You can't stop them, they are relentless, you can’t avoid them and just when you think you have escaped them you will find yourself face to face with yet another one. Of course I am talking about zombie based spin-offs of popular gaming franchises and this time around it is the Sniper Elite franchise that finds itself next in line to feast off the brains of the living.
Existing as a standalone addition to the series Nazi Zombie Army may raise an eyebrow and perhaps a chuckle or two at the name alone, that is pretty much where the fun stops. There is not much to tell beyond what you can probably already guess; Hitler has a link to the occult and inexplicably brings the dead back to life to win the war one lazy shuffle at a time. It’s no more sterile than a lot of the second thought zombie based gaming offerings but that is little more than a backhanded compliment. For a series that has always tried to frame itself in some semblance of a story here it all goes out the window. That is not to say that a zombie themed game should have an amazing story, incredible plot twists and dynamic characterisation but you have to consciously decide to not even give it a shot.
There is no sense of your character, no sense of your need to survive and you exist as dead in the eyes as those that would see you on a platter. The game starts with nothing more than a few seconds of a cutscene showing Hitler initiating the undead uprising and then suddenly you are in-game making your way checkpoint to checkpoint. Nazi Zombie Army plays as a third person shooter that pushes you down a linear path triggering zombie mobs before placing you in a defensible position where the game becomes nothing more than a horde mode. Then it is a case of lather, rinse and repeat. If you have a penchant for seeing unoriginality reach new levels then this could in fact be for you.
Every objective you have will more or less serve only to force you down an extremely linear path towards an almost L4D copyright infringing safe room where you can take solace before venturing back out into the next sequence of similar events ad nauseum. Every beat in the game will come as no surprise and any fright you get will likely be from jerky animation where a zombie you have felled can impressively, and very suddenly, be hanging off your arm without any sense of fluidity. What is also bizarre is that the zombies do not have to be delivered a headshot to stop them and it could be said that looking for logical consistency in this type of game is fruitless but I would say if you want to use the framework then you need to stick to the basic rules. The music too should come in for a mention as it is odd as to why Rebellion chose to opt for a John Carpenter style 80’s synth based soundtrack for a World War Two zombie game. Once again it may seem that it is odd to be criticising the music in a zombie game but thematically and chronologically it just doesn’t marry up and it serves to jar more than engage.
It isn’t all bad, for what it’s worth the shooting is still solid but with no ability to sneak and strategically pick off your targets the sniping element doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Likewise, defending a position against the hordes can be tough enough with the balance between enjoyment and frustration managed with competence. Throw into the mix a decent online co-op mode and what you have is a reasonably okay shooter that serves as something worse than what modding communities can deliver.
It is a shame that Rebellion went down this road, the feeling is that resources could and should have been spent better elsewhere in the company. We reviewed Sniper Elite V2 back in May of last year (review here) and gave it a glowing review stating that “This feels like a precursor to a bigger game, with bigger vision and more expansive environments and hopefully that will happen because with what they have achieved in Sniper Elite V2 Rebellion have earned that chance to move the series forward.” It is a shame that the direction that Rebellion have taken the series is an ill-advised one and a direction that is a puzzling as it is pointless.