Projeckt Z: Not Your Usual Co-Op Shooter with Zombies

Despite the fact that zombies is a rather overused theme, the German studio 314 Arts has an interesting idea to propose a new cooperative shooter.

It certainly cannot be denied that the disconcerting events of the Second World War were a precious source of inspiration for various narrative strands, especially as regards horror cinema, and if today the myth of the nazi-zombies is so popular that it has also reached the world of gaming, the credit undoubtedly goes to a famous film from the late ’70s. Directed by Ken Wiederhorn, The Eye in the Triangle was in fact the first film to have recovered the legend of the experiments carried out by the Nazis on human corpses in order to create a fearsome army of revived, bringing to the big screen all the horrifying fascination that, a few decades later, it would have tainted even titles like Call of Duty (by the way, here’s our review of Call of Duty Vanguard’s Zombie mode).

It is in this scenario that the concept of Projekt Z takes shape, a cooperative first-person shooter in development at the German studio of 314 Arts. Currently without an official release date, Projekt Z is funded through Kickstarter and should arrive on the market as free to play within two years. While waiting for the fundraising to be successful, we can therefore review the statements of the developers and see together what are the details of their interesting proposal.

A little Escape From Tarkov …
Set on a secret island in Nazi Germany where Third Reich scientists are engaged in brutal experiments on the bodies of deportees, Projekt Z promises to be a stimulating cooperative survival challenge. In the trailers released by the German studio, we see two players move cautiously in a wild clearing, exploring the infrastructure and abandoned vehicles in search of weapons and resources.

The darkness of the night, the ambient noises and the effect of the rain that sometimes affects the camera make the atmosphere suggestive and help to accentuate a certain propensity for realism. In this, the 314 Arts proposal shows an evident debt towards Escape From Tarkov, of which he replies the lack of HUD and the care taken in ballistics by bringing out the simulative nature of the project, although it is still a work of science fiction. Not only the aspect linked to realism, however, but more generally the real play structure seems to follow the Battlestate Games formula. According to what was declared by the developers, in fact, the gameplay of Projekt Z would be based on the management of one’s refuge – which acts as a central HUB – and the free exploration of the territories of the island.

The goal is to scour the various areas of the map to collect resources useful for expanding your base and strengthening its departments, which in turn will provide a whole range of improvements in terms of equipment. The common thread between the exploration and management activities – which also includes the management of some recruitable NPCs – is represented by the main missions, through which it is possible to get to know the various characters and progress in the game’s plot.

In support of this there will then be secondary quests and various kinds of activities: one above all the possibility of conquering some areas to thus obtain a fixed income from building materials. Loot and crafting are therefore essential elements of the playful mixture developed by 314 Arts, and are intertwined with other peculiar mechanics such as the presence of moral choices and decisions to be made on the field about the fate of some survivors.

Our choices will have tangible consequences both on the mood of the recruited members and on the progression dynamics of the HUB, which is why it will be important to weigh the costs a..

Net of the simulation shooter setting, the main course of Projekt Z inevitably remains the zombies, and from this point of view it would be difficult not to see some inspiration also addressed to titles like Left 4 Dead (by the way, here you can find our review by Back 4 Blood).

Indeed, on closer inspection, 314 Arts‘ proposal is in effect a cooperative game in which you have to face waves of the undead, working as a team to maximize offensive efficiency and survive enough to be able to complete your objectives. If on the one hand it is necessary to be cautious and act with discretion, in short, on the other hand there will certainly be opportunities to give free rein to one’s arsenal – rigorously drawn from the war tradition of the Second World War. Although at first glance the zombies designed by 314 Arts are reminiscent in all respects of those of The Walking Dead, as indeed the developers themselves let us know, to give credibility to the playful context of Projekt Z a diversification has been envisaged that seems not wanting to leave anything to chance.

Depending on the situation, in fact, the undead will demonstrate that they can retain traits of the human psyche such as anger, becoming angry and becoming more threatening as the guns sing. The environment also affects the characterization of the monsters we are going to fight, and some of them will adapt to their habitat by developing – for example – a particularly effective hearing if forced to do without sight, which can happen in poorly lit places such as the sewers.

A note of merit then goes to the gore system, which enjoys a wealth of details that is not negligible. Depending on where you hit them, in fact, it is possible to cause mutilations to the rotting bodies of the undead, complete with copious gushes of blood that make the massacres even more spectacular and overwhelming – always assuming you have a predilection for the splatter. The scenario outlined by 314 Arts therefore finds its raison d’etre in the well-suited mix of tactics and deadly brutality, in a dark and gloomy game world, so much so as to evoke sinister sensations at every step that is taken on the battlefield.

The adjustments we hope to see
Some perplexities of a mostly technical nature remind us, however, that the state of the work is still in a preliminary phase, first of all the dubious quality of the animations. If it is true that the movements in the first person seem quite credible, those of their own comrades are much less convincing, clumsy to the point of seeming improbable in a context that has certain claims to realism. Even the hitboxes don’t seem all that precise, especially with regard to the melee attacks that we see performed repeatedly during the trailers.

As for the graphics engine, we know that the development studio is working with Unity, the use of which can lead to more than decent results if in expert hands, but it is too early to understand what the actual level of production will be.

In any case, a careful study of the level design – which ranges from more linear sections to real open maps – makes us understand how much the German team is spending energy to build a credible game world first of all on a structural level, and that graphic embellishments may therefore not have top priority. If nothing else, the audio sector seems to be able to offer everything you need to transform gaming sessions into authentic journeys to hell.

Projekt Z The idea of ​​314 Arts is undoubtedly to bring a breath of fresh air to the much inflated canon of the zombie-themed shooter. Ambitious, albeit still immature from a technical point of view, Projekt Z therefore promises to offer stimulating challenges between a wave of revived and the other, remaining on the path already trodden by many franchises, but with that more than evident wink to a playful realism that makes everything more immersive and less arcade. And more horror, of course. All that remains is to wait for the fruits of the Kickstarter campaign, hoping that this can reach a significant milestone and not make the German team’s ambitions in vain.

Reviewer overview

Projeckt Z: Not Your Usual Co-Op Shooter with Zombies - /10

Summary

Despite the fact that zombies is a rather overused theme, the German studio 314 Arts has an interesting idea to propose a new cooperative shooter.

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