It costs £9.99, offers around 5 hours of content with infinite replayability; includes stable four player coop, and a separate single player campaign, and has the atmosphere of something the Germans might actually fart out towards the end of the war. Nazi Zombie Army is a stand alone product that goes above and beyond in content, despite having been mistaken for tacked on, featureless, boring crap.

I had originally intended to review Nazi Zombie Army, but given the reception from folks like Rock Paper Shotgun and TotalBiscuit I decided to look into the stand-alone release with more intrigue than a mere prosaic, exploratory content reveal. Rock Paper Shotgun and TotalBiscuit really didn’t like Nazi Zombie Army, but many other people did. “What’s the big deal, people have different tastes, don’t they?” Yes, they do – but there’s a common theme in both their takes on the product: the “I only played it for >half an hour and I’m proud of it” admission. What the hell is that all about?

2013-03-04_00020

The title of the Rock Paper Shotgun article was, literally: “I Played Sniper Elite Nazi Zombie Army For Half An Hour,” which is about as useful as enlightening us as to the length of your last toilet break – so what is it about this generic, over-done, trite, and frankly stupid title that is causing gamers to give up at the 30 minute mark?

What it is

Nazi Zombie Army is a stand alone title using many of the assets from Sniper Elite V2. If this were 2006, we’d all be sitting around outraged as to why it isn’t a mod, given away for free. It’s 2013 though, and we’re beginning to get used to paying £9.99 for one hour experiences in some cases. Content costs, now, and whilst there’s an argument for shipping this content out for free, there’s also a very strong argument against it.

Firstly, this isn’t a tacked on piece of crap as has been portrayed. Here’s my story.

We loaded up Nazi Zombie Army as a party of three, going right into the thick of it with no expectations. I wasn’t a huge fan of Sniper Elite V2. I wasn’t happy with the duck-hunt level design, and how it was basically a Nazi-hate-shooting-gallery for the gung ho. It wasn’t technical, and it wasn’t very polished. Whilst I understand that sniping on the hardest difficulty is both incredibly awesome and rewarding, it just didn’t speak to me in the way that a more technical, niche title could have done. I also discussed how I’m bored to death of zombie games in this article. My exact words were:

“I’m sick to death of Zombies in games, and whilst ‘zombies being in games’ hasn’t become a genre, it’s certainly a feature of many games, and it’s something that can cause great bias in a reviewer. If I was given a zombie game to review at this stage, I would almost certainly go into it not expecting to enjoy it.”

I didn’t like Sniper Elite V2, and I really am sick to death of zombies. What the hell happened?

2013-03-04_00013

In a nutshell, a solid game happened. Nazi Zombie Army has a great atmosphere, with its dank and dark greens and greys. The war-horror aesthetic from movies such as Deathwatch, and general Indiana-Jones-should-be-here vibe carry the relatively linear level design really nicely. The game takes itself very seriously, which is actually very refreshing. Although the over-all premise is ridiculous, it has the seriousness of Killing Floor, whilst retaining the magic of a whimsical horror adventure. It’s also very difficult, and gunning down literally hundreds of zombies as they slowly shuffle towards you with old-school World War 2 weaponry, as a Soviet Officer (the coolest guys in World War 2, let’s be honest) really hits a niche.

There’s also a tactical element, such as aiming for the hearts against the skeletons – either shattering them into pieces with the shot-guns, or aiming carefully with the rifles. There’s also a plethora of tactical explosives, such as dynamite and trip-wire, which you can use to secure a perimeter during waves of enemy attacks. Seeing how many zombies you can kill per explosive is somewhat of a competitive engagement, and lining up your shots to try and penetrate as many zombies as possible with the sniper files is an equally enjoyable little mini-game. The point is that through the 6 or so 30 minute levels of the coop campaign, there are boss fights, scenarios, tonnes of weapons, and different strategic and tactical opportunities. It’s a proper game, it really is. It’s a dumb game, and it’s part of an over-saturated genre, but it’s a solid one none-the-less, and one that spoke to me in a way that other similar games just could not.

The “oh my god not another Left 4 Dead” argument.

2013-03-02_00013If a game isn’t a Gears of War clone now’days, it’s a Left 4 Dead clone. Cover shooter? Oh God, this is just Gears of War. Four player coop? Pah! Just another Left 4 Dead clone. If that’s your attitude to gaming – spitefully slamming iterative sub-genres and established mechanics – then you should probably consider another hobby. Basically everything is something else, and games that aren’t, are just “pretentious.” You can’t win.

It’s not spray and prey, it’s slowly, deliberately and methodically shoot with confidence.

Yes, Nazi Zombie Army is a four player based shooter. You can resurrect your friends, and at certain points you can collect items in order to advance to the next stage. There are also safe rooms where you can re-stock ammunition and take a break. There are similarities, and Rebellion clearly took inspiration from the Left 4 Dead dynamic – but why does that offend you? If it works, what’s the problem? It does work, extremely well. Where there are similarities, there are also differences. Namely, the shooting mechanics in Nazi Zombie Army are really what makes the game so fun. You can carry up to three weapons, with your sniper rifle as the default. In single player, you’ve the slow-mo, skull-splitting animation from Sniper V2, and in cooperative you’ve an expedited version albeit without the skull-splitting animation. Calling the best shot and executing the best kill is, again, a very enjoyable and competitive pursuit. All of your kills are tallied, and you can compare them at the end of the round. If you’re a shooter fan, then playing with friends turns Nazi Zombie Army into an us-vs-us-vs-them scenario where skill is put to the test. The points system is in place for a reason, and if you’re focusing on the narrative or story elements, or comparisons to other games, you’re doin’ it wrong, as they say.

2013-03-04_00014

SMG’s from the Russians, Germans, and Americans, and each countries’ respective weapons in between, Nazi Zombie Army has a larger arsenal than is actually necessary, and picking what tool you want to use for the job is all part of the fun. They’re meaty, responsive, and make cutting through zombies an absolute pleasure. It’s not spray and prey, it’s slowly, deliberately and methodically shoot with confidence. That’s the main difference between this and other zombie shooters. Play like Left 4 Dead, and expect to die – a lot. Am I being so audacious as to claim it’s a skill based shooter? Yes.

What happened

I’m not entirely sure. Whilst I was subjected to the game through a gift from my friend and employer, with no prior knowledge, and wholly enjoyed it – beating it with a team of three, almost convinced it’d be the “next big thing” for this week (the internet is so fleeting), I came across this strangely placed pride in having played it for a short amount of time, glibly elucidating on why it’s a piece of shit. This confused me, since the mechanics, level design, visuals, and content seemed fantastic for the relatively small cost. I eventually came to the conclusion that this being what it is – a stand alone expansion, in a way – isn’t worth the objective eye. If we’re relying entirely on subjectivity here – and I wholly admit it’s my subjective attraction that lead to my academic analysis of the product – then can you really say things like “just don’t buy it,” after proudly playing it for shorter than a game of football? Well, the easy response is this: “yes, I can do that if I want to,” but that response is sort of redundant, since if I wanted to I could go into GAME and set fire to every copy I saw on the shelves, if it had a retail release, that wouldn’t make it a particularly wise sentiment, just because I could. 

2013-03-02_00006Nazi Zombie Army is a game that nobody really cares about, which is why it’s such an easy target. I’m writing this article because, although it seems hypocritical, it’s actually not. I’m not telling you to buy it, just as I’m not telling you not to buy it. What I’m trying to say is that 30 minutes of single player game-play is not really a coherent excuse to slam something because you saw traits in it that were similar to something else. Objectively, Nazi Zombie Army is a well made stand-alone package. It has a good amount of content for the price, a large array of weapons, lovely character models, interesting level design (if a little linear), cool boss fights, seriously meaty combat, and great competitive multiplayer. You might be bored of zombies, but there’s nothing mechanically wrong with this title. So there’s my subjective piece on the matter.

Should you buy Nazi Zombie Army? I don’t really care – just don’t tell me not to after 20 minutes of playing the single player. Rebellion don’t deserve that. People made this. It’s an actual thing. This is a zombie shooter, not a George Orwell novel. There’s no point trying to sink the Titanic in a puddle.

What are your impressions of Nazi Zombie Army, and the reception of it?

Disclaimer: none of my comments, unless explicitly stated, reflect the content of either the linked video or RPS article. This is an article about multiple sources, and the reception of the title on the whole. The two examples provided are just that: examples. I also fully understand that both the articles aren’t technically reviews – they are self proclaimed opinion pieces.