Once more unto the breach. Rebellion return with a new Sniper Elite game, this one featuring Nazi zombies and shifting the focus toward co-op play. Too little too late or the tonal shift the franchise needs?
It’s a well known fact that when Hitler ordered Nazi forces into Poland he had several tactical advantages. The Luftwaffe, for one. He also wielded the numerical upper hand which, in turn, aided in reducing morale among the Polish. More importantly than all this however, Hitler had an elite cadre of unwavering jetpack snipers. Honest. And yet even with these spry bastards the German army was eventually spread too thin.
Historical accuracy is not high on the list of priorities for Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army, an unashamed riff on the Left 4 Dead formula that places a precedent on sniper rifles and the terrible things they can do. The setting is Nazi Germany, the twist is zombies and the USP, as was the case with Sniper Elite V2, is a slow-motion gore-cam that aggrandises every punctured lung, burst testicle and slashed artery in comical fashion. It’s truly fantastic, for all of five minutes.
Kill cam aside it’s a reasonably conventional third-person shooter. You skulk through the battered streets of Second World War Berlin, pausing every few moments to slip into cover and play with one of the game’s ceremonial toys of which there are a great many.
Played on the easier difficulties murder is a case of point, click and enjoy the spectacle as the in-game kill cam transforms routine death into a sadist’s wet dream. On the tougher difficulties you occasionally have to contend with wind and bullet drop, but rare is the ocassion you’re shooting at something far enough away for either of those to take effect.
Bullets tear through meat and muscle to wreak havoc on vital organs, testicles and bones time and again. You get a front row seat through it all as rotting lungs erupt like water balloons and bones shatter, piercing through the gyre of mincemeat and offal and out into the gloomy world. Sometimes the camera slaloms behind the bullet, other times it charts the hypnotising rotation before the inevitable thwack as metal meets moldering bone and the piercing howl as bullets tear through the air like aeroplanes blasting down a runway only adds to the drama.
The novelty wears off fast, as you’d imagine, and played alone you can’t even turn the damn kill cam off. Even on the most severely reduced setting, any headshot from more than about 15 meters away triggers a prolonged 7-10 second long cookie-cutter scene that conspires to rob the game of its only real joy: the sight of popped heads becomes so routine that any impact is lost long before the game hits the halfway mark. Fortunately it’s less of an issue played co-op, but it makes solo play excruciatingly spun out.
Like Sniper Elite V2 before it, Nazi Zombie Army is a game that has shown its hand within the first fifteen-minutes. You snipe and you snipe and you watch kill cams and then you snipe some more. Intermittently you’ll switch tactics, trading rifles for SMGs or shotguns (if for no other reason that to circumvent the macabre kill cam), but besides that and a couple of contextual hold-A-to-do-this moments, there’s little beyond the sniping.
And that’s baffling because the game is at its finest when you’re garrisoned inside an old home-cum fortress with landmines plonked down outside and trip wires stationed behind every doorway; one person guarding the entrance with a boomstick while three others play Death from the upstairs windows. There’s a rudimentary strategy mode hidden away beneath the linear A to B grind but Rebellion make little use of it. Methodically constructing an ambush then falling back to a roost and watching as the carnage pans out with three chums, picking off any surviving stragglers and basking in the torrent of well-earned points is great, yet it’s something that occurs maybe four or five times throughout the course of the campaign. There’s no shortage of siege scenarios staged in courtyards or small rooms, though. Rebellion give you all the toys but rarely provide the right playground to use them in.
Elsewhere an undernourished score mode doles out points for every kill but does nothing with the totals, there’s a distinct lack of enemy variation (jetpack snipers, speedy chaps and brutes sit alongside the standard zombie) and Berlin is so starved of personality it’s at risk of joining the identikit undead soldiers. Rebellion pay occasional homage to schlocky 80s movies, but not nearly enough to cultivate a sense of place or horror.
As a throwaway, b-movie riff on a one-note game pitched at a knock-down price it’s hard to come away feeling too cheated from Nazi Zombie Army. For those of a co-op bent, there’s a half-decent game buried away alongside all the gore geysers and fractured skulls, but for lone wolves it’s a bit like the German army: even with the jetpack snipers, spread a little too thin.
This review was originally published on BeefJack.