What we have here is a co-op shooter set in the world of World War Z, and I think it’s safe to say this is one of the most surprising games of the year so far, but it’s not without its problems.
Whether you liked the film or not, WWZ has taken its strongest aspects starting with the mass zombies hordes. The USP of this game is undoubtedly the technical feat of placing thousands of zombies on screen all running at you, all seemingly with their own AI. There is nothing I’ve seen in gaming that quite matches the spectacle of columns of undead climbing up anything and everything just to bite your face off. It’s terrifying, tense and terrific all at the same time. The odds are definitely stacked against you. Sure you got a weapon and ammo is spread nicely throughout the level but unless you coordinate with your teammates (in multiplayer at least) then you’re likely to be dead in no time.
The games four levels, New York, Jerusalem, Moscow and Tokyo are broken down into sections. You have your basic objective-to-objective scenario which is the mainstay of the level, but then every now and again you’re tasked with flipping a switch here, pulling a lever there, standard stuff really. Then there are moments when you have to defend an area against the horde and that’s when the magic starts. In these areas you can erect rudimentary traps to help you defend your point, all the while you’re shooting down columns of zombies in an attempt not to get swarmed. It’s arguably the best and most thrilling parts of the game as the rest of the levels seem a little too point to point but hell it does work out to be an effective pattern in a game of this nature
Now as much as all that is a lot of fun, in single player the experience is somewhat diminished, though there is still a highly enjoyable game here, it’s just you are relying on AI squad members and in World War Z they’re pretty useless. The main example being stealth, the horde is only able to hear you so you may want to go in all sneaky sneaky, and that works until your teammates barrage through the door mad firing at anything an everything because they pretty much shoot on sight. As soon as they see a zombie they shoot, alerting all the surrounding zombies so, in single player at least stealth is a no go. This is such a shame because most of the tension occurs when you are sneaking past the odd zombie, being super careful not to make a noise and start a swarm charging in.
The squad AI can also get in the way. They may be standing at a door shooting which is great, but you can’t shoot past them and end up shooting them which ends in the same old two or three sound bites repeating over and over. This is more problematic when friendly fire is turned on in the multiplayer. Finally, when there are multiple switches that need switching, they are damn next to useless, they won’t help one bit, just stand there saying the odd line over and over. So while the single player is fun, don’t expect your teammates to aid you that much.
As for the game itself, Developer Sabre Interactive made the wise decision to make this a third person shooter, This immediately differentiates it from L4D and honestly is better for it. In fact, I thought it felt like I was playing The Division more than Left 4 Dead, just less grinding and not as polished. There are some upgrades that can be earned to boost your character’s skill, or to upgrade your weapons just to keep you playing. It’s not too in depth and to be honest, I didn’t really know it was in the game until I actually went in to explore, it’s not really the main focus of the game, but it’s kind of nice to have it working in the background where you focus on it or not. World War Z is a pretty decent single player game, not without its faults but the sight of the hordes never gets boring and the tension is palpable at times. But of course multiplayer is where it’s at.
A game like this is made for multiplayer and it’s safe to say it’s the strongest aspect of the game, although it doesn’t deviate much from the single-player campaign. Games such as WWZ are always better with your mates and once you team up with your buddies, all the dumb AI is gone (well, only just, it wasn’t much better playing with the Finger Guns team to be fair). Essentially what you have here are multiplayer arenas, you can select your mission from the same list as the single-player campaign and in theory work out some tactics to help defeat the oncoming zombie storm. At first, the game is just too damn manic to fashion any sort of tactics together, but after a while, you get used to the horde, the weapons the placement of traps and turrets and it all falls into a place in hilarious fashion.
When I played the multiplayer with the team it lasted for about 90 minutes and that was probably just the right amount of time to play. I’m not sure if it was just exhaustion from the bazillion zombies you’re shooting or, the fact that once you’ve seen one thing, you’ve seen it all. There just isn’t that much incentive to go back, at least not for extended play.
World War Z has kind of came out of nowhere under the looming shadows of games like Days Gone. One reason why I found this enjoyable was because it had a real old fashioned feel to it. It felt like a game you would find on the PS3, no great big open-worlds, just a nice point to point mission-based game that seems to be sorely missed on this current generation. And as much as I like the technical feat of the horde, I think there is some witchcraft at work to deceive the eyes. Sure there may be literally thousands of zombies on screen at once, but you only have like 500 bullets and yet somehow you manage to wipe out most, if not all of them. I think the developers have created a way to make it look like there are more zombies on screen than there actually are. But, frankly, who cares. It’s a spectacle and I love it.
Don’t expect anything too deep though with World War Z the story is pretty basic and the acting isn’t much better, there are only a few lines of speech and they get old pretty quick. Some of the characters you meet in the game are awful and so stereotypical that you wish you could leave them to the horde rather than help them. Although the four-player arenas are a blast to play for a few times, there’s just not that much to the actual game and once you’ve seen each level, replayability is quite limited.
World War Z has plenty of rough edges and for love of god it really REALLY needs an evade button, but it’s a small price to pay for such a video game event.
Gameplay wise it’s not going to re-write the rule book, but in terms of a technical showcase, it’s kind of created an enitrely new one.
World War Z is available now on PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro), Xbox One, Switch and PC.
Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Mad Dog Games | Focus Home Entertainment
In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.
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