The day was a cold one, much colder than any other. Outside, a thin layer of frost covered the ground like a brideâ€™s veil, twinkling in the patches of sunlight that dared shine down through the grey cloud above. The wooden boards of the church, cracked and aged, creaked under our feet as we shifted our stance again, waiting, watching.
To my right, Dev 2 968757987 stood gazing out a large hole in the wall on the second floor of the ruined chapel. Aiming down the barrel of his rifle he swept the horizon calmly, efficiently, much like the spotlight from a prison watchtower would at night.
Next to him crouched Dev 2 465783920; he seemed nervous, swapping his weapons over at a frantic, uncertain pace. Finally deciding on the rifle as well, he stood up and also scanned his surroundings, only to crouch back down a minute later and start swapping again.
In stark contrast, Dev 2 476291739 was running around like a metaphorical headless chicken. Having booby trapped some of the doors, I could only assume that heâ€™d been trying to find the best vantage point with which to endure what we all knew was only moments away now – though we weren’t entirely sure what awaited us.
The crowes knew though. Sat on the beams above us, they thrashed their wings and cawed mockingly, as though theyâ€™d seen it all before, countless times crying nevermore.
And then it began. The gong from an ancient bell signalled the start, a gravelly, deep-throated and dusty cry of â€˜Riiiiiiiiiiiiise!â€™ emanating from beyond the grave.
The tension was palpable, the pressure intense. If this had been real I probably would have legged it by now; fortunately for my teammates, it was not.
Suddenly our TeamSpeak was ablaze with shouts of â€˜I see them, theyâ€™re coming!â€™ and yells of â€˜Over there, over there!â€™ The first shot was fired; whether it hit or not Iâ€™ll never know, because – and I think I speak for all of us here – we all took that as a sign to start shooting as well.
The undead. The nazi undead. The nazi undead in all their maggot ridden, flesh rotting glory were coming for us, and they were in no mood to take prisoners. Shuffling like a drunkard and almost certainly as hungry, their mottled uniforms barely clung to their skeletal remains as they swarmed the church like locusts intent on devouring whatever was inside. Unfortunately, what was inside was us.
Dev 2 465783920 (aka Nervous One) broke rank almost immediately and headed for the lower floor. Weâ€™re still unsure whether courage or cowardice drove his decision, but no sooner had he left than cries of â€˜Oh God, theyâ€™re in here, theyâ€™re downstairs, help, HELP!â€™ came through our headsets.
Dev 2 476291739 (aka Booby Trapper) bravely went for him, with myself in tow as backup. Leaving Dev 2 968757987 (aka Sharpshooter) to fend for himself, we charged downstairs only to be confronted by a floor full of zombies, mouths wide, hands outstretched, and in the middle of them, laying on the ground, Nervous One. Oh the horror!
Wasting no time I opened fire and a sea of blood and limbs exploded in front of us – but it barely made a dent on the encroaching masses. Unbeknownst to me, Booby Trapper had retreated briefly, only to return with a full supply of grenades, which he expertly tossed into the room. Within seconds red was the only colour we could see. And then, when the scarlet mist subsided, Nervous One could be seen alone, waiting for revival.
With both of us muttering countless obscenities into our mics, myself and Booby Trapper headed over to revive Nervous One. And that was when we heard the other, louder groansâ€¦
This was only wave one of what is effectively Horde mode with zombies. And nazis. Zombie nazies. And itâ€™s all part of Rebellionâ€™s awesomely entertaining and frightfully fun upcoming release, Zombie Army Trilogy. And me? Well I had the pleasure of trialling the game at a hands-on event held at the cult-horror palace the Prince Charles Cinema last week. And it was a blast. A zombie blast. (Not sure thatâ€™s a thing, but whatever).
Introduced excitedly by Rebellionâ€™s Creative Director (and Co-Founder) Jason Kingsley, with a further and equally excitable introduction to gameplay and additional features by Head of Creative Tim Jones, myself and other members of the press sat in eager anticipation of a game that looks as though itâ€™s been torn straight from a B-movie reel (the good kind). Watch the trailer here and youâ€™ll see what I mean. The rest of the development team were also on hand to, well, lend a hand as well, and you could tell from the upbeat attitude and the smiles on their faces that this was a team that felt a great deal of pride in what theyâ€™d achieved; the studioâ€™s first self-published game, Zombie Army Trilogy looks to be a doozy.
For those of you with zombie brains (i.e. not in the know), Zombie Army Trilogy takes place near the end of the Second World War. With enemies closing in on him on all sides, Hitler decides to take a gamble in the hope that he can sway the oncoming Allied tide that threatens to consume him and his Nazi sympathisers. Rolling the dice, he opts to release an unstoppable undead army, realising too late – or just plain not caring about – the implications of what heâ€™s done. Curse you, Hitler!
And so the stage was set for an awesome hands-on experience. A little like zombies, we scrambled up to the stage and started the first level of the new campaign. Having not played the previous two games, nor Sniper Elite III, I was a little wary of being â€˜the new guyâ€™ but Iâ€™m happy to report that the controls were instinctive and easy to pick up. Stood on a rooftop with our rifles raised, we were urged to practice our shooting and check out a couple of the mini-games before heading out. These mini-games were a nice little addition (and a good way of checking out the Kill Cam in action!), one of which asked you to save the survivors stranded in a building nearby from the zombie scourge trying to eat them.
After weâ€™d all gone through a couple magazines, we decided to head off and start the real mission. In the building below us was a number of NPCs, one of whom gave us the main mission: to reach HQ. Sounded good, but there were a lot of zombies between HQ and where we wereâ€¦ Thankfully, this was a chance for the game to show off some of its trap features, such as trip-wire mines and what I called â€˜distraction dollsâ€™, for lack of a better name; mannequins with sirens attached strapped with explosives. Set one of these off and BOOM, no more zombies. No more anything, for that matter – donâ€™t get too close. The trek to HQ also allowed us to get to grips with more of the weapons, and they really packed a punch. Rebellion have done a fantastic job at making each weapon feel uniquely crafted and hefty in their own right, each with their own particulars dependent on how you use them. I forgot about my rifle for much of the level and used my Thompson machine gun, spraying bullets about with reckless abandon. At a distance it wasnâ€™t great, but up close and personal you couldnâ€™t get much better.
And while weâ€™re on the subject of weapons, there are a lot of them! Although I only got to try out a few thereâ€™s a great selection to choose from, most of which are customisable and all of which are lethal dismemberment tools – another brilliant aspect of the game. Rebellion have seamlessly integrated limb dismemberment into their title, meaning you can now be super selective as to how you plan your kills, taking off a zombieâ€™s legs to slow it down before steadying yourself for a headshot I found to be a great way to utilise this feature.
Reaching HQ provided us with a breather and a chance to reload and re-arm. Chatting to a few of the NPCs here fleshed out the story a little more and provided small tidbits of interesting information that we may otherwise have missed (such as the guy painting â€˜Safe Houseâ€™ signs) before heading out to the first major test of the teams brawn – an all out zombie invasion.Â Holding down the fort, the four of us fought bravely with everything we had as swarms of zombies came at us from all angles. Rifles, grenades, electric fence traps, mines, explosive barrels, mounted machine guns, all came into play under the common interest of defending the post. The more zombies you kill the more points you get, and things like multiple kills and headshots all add multipliers to the points youâ€™re garnering. This is a hugely important aspect of the game because it not only adds a competitive edge to the campaign but also re-playability to the title as a whole, as friends and teammates go head to head to be the best. And man, is it both fun and satisfying mowing down zombie after zombie before tossing a grenade into the mix to get that huge multiplier!
Having defended to the hilt and (narrowly) avoiding defeat, the team and I moved onto the next area. This is where we encountered real trouble. In an old hospital, creatures of all sorts threw themselves at us, desperate to taste our flesh and blood, and eventually, they did. New bigger, badder enemies like the machine-gun toting Nazi Elites, the resurrection ghouls and endless swarms of zombies made it their mission to whittle us down; 4, then 3, then 2, then 1, thenâ€¦
Sad (great) times.
Honestly, I loved Zombie Army Trilogy. The guys at Rebellion have really done themselves proud in creating a game that looks amazing, feels amazing, is consistently challenging, and can genuinely make you sweat when youâ€™re up against the wall, whether you’re playing as one of the 8 characters in campaign or horde mode. The detail on the zombies, the limb dismemberment and the Kill Cam are fantastic additions that really make it stand out from some of the other games in the survival horror genre; not just that, but the thought and passion behind it really makes you believe that this is a title they’ve not only made for the gamers out there, but for themselves as well. As one of them said to me with a huge smile on his face, ‘In the best possible way, I’ve played this game to death!’Â
But in this game, death always comes back.
Zombie Army Trilogy is available March 6th for PC, Xbox One and PS4.