The Nintendo Switch version of Zombie Army Trilogy brings the core of the Zombie Army franchise to almost every available platform. The game’s three core campaigns, zombie spin-offs to the Sniper Elite franchise, present an undead apocalypse that isn’t related to any sort of plague, thankfully. While the game is enjoyable enough, it feels as though its age is starting to let it down, particularly with so many innovations in online cooperative shooters over recent years.
The story in Zombie Army Trilogy is simple to understand and merely there to justify your killing zombie Nazis. Hitler has lost the war, and instead of doing what he does in reality, he activates “Plan Z” and very sensibly uses occult magic to raise the dead. Now the area in and around Berlin is teeming with Nazis once more, and it’s the responsibility of up to four players to get in there and figure out why. While there’s nothing groundbreaking about the story, it does provide context for the game’s incredible levels, offering an ending that will not disappoint.
The enemies aren’t hugely varied, particularly compared to the latest game in the franchise, but there’s enough here to keep things interesting. Each enemy is visually distinct and grants you enough time to prepare your tactic for dealing with them, as long as you see them coming. As the game progresses these enemies are introduced in more and more combinations, making for some complex fights that push you to your limits, and Horde Mode pushes these combinations even further.
Ravaged by war, and the undead
Each chapter of the game’s three campaigns is set in a distinctly separate location. This makes each one feel fresh and interesting, encouraging you to explore every nook and cranny for hidden secrets and collectibles, such as the five gold bars throughout each chapter. Players work their way through checkpoints in the form of safe houses, which are generously dispersed in most levels, though there are definitely areas where a checkpoint is really needed after an onslaught by Hitler’s rejects.
The level design is stunning. There were moments where I genuinely had to pause just to take in what has been built for players to enjoy in this game. From a shattered cathedral, to a terrifying and dark underground tunnel, each mission’s environment has been carefully thought through, right down to the chunks of dead soldier hanging from the ceiling. These settings provide some genuine jump scares, even though the game is, for the most part, action-focused. Carefully placed lighting reveals a soldier’s reanimation just as you pass it, and well-planned corners hide lurking zombies who will make your life a nightmare when you try to back-track.
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about Zombie Army Trilogy without mentioning the bullet-time kills and X-Ray Kill Cam. These staples of the Sniper Elite franchise imported to the zombie spin-off series are grotesque — and great because of it. There are loads of opportunities to take aim and watch as a bullet flies through one skull, breaking a jaw, then into another, shattering the side of an eye socket, and finally embed in a third where it just scrambles a zombie’s brain.
Rebellion included both Pro Controller support and motion control support in Zombie Army Trilogy. Using a Pro Controller is fairly similar to playing the game in handheld mode, and the controls are tight in both. However, motion controls add a new layer of depth to the game that hasn’t been there before. With these enabled, it’s possible to slightly adjust your aim by jerking you Switch around in the right direction. This is useful because zombie Nazis have a nasty tendency to jerk away from your scope as soon as you’ve lined up your headshot.
Showing its age
Zombie Army Trilogy is a great-looking game, and it still looks fantastic on Nintendo Switch. Rebellion has done a fantastic job of retaining visual fidelity where it matters, whilst removing unnecessary strains on processing power by using fog in Horde Mode-like encounters, clouding the background. Defeated enemies will also fade away after a while, burning as they go, which fits in well with the concept that these are a result of occult magic instead of a virus.
However, I could tell that this game is a remastered version of three much older PC games, and it impeded gameplay at times. For example, after landing a headshot on the game’s miniboss enemies, you need to take about five seconds before you can land a second one. I found that even when my second shot was on target, it didn’t hit home because the enemy was in some sort of invulnerable state. This was frustrating and cost me progress at times because it forced me to use up precious ammo that I didn’t have to spare.
While the controls are tight, they’re slow to respond compared to how quickly you can be overwhelmed by a horde of undead Nazi soldiers. There were times when I was completely surrounded but couldn’t bring my shotgun up to aim in time to get the headshots I needed for an escape. Likewise, sometimes it took so long to line up a headshot with my sniper rifle that I’d already been attacked by a zombie I’d missed.
A beast on the go
There’s no denying that Zombie Army Trilogy packs in a massive amount of gameplay into a very small space on the Switch. Above all else, this is a game that gives you value for the money you pay for it, and then some. Not only is there a campaign that will take tens of hours to complete, but there’s a Horde Mode and of course multiplayer. Something that I found was a very nice touch was the in-game achievement system. Players are rewarded for headshots, collecting gold bars, killing enemies in particular ways, and so on. With no achievement system on the Nintendo Switch, this has given me a reason to keep exploring.
Built for multiplayer
The time I spent playing Zombie Army Trilogy in co-op with someone else was where the game really shined. Hordes of undead Nazis become more of a shooting gallery and less of a threat with someone by your side. Working through levels also feels like less of a slog through deep muddy water with even one other person playing with you. Those long, drawn-out battles with waves of enemies still need to be managed, but as long as you’re paying attention to where your teammates are, you’ll fly through the checkpoints. In co-op you also get a second chance at survival that isn’t awarded to you in solo play. Instead of dying, you’re downed. In this state you can shoot away the zombies near you to make yourself easier to revive, something I needed at least 10 times per mission.
The joy of co-op extends to Horde Mode as well. Here you’re bombarded with waves of the undead until you can’t survive anymore, and it’s a genuine challenge. Those different combinations of enemies throw all of your in-built tactics from the game’s campaign out the window. Suddenly you have to deal with every special type of zombie as well as a horde of the standard mobs, and it’s terrifyingly exhilarating fun.
What playing in co-op showed me, more than anything, is that Zombie Army Trilogy is built to be played with others. While the online servers were pretty empty since I was playing the game before release, I can definitely recommend hooking up with some random players and taking on higher difficulties, or just more waves in Horde Mode.
If you want a great cooperative shooter to play with others online, Zombie Army Trilogy is the game you’re looking for. The solo experience can be enjoyable as well and will keep you busy for a very long time, particularly if you love hunting for achievements and secrets. The game falls down on the technical side, mostly due to what feels like dodgy aiming when too many enemies are around, but it’s still good fun. It bears repeating that there’s more than enough to justify the game’s cost here, and if you need something to soak up a few hours of your life, this game is ready and waiting to eagerly take any time you have to offer, and maybe try to eat your brains too.
A review code was provided by the publisher.