Zombie Army 4: Dead War review: The dead have arisen

Rebellion has delivered the latest installment in their undead slaying franchise with Zombie Army 4: Dead War. Our review.

4

Adolf Hitler’s army of undead soldiers have returned to wreak havoc on 1940’s Europe. Deemed as “The Dead War”, these hordes of living dead threaten the future of mankind. Zombie Army 4: Dead War features a fully fleshed out campaign, along with a horde mode for players to test their true survival skills.

Ways to slay

Developed by Rebellion, Zombie Army 4: Dead War picks up shortly after the events of the Zombie Army Trilogy. Following the banishing of Adolf Hitler to hell, his zombified soldiers return for vengeance. This sets the stage for our campaign as a handful of heroes look to rid the world of these monsters for all and save the human race.

The campaign for Zombie Army 4: Dead War kicks off in Europe as survivors try to salvage what’s left. Something that immediately impressed me with ZA4 is the sheer level of customization and play style options available. First up, you’re able to choose from a number of different characters, each with their own unique abilities and disadvantages. For example, Karl has a higher critical hit chance on long range shots, but is staggered by slower health regeneration. There are four base characters to choose from when starting off in ZA4, with a couple extra purchasable from digital storefronts.

Next, players have fully modifiable class setups. Customize up to four presets which feature a primary weapon, secondary, pistol, melee weapon, and perks. When you first start off, the choices are fairly limited, but as you progress and complete challenges, more options open up. ZA4 also rewards players for sticking with any particular weapon as more upgrade options become available when a gun levels up. I quite enjoyed sprinting around and blasting enemies with my electric shock enhanced trench gun. 

World War Z

There’s also a number of perks that players can use to give themselves bonuses. This consists of abilities like survivor, which increases bleed out time. All of these elements come together to create an experience with much more versatility and freedom than I was anticipating. I was constantly reshuffling and rearranging my classes trying to find the perfect combination to make me the most efficient zombie slaying machine I could be. 

The campaign of Zombie Army 4: Dead War is told in five chapters and features different locations, enemies, and characters. It was neat getting to adventure through Europe alongside friends battling against an army of Nazi zombies. As you progress further into the campaign you’ll encounter some of the more bonkers enemies that ZA4 has to offer. From zombies brandishing hatchets and pistols to zombies that tote flamethrowers and pilot military tanks, the story gets pretty hectic. 

Campaign can be played entirely singleplayer, or through co-op with up to four total players. When jumping into a session, you can choose the difficulty, which determines the strength and capability of your undead adversaries. In addition, ZA4 allows players to tune the number of zombies spawned in a mission. Choose from 1-4 and the game will spawn zombies that are appropriate to that player count. Therefore, even if you’re playing with a full team of four, you can set the game to treat you as if there’s only three players, if you keep finding yourself overwhelmed with zombies. 

The stalking dead

The second pillar of Zombie Army 4’s gameplay is the horde mode. This is ZA4’s take on an “endless” gamemode, where increasingly strong waves of zombies attack the player until they eventually lose. Horde mode features four different maps, each map having unlockable areas and points of interest. Like the campaign, Horde mode can be played with 1-4 players. Players can still customize their class setup, but with much more limited options. Every time players jump into horde mode, they’re assigned a random starting pistol. Players can still select their character, melee weapon, and perk combination. As players level up they can choose item mods to improve the gear they find in horde mode.

ZA4’s horde mode is best described as unadulterated fun and chaos. As with most endless modes, it starts off easy and simple. We bought guns, grabbed medkits, and mowed down the handful of zombies that opposed us. As the rounds went on, we began to feel the pressure as more and more zombies spawned. I barely had time to prepare myself in between rounds and there were several cases where I scrambled to refill my ammo as zombies fell from the sky all around me. 

If you aren’t a fan of the slow build, ZA4 lets you jump straight to the madness by allowing players to choose waves 1, 4, 8, or 12 as starting points, as long as the player has already reached that round on a previous play through. Although horde mode doesn’t have story progression, there’s no shortage in objectives and tasks to complete. The records menu is home to a seemingly endless number of challenges. Achievements, and statistics. Players can check out their sticker album, look at collectibles, or marvel at their stats and highlights in the records menu. It’s important to have a deeply rooted tracking system like this, so that players don’t feel like they’re running out of things to do. 

My only gripes with Zombie Army 4: Dead War come from the technical side. Many of the character animations and controls feel awkward and janky. There were several times where I ran directly into a desk or wall because my character got difficult to control when quickly moving around an area. This is partially thanks to the camera placement. The camera is just a little bit too low and closed in for my liking. I was constantly blindsided by enemies and found myself getting frustrated in chaotic moment because I could barely see what was going on.  

Dead is better

Rebellion’s Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a great take on a classic genre. The developers experience in crafting satisfying shooters is abundantly clear here, as ZA4’s combat is airtight. The campaign features unique locations and fun co-op opportunities. Horde mode is home to some of the most chaotic and high tensity gameplay I've ever experienced. Some technical choices and limitations impeded my experience, but not enough to stop Zombie Army 4: Dead War from being the romp that it is.


This review is based on a digital Xbox One code provided by the publisher. Zombie Army 4: Dead War will be available on Feb 4 for $49.99 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

Contributing Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Star Wars nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

Pros
  • Exciting campaign
  • Combat and shooting feels satisfying
  • Horde mode is chaotic and fun
  • Large variety of customization options
Cons
  • Camera feels awkwardly positioned at times
  • Janky character movement controls and animations
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