By John Walker on March 4th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.
And that’s as much as I think any human should have to.
That the apocalyptic scale of the Nazi atrocities are still within living memory tends to give both good and bad reasons for fantastical reimagining of the events. Processing our history, understanding our pasts, and trying to make sense of how such a thing could happen can be explored through metaphor, through the prism of science fiction. It can be indelicate, perhaps directly insensitive, but it can be done with greater purpose in mind. Or you can shout “THE NAZIS ARE ZOMBIES NOW!”
Rebellion have routinely coughed up forgettable shooters for a good long while. While they were behind the okay Aliens Vs Predator in 2010, they’ve also recently been responsible for excrement like Shellshock 2 and Rogue Warrior, and mediocrity like NeverDead and Sniper Elite V2. Yet they persist, and the latest is a clumsy, stupid, and utterly tedious shooter, in which you must first-person shoot the heads of randomly appearing zombies in a dreary, grey corridor. And for some reason they’re Nazis, because that makes a difference apparently.
Oh, okay, I went back and played a bit more. Just in case. It didn’t get any better.
The game seems to think that what we want, what we all secretly harbour a pained desire for, is to be playing yet another zombie game, and yet another one where you must survive waves and waves of identical enemies running toward you until an arbitrary number have had their heads shot off. But! But this time, with guns that seem to have a delay on them, targeting that – to me – often didn’t seem to recognise headshots, and broken, buggy slow-downs that occasionally make it entirely impossible to use a weapon’s scope. And best of all, in a washed out, barely grey world of endless, streets and crumbling buildings, with widely spaced checkpoints ensuring that when your character gets his foot stuck behind a piece of nothing on the ground, and thus eaten, you get to replay everything that came before that yet again!
I just did something I think no other player of Sniper Elite Nazi Zombie Army will ever do. I exited the game, and then loaded it up again. My scopes now work once more.
Beginning with a cutscene showing a beleaguered Hitler being told his war effort is lost, we see the tiny-moustached monster shoot the officer in the head, and then declare that “Plan Z” must be launched. Then the game starts, and you’re half-informed that you are one of very few people left alive in Germany, the rest being zombies. Who you are, why you’re there, what you’re trying to do, etc, doesn’t appear to be important. You instead must run to the next yellow marker while providing very extreme haircuts to all the undead along the way.
To make what sounds like a very basic concept a bit more interesting, Rebellion have… done nothing at all. That’s it. In my second half hour with the game, skellingtons appeared, with hearts still pointlessly beating in their hollow chests. You have to shoot the hearts, you see.
Which all rather asks the question: why does it have “sniper” in the title? Of the three guns you can carry at any time, one is always a scoped rifle, alongside a machine gun or shotgun, and a pistol of some variety. None is usefully explained, nor feels helpfully different in the mash of play, instead generally only being swapped when you’ve run out of ammo for the one you’re holding. The sniper rifles, well, they’re rifles with a big zoom on them. It’s not about lining up perfect shots with scant few bullets – it’s about hammering out attacks against crowds running toward you. And crowds running toward you isn’t really the circumstances a sniper would usually pick. So you end up using it like any other FPS gun with a right-click to target mode, except it’s less than helpful here because of the limited view and proximity of the seven hundred AI blobs inexorably stumbling in your direction. So, not a sniper game then. Weird that it’s in the title.
Although, to be fair, at the start of each rush of deads, you can try to pick one or two off at range. Get them in the head and it’ll give you a little killcam cutscene, showing the bullet flying across the scene in slow motion, penetrating the zombie’s brain, heart or lungs, and exploding out the other side. Shoot another in a vulnerable spot and it’ll show you a little killcam cutscene, showing the bullet flying across the scene in slow motion, penetrating the zombie’s brain, heart or lungs, and exploding out the other side. Catch another in the chest and it’ll offer a little killcam cutscene, showing the bullet flying across the scene in slow motion, penetrating the zombie’s brain, heart or lungs, and exploding out the other side… The same animation, every single time.
Maybe after the first hour this opens up into an elaborate world of endless entertainment. I’m sure there’s a scene where you fight a zombie version of Hitler, to great amusement. I can’t imagine who would have the stamina to find out. Just seeing the words, “Survive the siege” for a third time were enough to have me disconnect my mouse and keyboard, and throw them into the middle of the Sun. It doesn’t even have the good manners to quit without freezing up.
There’s a co-op mode for anyone who hates their friends, and the whole thing is yours for a bargain price of £10. Buy ten!