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Interview with Jordan Woodward - Lead Level Designer, Zombie Army 4

Published: 23:50, 02 March 2020
Updated: 13:40, 09 March 2020
Rebellion
Key art for Zombie Army 4: Dead War
This chap is in desperate need of a fresh dental plan.

Zombie Army 4: Dead War is a rampaging co-operative delight, with a singular focus on squad play and various deliciously inventive methods for handling the onslaught of the undead. We interview Jordan Woodward, Lead Level Designer on Zombie Army 4.

We had an absolute blast with the latest instalment in Rebellion's high concept, third person romp. In our review , we highlight the satisfying combat, with "most weapons offering a real kick. You'll feel the impact of each hit. Special zombie types will keep you light on your toes, and there's plenty of surprises (which we won't spoil) included across the 9 level campaign." 

Our interview with Jordan covers a variety of topics, ranging from their approach to balancing tone, the design process behind set piece moments, and even an exclusive tease of future DLC. 

Rebellion The X Ray kill cam in Zombie Army 4: Dead War. Specsavers new eye treatment is perhaps a tad aggressive...

There seems to be a renewed emphasis on set piece moments and environmental interactivity in Dead War. What was the philosophy behind this approach? 

Something our fans and community enjoyed about previous games in the Zombie Army franchise was the amount of things they could find and interact with in the game world, trying to find all of the interactive objects and finding out what they all do. In Zombie Army 4 the goal was to continue with this theme, making the world feel real and tangible, driving the players to feel engaged in the environments and encouraging exploration. 

Within the narrative of each chapter we aimed to introduce moments of spectacle and awe that we were building up to, where players would pause for a second and take it all in, before diving back in to the fight against the hordes of zombies. These set piece moments really help to sell the narrative and hold the player’s attention.

Can we expect the new DLC campaign missions to be similarly structured to those included in the base game? i.e. broken up into multiple chapters?

Absolutely - players can expect the new DLC campaign to feel familiar and follow the same structure as the base game. We wanted to continue to provide the opportunity for players to replay their favourite chapters, so that feature carries through in the DLC campaign.

Rebellion The horde approaches in Zombie Army 4: Dead War. Ahhh seeeee I'm gona chomp ya real good. Ahhhhhhh.

Although the in game characters take the events of the narrative seriously, the tone of the game still feels very tongue in cheek. How do you strike a balance between telling a well crafted story and still including crazy, inventive gadgets and abilities? 

That’s exactly right. The tone of the game and Zombie Army franchise takes a lot of inspiration from B movies and 80s cult horror. However we still want the universe to feel authentic and believable, something that isn’t too far from the truth. It was important to make sure this didn’t interfere with gameplay, though – first and foremost the game had to be a great co-op shooter with plenty of customisation options. 

Everything in the game world follows this same approach – for example all of the traps setup in the game to give gruesome, gratifying multi-kills have to be believably built by the resistance fighters. So they were constructed in a realistic way, such as using real parts from planes. And using weapon attachments like electrified rounds using batteries and coils of wire. 

Additionally, for players who love to delve deep in to lore, we’ve gone to great lengths to plant subtle pieces of information and interesting insight in to the game lore and deeper Zombie Army universe throughout the world. You’ll often hear the characters commenting on these things, adding their own bit of exposition. 

Can you give us a tease for the first DLC campaign mission? Perhaps even just a single word that might sum up what players can expect? 

I’ll give you something more cryptic… Science can’t help you now! 

Is it true that the zombie infestation in the Zombie Army franchise actually came from the crew of the Vulcan ship Seleya, who were suffering from exposure to Trellium-D, in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Impulse"? 

Ahhh that’s what we were picking up on our Tricorders! Damnit, you’ve discovered the secret Nazi plot to attack the Federation using inter-dimensional occult portals! That’s a universe cross-over I’d like to play.

A massive thank you to Jordan Woodward for taking the time to answer our questions, and to the PR team at Rebellion for setting up this interview. 

Zombie Army 4: Dead War is available now, for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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