The Sniper Elite games have got a cracking gimmick. Ever since Goldeneye, people love cutting about with a sniper rifle, popping heads from afar while the poor enemies don’t have a clue what is going on. Sniper Elite introduced a slow motion X-Ray camera shot at the point of impact, so you get a super gruesome (and super satisfying) internal shot of the damage a perfectly placed bullet is doing. Skulls crack, lungs puncture and testicles explode and it goes a fair way to cover the fact that, outside of this gimmick, Sniper Elite doesn’t have a whole lot going on. Stealth by the numbers, repetitive missions and, of course, loads and loads of sniping. If you’ve seen one Nazi’s bawbag getting popped off from a mile away, you’ve seen them all.
“But what about a ZOMBIE Nazi’s bawbag?” asks Zombie Army Trilogy, a compilation of the two expansion packs released for Sniper Elite V2 and an all new episode, set in an alternative history where Hitler unleashes a wave of zombies across Germany as his final act of evil. It's like some kind of superb grindhouse gore movie, all the way down to the brooding synth soundtrack.
Simply adding ‘zombies’ might sound like the most cynical thing ever, but it adds a different dynamic to the Sniper Elite formula. For starters, there’s less of a reliance on stealth. No more marking targets and sneaking into enemy bases; things are a hell of a lot more linear here. You walk between objective markers, triggering waves of zombies that you pick off with headshots as they stumble towards you, relying on close range arms and explosive traps like trip mines and land mines to stem the tide. Sniper Elite's brainless AI actually comes in handy for once.
The walking dead come in a variety of flavours, from rushing, exploding ones straight out of the Serious Sam games, huge bullet sponge beasts that need to be blown up and some more unique ones, like the necromancer who needs to be dispatched before any others, or he'll respawn the horde. Occasionally you're given a task, usually a siege event where you have to set up mines in strategic places, find a place to hunker down and then defend yourself. It's fun, but the repetitive rot does set in. Invite a few friends to play, however, and its spread is slowed.
‘Horde’ sections are thrilling chunks of multiplayer fun, as you and your team cover different angles and co-ordinate traps, like one of you tossing a stick of dynamite into a crowd of undead while one of you snipes it from afar, causing it to rain body parts. Dealing with the variety of zombies also allows for some inventive tactics, as one member of the team deals with the horde and protects the players who pick off tougher enemies with headshots. It's still as shallow as the Fuhrer's grave ditch, but it's hard to care when you’re fighting through a load of burning zombies in order to steal a train, shouting instructions at your team as the intensity level ramps up.
It always feels like a bit of a cop out to recommend a game purely based on co-op, as there isn’t really a video game out there that isn’t a bit of fun when played with a friend, but Zombie Army Trilogy is a game so clearly designed to be at its best when experienced with others that if you do find yourself with a group who are up for fighting their way through Hitler’s legion of the damned, it’ll provide a fair bit of fun.
By Andi Hamilton