By Joseph Luster
Sniper Elite V2—which remade Rebellion Developments’ 2005 original—enjoyed a decent reception when it launched across a variety of platforms, including PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, throughout 2012, with a Wii U release that should be hitting shelves shortly. As the title implies, Sniper Elite V2 is all about sniping, and it does so with as much respect to realism as it can muster. Attention to ballistics makes hitting targets a legitimate challenge, stealth aspects have players putting their surroundings into consideration, and a brutal X-Ray Kill Cam places a cherry atop every successful kill. Now, imagine taking a healthy chunk of that out—pretty much all except the last bit—and tossing zombies into the mix. If that sounds like a good idea, then you’ve probably already played Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army.
As one would expect, developer Rebellion keeps the sniping intact, but also removes some of Sniper’s other key features, including stealth. That omission will be a blessing to some, but it’s just another indication that what we’re getting here is a somewhat half-baked attempt at latching on to the near ubiquitous zombie genre. Nazi Zombie Army also pretty much abandons rigid attention to ballistics in favor of popping zombie skulls wide open with less fuss, so the core of what made Sniper Elite attractive in the first place is, appropriately, more or less gutted.
For what it is, and for what it’s priced at, maybe that’s not so bad. There is some fun to be had in Nazi Zombie Army, even when taking into account how intensely overdone the entire concept is. Hitler and his Nazi forces are no stranger to meddling with the occult, and it’s something that’s been featured in games for about as long as anyone can care to recall. From classics like Wolfenstein 3-D to more modern spins like the zombie mode in Call of Duty: World at War, we get it. Hitler’s scientists messed with the dark magicks and WHAM! Zombie hordes. It’s a final, desperate gambit and, in this case, it’ll only succeed insofar as your prowess behind a rifle scope will allow it.
The thing is, without those aforementioned major facets of Sniper Elite, playing Nazi Zombie Army by yourself just isn’t that interesting. It’s fun to watch a bullet shred the inside of a zombie’s rotting body the first few times it happens via x-ray footage, but the novelty wears off quickly. The already short expiry date on excitement is extended some when friends are thrown in the mix, and you should consider yourself lucky if you happen to find three other like-minded folks that revel in spending their evenings wrecking the undead masses together. Co-op can be fun just to watch your partners go to work around you. Some may take it up close and personal—firing away face-to-face using their sidearms—while others hang back and line up some sharp shots. It’s entertaining for a little while, but frankly, it’s not going to be long before everyone finds a better way to whittle away the hours.
Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army works for a brief period as a series experiment, but leaves little to no lasting impression of note. If we can’t do anything more with the concept of zombies than what we’re applying now, maybe we should take a break and reevaluate the concept. While it’s a no-brainer (sorry) that zombies make for the perfect point-and-pop piñatas, it only takes so many trips around the bend for that haunting, shambling groan to become a derisive yawn.