Sniper Elite V2 was a one-trick pony, but it was a fine trick. Predicated on the assumption we all love to see a bullet devastate human anatomy, the addition of cranium-cracking slow motion to an otherwise by-the-numbers sniper game gave a God-like sense of power to your journey through the streets of WWII Berlin. The poor AI of V2’s Reich, however, dampened any sense of tension or authenticity by being so braindead they might as well have been zombies. There was another issue, too: in a game that partly embraced the serious tone of its historical wartime setting, what place was there for such a gory B movie delight as the cinematic bullet cam?
Hats (and heads) off to Rebellion, then, for choosing to embrace the idiotic side of its enemy army – and the daft over-indulgence of V2’s glorious gore – by making your foes shuffling undead Nazis. It’s a more thematically appropriate premise for a high-score shooting gallery that awards more points and prizes for the most vital organ you can hit, and manages to lighten the mood while dimming the lights and hamming up the tone of the series.
In action, Nazi Zombie Army trades its predecessor’s stealth and plodding pace for a game of crowd control and spatial awareness in burned out buildings and blood-soaked streets, delivering a short but often satisfying survival horror jaunt. As there’s little in the way of plot or intrigue and the objectives are limited – consisting of reaching checkpoints and/or defending map zones – it’s at its best in fourplayer co-op, where the shallow challenge becomes a team effort to survive the hell of it all as you draw enemies into fellow players’ sights and trip-wires.
Due to a heavier emphasis on all-out action, however, the gratifying bullet-cam pay-off becomes tiresome even sooner than it did in V2. It can be toggled – and is markedly faster in co-op play by default – but it’s so integral to Sniper Elite’s risk-reward loop that it’s a shame to have to do away with it as tedium sets in. You now need to rely far more on the game’s imperfect close-quarters combat – whether with the heel of your boot or flimsy feeling, tinny machineguns – whereas V2 wisely relegated CQC to a last resort. At times it feels like you’re playing in an action game without the optimal tools for the job, the collision detection of melee combat and close-range weapons inconsistent and poorly telegraphed.
Cunningly, Nazi Zombie Army allows some of the weaknesses of its predecessor – and the technical shortcomings of its game engine – to be excused, if not entirely forgiven. Heavy fog? That’s ghoulish graveyard mist. Disappearing corpses? They’re just disintegrating to ashes. Its repetitive, shallow thrills, however, can’t be papered over with a lick of thematic paint.
Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army is available on Steam.