Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a zombie survival game with a focus on up to four-player co-op. Yep. What about one with safe rooms, alternate routes along the same general path, and occasional really tough brute zombies that takes everyone working together to bring down? Yes again? Well, what about making them Nazi Zombies, having gameplay focused on sniping and kill-cams, and being based on the Sniper Elite series by Rebellion? What, that’s a thing too?! Yes, Zombie Army Trilogy is both a compilation and the third game in the Sniper Elite spin-off series Nazi Zombie Army, which somewhere has lost the “Sniper Elite Nazi” part of the title. Is it worth buying though? That’s the question.
While incorporating the first two games, which scored an equal 6.5 for both Nazi Zombie Army and Nazi Zombie Army 2 from Emmanuel Brown, Rebellion have also included a third full-length campaign based around Sniper Elite 3. If you’ve got the other two games in the series, consider Zombie Army Trilogy an Orange Box release - yes you’ve got the first two parts, but this is the only way to get the elusive third part in the story. There’s no zombie version of Portal here though, and more’s the pity.
The idea behind these games is that at the closing hours of World War Two (at least the European part, we haven’t seen any Zombie Japanese Imperial Army soldiers) a desperate Hitler enacted a zombie apocalypse and all his soldiers returned from the dead to feast on the living. You’re part of a group fighting back and attempting to uncover a way to stop Zombie Hitler’s Nazi Zombie Army, preferably involving shooting at them from long distances and setting traps for them to blow themselves up on. History is fun!
How nice of them to put a big star on that guy's balls
Not that the story matters one jot, to the extent that the protagonists, who you see all four of in cutscenes whether you’re playing on your own or not, do not say a word throughout the entire campaign. You get people talking at you and saying stuff about relics, Sagarmatha and other such B-movie sub-Indiana Jones stuff, but even when you’ve got people standing in front of you telling you the story it goes straight over your head. Fortunately this doesn’t happen much over the trilogy as that’d get boring in co-op, plus we discovered that you can actually kill friendly NPCs like I accidentally did, ahem. Don’t play Nazi Zombie Trilogy for the story is what I’m saying, although I did like the neat little touches to the levels that Rebellion occasionally add, like the ability to get “dead drunk” at the beginning of one mission.
The moment to moment gameplay, the shooting, is generally pretty fun although a lot slower-paced than most shooters since this is based on the Sniper Elite games. It’s rather a bizarre paradox that in a slow sniping game you’d have hundreds of enemies heading towards you with no chance of stealth, but in general Nazi Zombie Trilogy gets away with it. Barely. Having additional non-sniping weapons like pistols and shotguns, occasional mounted machine-guns, and the ability to set explosive traps bumps the enjoyability up a lot.
Nevertheless though the single-player just simply gets boring very very fast, I’d say somewhere towards the end of your second mission when you realise you’ve basically seen everything Zombie Army has to offer. The slower-paced gameplay works to its detriment when you’re literally doing the same bit over and over again - run away, snipe several zombies, lay a trap or two, checkpoint, get confined to an area where you have to kill a load of zombies to pass, stock up, continue… 90% of the game fits into this pattern, and it gets tiring. Yes the environments (marginally) change and there’s occasionally witty or spoooooky moments to liven things up, but with no wildly imaginative setpieces, constant chatter from AI partners, or any exciting new gameplay shake-ups I just stopped wanting to play on my own. Yes, even with the fun kill-cam turned up to maximum.
Basically what I’m saying is, if you’re going to get Zombie Army Trilogy you better be planning to play it in co-op with friends. The way the whole game has been set up by Rebellion seems to encourage this anyway, like the way the menu is framed entirely around a lobby. Once you get those friends together it becomes an absolute blast, with everyone working together, setting up long rows of traps, all sniping the head off an Elite at the same time… all the problems just drop away. Without co-op this game would be getting a drastically lower score. It’s still not as exciting as Left 4 Dead but I personally preferred it to Evolve at least.
For anyone who’s hasn’t played the last two games already, yay, three games in one and plenty of play-time. For those that have, rest assured that the new final campaign is actually in my opinion the strongest one. People to interact with and even fight against, more fun things to discover, a bit more imaginative level design, some actual setpieces, it all adds up to a bit more of an amusing package. The gameplay still gets stuck in a rut if you’re trying it single-player, but the GameWatcher team tried it in co-op and we only stopped playing when my internet collapsed in exhaustion. It may seem odd to put the third game with the first two instead of selling it separately, but it’s certainly worth buying if you enjoyed the first two - and most importantly in the lobby you can easily swap between any chapter of all three games, which is great for convenience if you play these games a lot.
Summon THIS you Nazi swine!
Graphically though Zombie Army Trilogy is absolutely not the sharpest tool in the graphics box. Everything’s drab or poorly textured, with no real flourishes of style or imagination. It looks like an early Xbox 360 game, and a dull-looking one at that. That’s one of the biggest problems the Zombie Army games have, it all looks so boring. Left 4 Dead, Dying Light, Wolfenstein: The New Order, all these are similar games that appeal visually in a way the Zombie Army Trilogy just doesn’t. I’m not just talking quality of the graphics engine, I’m talking about style and level design too. It’s not an attractive game in any sense of the word.
ZOMBIE ARMY TRILOGY VERDICT
If you plan to play Nazi Zombie Army entirely in single-player, don’t bother. Get Dying Light or Wolfenstein instead. The gameplay gets tedious very fast and most people will be bored in no time at all. Get a few friends together though and the game comes alive (no pun intended, honest), and that’s clearly the way Rebellion intended it to be played. The new campaign furthermore is the best of the three, and while it seems odd to buy the first two games again in actuality it makes things more convenient for multiplayer as you can switch between chapters from all three games at will. Nevertheless even this fun part is brought down by the repetitive gameplay and the drab, featureless graphics. Enjoyable in co-op for sure, but I think Rebellion have squeezed all the life possible out of this particular undead horse. Let the series rest now please, or just put a bullet in its head.
TOP GAME MOMENT
BANG. WHOOOOSH. BAM. CRUNCH. SPLAT.
Really enjoyable in co-op, certainly the way the game is meant to be played.
Laying traps and watching multiple zombies go boom or getting a kill-cam snipe from miles away never gets old.
The gameplay gets very tedious fast, and this utterly sinks the enjoyment in single-player.
A very ugly game indeed, all drab and colourless with no real visual flourishes.