Overall - 40%
World War Z has some moments that are an utter blast - the special zombie types and impending doom of a zombie tower bring pure excitement. However, these moments are few and far between, leaving a shell of a game with very little content, a lack of creativity, a near non-existent story, and a disappointingly shallow progression system.
Developed by Saber Interactive and published by Focus Home Interactive, World War Z is a co-op based third-person shooter set in the fictional setting of the book and movie of the same name. Does it do justice to the dark and gritty world of Brooks’ universe, or is this just another mindless zombie shooter?
World War Z Review
World War Z takes place following a massive global outbreak that has seen the majority of the worlds greatest cities fall. During the short co-op campaign, players will explore New York, Moscow, Tokyo, and Jerusalem, spanning 11 different missions. Each of the missions is very much of the same, culminating in a boring and repetitive linear experience that echoes a lack of creativity seen throughout the entirety of the game. In a party of up to four players, each mission is a short, linear run to a defense point before defending a location against massive hordes of zombies. Repeat this design two to three times per mission and you’ve experienced much of what the game has to offer.
While the objectives and path are repetitive and linear, the mundane nature of the experience is occasionally saved by two main points: the environments and the zombies. Each environment for each mission is well crafted, with multiple vantage points and potentially threatening ambush locations, and each is unique enough to immerse you in that regions culture and architectural design. Whether you’re running through the snow covered streets of Moscow or fighting through car-ridden highways and roads in New York, each area feels authentic and occasionally, even ties in directly with some of the movies more exciting scenes.
World War Z, at its core, is a fast-paced third-person shooter with regular defensive objectives. The movement and overall animation quality of the characters feels a little off; not quite smooth, but not janky enough to be terrible. However, the gun-play is actually rather solid. Shots carry an impact, there’s a versatile list of weapons and equipment to aid you in the fight, and the addition of friendly fire forces players to think before pulling the trigger. While some aspects of World War Z suffer, the overall quality of the gun combat is smooth and rewarding.
During much of my time playing World War Z, I felt bored. Between the annoyance of running between three points pushing buttons on consoles and escorting a poorly designed AI VIP, much of the game was unimaginative and lackluster. However, for several brief moments, cry’s of adulation could be heard from my allies. The zombie hordes in World War Z are fantastic. They are absolutely massive in number, often falling from above, crawling up from below or just pouring over the edge of the horizon. At times, it often felt as though they would never end, and if that were true, the game would have been better for it.
The iconic “zombie towers” seen throughout the movie are a constant presence. It’s a sight to see zombies pile atop one another to reach a feast of fresh flesh sitting atop a soundly constructed defensive structure. These scattered moments of excitement and adrenaline fueled action were a lot of fun, but didn’t do enough to make up for the games shortfalls in almost every other area. The hordes themselves are also a bit of a mirage. They are not single zombies, they behave as a pact, as a unit, as a single animated object. While the zombies trying to take a bite from your neck are as every bit real and individual as your character, those in large hordes or at a distance are not.
I understand this from a balance perspective. It would be near impossible to take down each zombie as an individual enemy but at the same time, it’s too obvious. Shooting a zombie on the right of the group, taking away health from the unit as a whole, sees zombies on the other side of the horde drop dead despite not receiving a single bullet. It’s very nit-picky, but something I noticed very early on in my experience.
The short campaign, which I completed after about four hours, is a bit fun but otherwise uneventful. There’s no real reason to replay the campaign, as very few aspects are dynamic and the progression system is incredibly poor. There is no weapon customization, even though the game literally has a menu called “Weapon Customization.” As you use weapons and progress, you unlock different variations with that weapon. One may add a silencer, another an extended clip and eventually, everything, but there’s not much choice. I spent much of the game failing to accrue any weapon experience at all, which may be a poorly explained mechanic or one of the many bugs plaguing the release.
There’s several different classes in campaign (six in total), each boasting different starting weaponry and skills that you can unlock as you progress. Unfortunately, these are as unimaginative and lacking the same impact was weapon customization. Nearly all of the skills are passive, rarely providing any serious reward or gameplay changing improvements. Once you have the ability to change your starting weapon, you’ve got everything you need to tackle most of the lower difficulties.
There is a PvP mode in the game, but the progression and unlocks are entirely separate from the co-op campaign. It provides a more rewarding experience for hardcore PvP fans, but is another reason to not play the co-op campaign for everyone else. A small list of expected game mode variations is present, but outside of the addition of zombies and hordes during PvP encounters, it’s much the same as we’ve seen a thousand times before.
Technically, I had a very poor experience with World War Z. I stopped counting after the client crashed for the ninth time, and I didn’t bother counting the amount of times I was removed from a lobby. I spawned into games in areas that my team had already completed, forcing me to either die or leave in order for them to progress. The AI often fell to the zombie onslaught in areas we could not reach in order to revive, it’s all very disappointing. I also experienced a corrupt save file which lost me several levels, something I’ve not had happen since removing my PlayStation memory card close to 20 years ago.
World War Z has some moments that are an utter blast – the special zombie types and impending doom of a zombie tower bring pure excitement. However, these moments are few and far between, leaving a shell of a game with very little content, a lack of creativity, a near non-existent story, and a disappointingly shallow progression system.
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