Game: Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army
Available on: Windows PC Only
If there’s one thing that’s true about video games, it’s that if you give someone a chance to shoot a Nazi in the head, they’ll probably take it. It’s one of the reasons why the Wolfenstein reboot was palateable and it certainly didn’t hinder the gameplay in Sniper Elite V2 either. But if there’s something that people love to shooter even more than Nazis, it’s zombies. So why not mix the two together? Surely that would be the greatest shooter in the history of modern video gaming, right? Well, no, not really, but it did give us Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army, a game that, if it came in a box, would just have the quote “The game where Nazi zombie’s faces explode” – and it would probably be rather successful too. But does any of that leave us with a decent game at the end of it?
STORY: If there’s a story present in Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army, then I must have missed it. You’re told through a cutscene at the start of the game that in the twilight hours of World War II, with defeat inevitable, Hitler made use of a final plan: Plan Z. This, as you would have probably guessed, brings back the recently deceased and gives them another chance at defeating the enemies of the fatherland, this time using their bare hands and desire for human flesh instead of honour, bullets and anything else that may have motivated them before their deaths. The player isn’t really told why they seem to be the only living person left in Germany, they’re just dumped in a seemingly random village and told to find some transport out of this hellish new area.
All the way through your time within Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army, the story will be the absolute definition of “bare bones”. You’re given vague targets and told to shuffle towards them, defeating any flesh-eaters that the game feels like throwing at you. A lot of people won’t be downloading and playing the game for its deep and rich story, leaning more towards good old zombie-shooting goodness – preferably played with friends – but it would have been nice to see at least some semblance of a narrative. Sadly, there is none.
GRAPHICS: The visuals are where Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army stands proud and tall, and for a downloadable stand-alone game that’s only asking for a tenner, you could do much worse. When you put that game into it’s ‘Ultra’ setting, you’ll be treated to some absolutely gorgeous graphics, with the player’s model standing out as one of the title’s better examples. However, as much as the visuals will make the average user’s jaw drop, there’s also one aspect of them that will get you groaning in a way not too dissimilar to the people whose heads you’re filling with lead. The variety of enemies that you’ll come across during your sessions is downright abysmal. You’ll see only a handful of different zombie types, most of which appear in the first few minutes of the game, with only a couple of exceptions to the rule. By the time you’re about half way through the game, you won’t be able to stop from asking why the same zombie that you’ve killed about ten thousand times is still shuffling towards you, or why a single wave of zombies have only about three model types. Is this a Nazi Zombie Army or a Nazi Zombie Quintuplet Army?
SOUND: The sound design is another part of the game that the developers have gotten away with doing very little with. Aside from the opening cinematic where you see Hitler shouting and shooting his men, and the narration at the start of each level, you won’t hear much talking while you’re playing the game. In face, because you’re shooting zombies and not living, talking people, there won’t be much at all in terms of vocal talent, even from the enemies. The weapons sounds as good as can be expected, although you will tire of hearing the same gunshot after the millionth kill-cam sequence (I know it can be turned off, but despite the audio getting a little grating, the animation is still rather fun). Thankfully, the music is moderately interesting though, so at least you can sit back and enjoy that, until the demonic, disembodied voice starts shouting at you – which occurs with alarming regularity – and just about does enough to scare you, just a little.
GAMEPLAY: The gameplay in Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army involves nothing less than relieving the walking dead of their mortal coil – again – with a well-placed bullet or fifteen in the head. Where the original Sniper Elite V2 allowed the player to move through the area tactically, picking off people one at a time, marking them for later an generally being a World War 2 Solid Snake, Nazi Zombie Army does away with all of that, throws you in front of a group of shuffling undead and leaves you to your own devices. As a fan of stealth games, and an open fan of Sniper Elite V2, I was rather worried about where they could take a sniper game that focussed on killing zombies. I was concerned that those two ideas would struggle to click together, and the sad fact is that they do.
There’s no stealth in Nazi Zombie Army, the hordes of zombies will instantly know where you are as soon as you enter the pre-designated area. Stepping over a script trigger in the game with cause the earth to burst with the recently deceased, cause gates that were holding more of them back to break, and may as well stick a neon signpost above your exact location. It’s then your job to kill them all – usually with a sub-machine gun of some sort as the sniper rifle is utterly useless the vast majority of the time – before moving on to the next area to have the same thing happen all over again.
A lot of the disappointment comes from the fact that the gameplay is actually rather good in parts, the ability to play in up to four player co-op being the obvious highlight of the title, but the inclusion of the ‘Sniper Elite’ title feels like a promise to the player that never really gets fulfilled. This isn’t an addition to the Sniper Elite franchise. Sure, you’re playing the same character you were in the previous game, and you have a sniper rifle, but the game just feels like any other corridor shooter with zombies. There’s nothing particularly special here that sets it apart from the hundreds of other similar games you could be playing.
One of the biggest selling points of the rebooted Sniper Elite franchise, the X-Ray kill cam, is so overused here that most people will end up turning it off. In Sniper Elite V2, the stealth element to the title meant that you’d only see the feature appear once every five to ten minutes, but there are so many zombies in Nazi Zombie Army – all of which require head-shotting (as per the zombie shooter norm) – that you’ll be lucky if you see the X-Ray feature less than ten times in a single minute. It’s still a nifty, good-looking feature but it’s one that you’ll either be turning off or all the way down within the first hour of gameplay.
LONGEVITY: Unfortunately there’s little to no replay value in Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army. Similarly to Sniper Elite V2, the game gives you the option to collect hidden Nazi Gold, as well as the ability to shoot various hidden bottles, but it never really gives you much incentive to do this. There’s the chance at an achievement, but that’s about it really, and that’s something that not many people are going to care about. If you’ve got friends that want to play the game, booting it up for some co-op fun might be a good idea, but once you’ve gotten to the end of the single-player campaign, it’s unlikely you’ll go back for seconds.
VERDICT: Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army is a sniper game in name only, and too much is the player forced to rely on non-sniping weapons to get the job done. You’ll try and keep with the spirit of the game, taking on zombies from a distance with your trusty rifle but it never seems as if that’s what the game wants you to do. Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army is a corridor shooter, one with wave after wave of mediocrity and lack of imagination. If someone walked into the offices at Rebellion, dumped a bag of cash on the table and said “What are the kids into these days? Make a game about that!”, Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army is what they would come up with. Unfortunately, their sniper scope doesn’t seem to have been calibrated properly and the game falls short of its intended mark.