Brad Pitt not included.
Title: World War Z
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC (via Epic Games Store)
Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Release Date: Out now
TL;DR: World War Z shows that the undead genre isn’t so dead after all.
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World War Z is a pretty gruesome book. It’s also a pretty average film that stars Brad Pitt whacking magazines on himself as zombie body armour, and – if you can’t see where this is going – World War Z is also a pretty good game. It doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation, but what World War Z does offer is lots, and I do mean lots, of zombies for you to kill. Add to that a collection of mostly excellent levels, a nifty PvP angle, and a series of missions that, while formulaic, serve as a near-perfect backdrop to all that zombie killing, and you’ve got one hell of a game.
It’s the end of the world, and it’s up to twelve weirdly skilled characters who’ve miraculously ended up in groups of four to do what they can to stem the tide of the terrifying zombies. Being a game that’s heavily inspired by the Left 4 Dead titles, World War Z is designed with co-op in mind, but you can play the entire thing solo and unless you’ve got a group of friends to play with, I don’t think you’d miss out on too much. Though, if you’re intent on playing in co-op, with friends, strangers, or the mythical frenemy, matchmaking is pretty quick.
Whether you’re playing solo or with friends, World War Z does deliver on its promises leading up to release about how many zombies there are to murder. The bad news is that World War Z takes after the film, putting you and your squad up against an undead that’s cracking its head against a wall one second and sprinting at you the next. It’s not too bad if it’s one or two zombos charging at you, but that’s rarely the case in World War Z. Instead, one or two “Zeeks,” tend to attract more, and before you know it, you’re hacking through 20 walking corpses.
Your squad of four have interchangeable roles you can play as, with heavy-hitting classes like the Exterminator, which arms you with a Shotgun, Molotov Cocktail, and a pistol proving the sturdiest class. It’s joined by variations of it with a Gunslinger, Hellraiser, and Fixer, while a Medic class is also included though that’s most useful for co-op playthroughs. Each class has a skill tree that you can unlock extra traits with after successful missions, giving you buffs against fire or making it tougher for you to be knocked down; it’s nothing new, but it’s an inclusion that makes replaying levels with different classes or unlocking new skills all the more worthwhile. You’ll be able to switch weapons out during missions with a pretty lackluster arsenal at your disposal. There’s enough there to experiment with, but I quickly found that I only ever used an Assault Rifle or Combat Shotgun during missions.
You’ll also come across heavy weapons which have a limited amount of ammo but pack one hell of a punch when you need them most. Ranging from chainsaws that cut through packs with ease, rocket launchers for swarms, and Assault Shotguns that are priceless in close combat, World War Z doesn’t have the most attractive lineup of weapons, but the essentials are present and accounted for.
As you’d expect with a zombie game, there are slight variations of Zeeks for you to deal with; thankfully, the game doesn’t chuck anything like mutated zombies who can spit acid in this game. The bad news is that the variations are pretty much by the book, with Tank-like “bulls,” soaking up bullets and dealing out a decent bit of damage when they get you, “Screamers,” who, well, scream and attract fresh hordes of the undead, and “Lurkers,” who always wear tracksuits and hide in the shadows just waiting to pounce. It’s a decent variation used to dent your hopes of surviving in the game, and while there’s nothing that’ll shock you in the way of enemies, it’s a tight collection that does enough to deliver a fine balance between challenge while remaining fun.
Of course, the big selling point for World War Z is the swarm mechanic, a delightfully terrifying feature of the game that sends a literal wave of zombies at you. Swarms appear in every level of the game and they – simply put – never stop being fun. Swarms work in two ways, the first plays out in Horde styled moments, where you have about one minute or less to prepare your defenses, find a good spot, and then try to survive for a couple of minutes. You can pick up a neat collection of defenses to help you with this, with barbed wire, electrified grates, and stationery or automated turrets all at your disposal. All the defenses pale in comparison to how good these scenes look, though; watching that motley wave of undead clamber its way over to you is astounding the first time you see it, and while my standard PS4 didn’t manage to deliver the fidelity you’d imagine a decent PC, PS4 Pro, or Xbox One X could offer, it’s still quite a sight.
Swarms have a nasty habit of forming corpse-laden pyramids in the game as they try their hardest to put hands on you. Just like watching a horde clamber its way towards you is a grimly beautiful sight; the pyramids are a lovely touch that’ll have you playing a game of spinning plates at times (just, y’know, the spinning plates are bloodthirsty undead). You can deal with them by shooting the top layer of zombies, but much like a hydra, chopping off the head doesn’t do much good. Instead, the trick is to throw Molotov Cocktails, grenades, or C4 at the base and watch the entire thing crumble in one satisfying heap before it begins all over again. There’s a reason World War Z focused so much on this aspect of the game leading up to its release, because it’s exactly what you want from a zombie game; the thrill of surviving a seemingly unwinnable fight over and over again really doesn’t grow stale, and it’s these moments that you look forward to in each level.
Rather than focusing its efforts on one huge location or several chunks of a single country, World War Z takes us on a globe-trotting post-apocalyptic adventure that has you hacking and slashing the undead in New York, Jerusalem, Moscow, and Tokyo. It’s a collection of countries that mostly deliver some brilliant, if a little predictable, segments of environments for you to play through. The first chapter of New York takes you through the debris and corpse-littered streets of the Big Apple, the Empire State Building looming past a thin layer of mist, and shopping malls are in such a state that you’d think every day was Black Friday. The same goes for Jerusalem and Moscow, offering up glimpses of iconic towers or the like, which act like gorgeous markers that tell you “Don’t forget, you’re here now!” before pushing you into a subway station, military base, or office building. Tokyo was perhaps the only disappointing segment, feeling far more generic than the other environments as you wander through stock roadways.
The same goes for the actual missions as well; while none of the locations offer anything we haven’t seen before, with the formula being “go here and defend,” before making you escort a person somewhere or find a particular item, Tokyo felt the most paint-by-numbers in its missions. The other three locations managed to carve out objectives that tie into the environment, with Jerusalem’s overall mission of breaking into a military base perhaps being the most fun segment. Overall, it’s a great chunk of gameplay that’s let down in the game’s final segment.
World War Z is a lot of things. It’s that Left 4 Dead 3 people have wanted for a while. It’s a game that manages to do quite a lot with its environments and includes a “Best Of,” collection of missions. More than anything, though, World War Z is your man for when you want to sit back, relax, and shoot the shit out of some zombies, and it does that last thing pretty damn well.
- The swarm system is everything you want it to be
- A nice variation of missions and zombies that feels like a “Best Of,” compilation
- The majority of locations in the game are realised very well
- Other than the Exterminator, classes feel unspectacular
- Tokyo is pretty generic
- The game’s collection of weapons are weak
PEGI: 18 ESRB: “M” for Mature
It’s a zombie apocalypse, so expect violence, strong language, and people-formed pyramids that aren’t so much peppy as they are horribly deadly.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.