Title: Zombie Army Trilogy
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Even as a five-year-old title, Zombie Army Trilogy has a lot of content that extends beyond a full campaign. There’s additional DLC, a horde mode, and simultaneous 4-player multiplayer for all modes, which makes it a robust package. Originally built on more powerful hardware, developer Rebellion managed to take all of it and make it work on the Nintendo Switch. The result is a smooth and zombie-filled experience.
Set in an alternate 1945, the story begins with Hitler’s regime losing the war. Desperate and angry, Hitler unleashes his plan to resurrect his soldiers as zombies to defeat the Allied Powers. Characters Karl Fairburne, Boris Medvedev, Hermann Wolff, and Efram Schwaiger have no choice but to team up to defeat the hell occultists and Hitler to reverse the demonic spell.
Zombie Army’s story is meant to be ridiculous and silly as it introduces the occult and whatever demonic measures the Nazis take to win a war. But that didn’t stop Rebellion from putting work into having full-fledged cutscenes and plot points that will carry players through this 15+ hour campaign.
For the Nintendo Switch, this includes all the chapters and modes from the original port. While Horde mode features a simple survival wave gameplay in trimmed down story levels, the real star of the game is a campaign and being able to play them with four-player co-op, local and online. This is all while managing a steady frame rate on the Switch’s hardware.
That also didn’t stop them from adapting the shooting and combat systems from their Sniper Elite series to Zombie Army. From the gun mechanics, bullet physics and x-ray kill cams; Zombie Army is the same in most aspects except some added motion controls for the Switch and some unique situations the player has to deal with.
Zombies always know where the player is after they have spotted you, especially in boss fights as they’re always on a path to attack your character. Meaning there is a lot of close quarter combat and the need to distance your character from packs of zombies to stay alive, as where Sniper Elite favors taking time to use stealth and go for long-distance kills. This creates a new approach to combat that allows both series to exist, but cater to different playstyles.
The way Zombie Army Trilogy starts its chapters is different as well. Players can select one of the eight characters and a loadout before jumping into the game. After choosing a rifle, a secondary weapon, a pistol, and some equipment, it is then up to the player to find ammo and new equipment on the map. Every once in awhile players will end up at a safe house that has plenty of ammo boxes to refill and pick up different weapons before heading out.
This was a welcome checkpoint during my playthrough as other means to get more ammo were to pick them up from the dead zombies, which is easier said than done. Most zombie corpses either disappear after death and can sometimes be difficult to reach when in the middle of a large horde or mini-boss fight. I would have liked for more corpse to drop ammo so I can choose which would be more convenient to pick up during a battle. And for the sake of balancing the game’s mechanics, maybe the drops can disappear when battles are over to avoid the game feeling too easy.
That said, Zombie Army Trilogy is far from easy in my experience on normal difficulty. Even in earlier levels, it is possible to become overwhelming to those who don’t pay attention to every aspect of the game’s atmosphere. Understanding sound ques goes a long way in this nightmare and it helps to be ready for anything. Still, I found that some of my shots didn’t seem to connect to some of the enemies when I clearly saw otherwise.
Unfortunately for Zombie Army, being surrounded is where the game starts to show just how awkward the combat system could be. I am not talking about using the primary sniper rifle weapon to take out a group but instead using the secondaries and equipment. I personally found that automatic weapons like the Thompson or MP44 have a high amount of bullet spread and recoil, making them only useful for taking out a few zombies at close range.
When there are more than a few zombies, using an automatic to quickly make a path through a group to make an escape feels clumsy since shooting weapons from the hip slows down the character. Furthermore, taking a second to kick a single enemy ended up with me dead in the process. While the solution would be to set traps before fights and manage the distance from a group of dead Nazis, it feels unfair not being able to have a backup plan when things get too close for comfort. The would have benefited from shorter attack animations.
When I was finally able to make it past some difficult missions, I was presented some cool visuals and set pieces. Rebellion’s art direction went for a grindhouse movie feel with dark scenes, film reel effects, and gory sights to fit its demonic themes. Scenes that feature hellish rituals or a wall of zombies climbing out of a fallen building are a joy to see for what they are. Plus fighting flying occultist generals require shooting magical skulls out of the air to kill them is a kick. And the music the sets the tone for the visuals is a set bassy doom and gloom techno beats that are familiar for those that played retro first-person shooters.
As a port of a game from 2015, Zombie Army Trilogy on Switch is a great way to play the wacky spin-off. It’s visuals take a hit, but the game runs wonderfully on the console hybrid. However, I would have liked to see some quality-of-life improvements addressed in this version. Sure, the shortcomings don’t make Zombie Army a bad experience, but it does show its age in many ways. Fortunately, the Switch takes nazi zombie killing on the go, and that’s more than enough reason for me to recommend it.
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