zombie Army 4: Dead War might be Hitler’s most entertaining appearance yet. Battling your way through nine undead-filled missions, you’ll be thrilled when you’ve finally thwarted his plans, overcoming a final challenge that feels rather epic.
If you’ve tackled Zombie Army Trilogy, which you should have done because it really is fun, you’ve got an idea of what to expect from Zombie Army 4: Dead War. The dead have risen up, and so it’s up to you, and possibly three others, to make them dead again. You’ve got to re-dead the undead. This time, however, the experience looks a hell a lot better, and is much more fleshed out. It has been five years since Zombie Army Trilogy was released, after all.
With up to four-player online co-op, there are enough characters to choose from in Zombie Army 4: Dead War to allow for no duplicates, and each one has their own strengths and weaknesses. Sniper Elite stalwart Karl Fairburne, for example, has an increased critical hit chance on long-range shots and uses less stamina when in empty lung mode, but has slower health regeneration. Shola, on the other hand, has an increased trap damage radius but is less resistant to bullets. So, who you play as offers more than just a cosmetic change.
To further define your playstyle, you must choose one rifle, one secondary weapon and a sidearm to complete your loadout. Heavy weapons and powerful temporary attachments can also be picked up out in the field. We found that we preferred loadouts that include a shotgun, because they make short work of the undead at close range, but you might opt for a machine gun, or even become attached to a powerful rifle. Each weapon can be upgraded and customised, too, by finding upgrade kits hidden in levels and by other means. They all have some kind of elemental attack to unlock, and with a final upgrade you can decide whether to double down on its effect or steer away. And once you’ve unlocked every upgrade for a weapon, you can begin to master it. Though don’t expect to master any weapons quickly.
Another string to Zombie Army 4: Dead War‘s character customisation bow is a range of perks that you can unlock, level up and equip. You start off with just one perk slot and hardly any perks to equip, but as you rank up more slots become available, and by completing a range of challenges more perks become available. You can eventually have perks such as ‘second wind’, which allows you to get up when downed by killing an enemy, Borderlands style; and ‘bulletproof’, which reduces the damage you take from enemy bullets. It’s up to you to choose which perks are the best for you, and they really can make all the difference between success and failure.
Selectable item mods round things off. Every single item you can pick up in Zombie Army 4: Dead War, be it frag grenades, med kits or divine grenades, can eventually be enhanced in one of two ways. You need to unlock the mods first, but they can make every single item at your disposal much more useful. Though often you need to decide: do you want the item’s effect to benefit you, or your whole team? Though of course, anything that benefits you also benefits the team at large a little, unless you’re playing alone.
With so many variables at play, Zombie Army 4: Dead War feels expansive. You’ll blast your way through the game’s campaign in maybe ten hours or so, but you’ll be eager to jump back in to upgrade alternative weapons, try out new perks and search for the many secrets that each mission holds. Documents and comics aren’t too hard to find, but hunting down zombie hands might become the bane of your life. On your second playthrough you might opt to try a harder difficulty, too, or increase the strength of the enemy forces. And there are weekly challenges that impose weapon restrictions and other unique effects – completing them will allow you to reap rewards.
Outside of the campaign, horde mode makes a return. Four maps are available at launch, each offering a vastly different landscape for your zombie-killing endeavours. As you conquer the waves, the maps grow and expand, too, giving you more room to breathe but also more points from which the undead can emerge. Throw in traps for you to capitalise upon, a steady stream of new weapons, and ammo crates that move around, preventing you from camping in a well-stocked location, and you have the recipe for disaster/a great deal of co-op fun. Needless to say, developer Rebellion has ensured there are many reasons to go back and enjoy killing the undead time and time again.
It’s the moment-to-moment gameplay that makes Zombie Army 4: Dead War so exciting to play – in both campaign and horde modes, online and off. The visceral thrill of blasting enemies and seeing their heads explode or their entire bodies turning to mush never gets old. There are more enemy types than ever now, too. Creepers, for example, are suitably creepy, quickly making their way to you on all fours before pouncing like animals, while screamers are blind but deadly if they manage to home in on your position. There are even zombie tanks – we don’t know how they work, but we don’t really care. With such a range of enemies you need to think fast and adopt the best strategy to tackle what you’re up against. It’s rarely easy, but never too challenging. And if you do die, you’re always raring to jump back in.
Pretty much the whole time we’ve been playing Zombie Army 4: Dead War our thoughts have been positive. But, having loved 2018’s Strange Brigade, we missed the ability to dodge. Find yourself backed up into a corner in Zombie Army 4: Dead War and there’s no quick way out, which can be frustrating. We also missed Strange Brigade‘s puzzle elements. Sure, maybe they wouldn’t quite fit within Zombie Army 4: Dead War‘s world, but they provided a bit of much-needed variety. As entertaining as it is, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a bit of a one-trick pony.
Sitting comfortably between Zombie Army Trilogy and Strange Brigade, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is an entertaining rollercoaster ride of horror and co-op zombie slaughter. It doesn’t really bring anything truly new to the table, but that shouldn’t put you off as it undoubtedly provides some of the best fun you can have killing zombies alone or with friends right now. Throw into the mix the usual pinch of British humour and oodles of character customisation, and you have a worthy follow-up to 2015’s compendium of undead mulching, and yet another opportunity to shoot Hitler in the face. You can’t go wrong with that.