Zombie Army Trilogy is the latest port for the Nintendo Switch from Rebellion, and while there are a few frights here and there in terms of its iffy online and poor motion controls, this outbreak is actually a fun, albeit repetitive excursion to a timebent WW2 era.
It’s almost the end. The Allies are close to taking Berlin, but in a desperate turn of events, Adolf Hitler in his bunker activates Plan-Z and resurrects the fallen soldiers on the battlefield as zombies. Now, it’s a fight for survival as the Allied forces try to figure out a way to defeat this outbreak and stop Hitler for good.
Don’t expect an Uncharted-level storyline from this game. There’s very little in-game dialogue and few cutscenes to speak of. This general storyline is a means to an end and is not the main hook of the game. However, if you like whacky alternate history timelines and an occult twist, you may dig it.
You’ve come to this review for a reason, and you know what you’re getting: zombies. Many, many zombies in open landscapes and very narrow hallways. And I’m happy to say, if that’s what you’re looking for, it plays excellently. You face waves of the undead with the occasional boss, try to work your way through the level, or you’re trying to secure a position.
That’s pretty much it.
There’s no deep storyline to keep you going, and if you love shooting, you’re getting a lot of that. Every sniping weapon feels great to shoot with different reticles, recoil, and reload rates to find the right one for you. There are also shotguns, various pistols, and other tools at your disposal.
There’s nothing better than getting the perfect shot or slotting a huge wave of enemies with a few shotgun shots. When you play online, it’s very arcadey. Players compete for the best score, and with each headshot, explosion, or killshot, your combo increases. If you miss, it resets. The levels are repetitive by the nature of the game, and it’s definitely more fun with friends. However, the levels outstay their welcome with 30-45 minutes of gameplay, and no way to save your progress until the end… and that’s if you have a perfect run.
Originally, I thought the game would be a brainless (quite literally) shooter, but it’s more than that. You can set traps and mines for incoming waves, and the zombies can come in from any direction, depending on the section of the level. Like Rebellion’s other shooter series, Sniper Elite, there is much more focus on the sniping than anything else, as secondary weapons have far less ammo and are used for rare close-quarter situations. This game isn’t designed to be a knockoff. It’s pretty much snipers only, and that’s Rebellion’s forte.
It’s best to play Zombie Army Trilogy with friends or at least strangers through matchmaking. Time and time again, it was tough to defeat an insurmountable amount of zombies limbering towards your position, but together as a team, I can see it being much more manageable and, to be honest, way more fun to communicate with each other. You can also revive each other.
Switch owners have exclusive features for this game. It includes HD Rumble and motion controls (but don’t get too excited). The motion controls are very disappointing, though. I cranked up the sensitivity to the max, and yet, the camera barely moves with your motion. It would be nice to move the scope up, down, right, and left rather than the slight adjustment it provides. The reason? This game is really hard on your right hand, and with the tactile motions of the right joycon, it was in pain after an hour of gameplay. Because of the long-ass levels, you’ll be feeling the pain if you play this game in handheld mode or on a Switch Lite (which is my only way to play Zombie Army Trilogy right now).
Whoever created the sound effects did this game justice. The voices from the zombies sound eerily creepy, and without the audio on, you will not be able to play the game properly. The sounds of a rushing zombie with a grenade pierce through your soul and make you perk up, and the general sounds of the environment and the groaning of the undead are spot on. It’s a spooky environment for this horror third person shooter. The voice acting fits the campy nature of Zombie Army Trilogy too, and while there isn’t a lot of it, I love how Rebellion incorporates the radio as a storytelling device.
It’s a shame that the music is a bit off the mark. Some tracks sound like they belong on a disco floor rather than an apocalypse, and then a majority of the soundtrack is able to establish that intense engagement between hordes of undead against you. It won’t win any awards, but most of the music in the game fits the overall mood of the game. Maybe they could have asked Nintendo if they could include some tracks from Luigi’s Mansion for a laugh.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
The Switch version of Zombie Army Trilogy runs great as dozens and dozens of zombies fill the screen, but when you connect to the online servers, there are a few issues here and there. The frame rate is rock solid with pixel perfect accuracy on each shot of the sniper. You feel like you can move around with ease, and the visuals are good enough to see every zombie ahead of you. There’s the signature x-ray shots that Rebellion have included in their games, and it looks amazing in this port. It slows down, and you can see the bullet in slow motion pierce a zombie’s skull. It’s pretty stunning as to how the developer got this to work on a portable device.
As far as I can see, there are no constraints on the Switch version as opposed to its more powerful counterparts. But, and this is a big but, the online is when it gets messy. Every shot feels delayed and the reaction time between the hit and the confirmation of the kill is off. It’s hard to get adjusted to the shots not hitting the way they’re supposed to be. At a few times during online gameplay, my character was stuck behind barrels or was jittering all over the place, making the game unplayable. If you have a bad connection, you can really see it. With other play sessions, it was perfect.
I’ve not been able to match up with many people during my game sessions, as I played this during pre-release, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on, especially if your friend lives far away or has slow internet speeds. Despite these issues, it’s surprising that Zombie Army Trilogy has the most intuitive party system on the Switch so far (from what I’ve played) with an almost instant invite system that takes you right into the party.
While the connection may be bone-chillingly ugly, the visuals are not. Each level has its own personality and locales to make it stand out. Rebellion went to extra lengths to include German-like propaganda on the walls from the WW2 era, and it looks authentic. To avoid that typical grey aesthetic of this genre of shooting games, Rebellion also added a black and white filter every once in a while to keep it fresh in some levels.
There are different types of zombies too that move and act differently. One runs towards you and explodes, one has a spade, and another has a gas mask on. What makes every zombie stand out are the yellow eyes piercing into your soul as you scope in. Like the sound design, it adds that creepy touch to Rebellion’s enemy designs. During my playthrough so far, the developer has been able to keep it fresh with new types of zombies and WW2 locales.
The Zombie Army Trilogy is a great package for those who want to lash out at some walking dead on-the-go or at home. There are three sets of five levels that reach around 14 and a half hours of gameplay, according to HowLongToBeat. There is also the horde mode, and a bunch of extra stuff you can do in each level of the campaigns. The horde mode has five maps that are similar to the Zombies modes in the Call of Duty series, but lack the flair and style of said game.
I think there’s a lot here to sink your teeth into, and let’s be honest, there’s not many games on the Switch like this, especially with online co-op in mind. There are no competitive modes, however, so if you’re looking for that, you will not find it here.
Story - 5/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Audio - 9/10
Visuals & Performance - 6/10
Value - 7/10
Zombie Army Trilogy is an impressive port with all things considered, except for the shaky online and the unrealized motion controls. The game will keep me going back over and over again, thanks to its excellent controls, fun (but sometimes repetitive) gameplay, and great sound design. I hope I can take on some missions with the people watching/reading!
Fun and intuitive shooting gameplay
Great style and theming from environment artists
Rock solid port with smooth frame rate
Online experience may vary from terrible to perfect
Could be repetitive for some
Motion controls were underused, would have helped with the hand strain