World War Z (Game) Review

Scratching an itch the game industry almost forgot about.

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Does this co-op zombie shooter standup to its legendary predecessors, or does it fail to fill their shoes? Find out what we think in our World War Z Review!

Release DateApril 16, 2019
GenreCo-op Shooter
PlatformsPS4, Xbox One, PC
DeveloperSaber Interactive
Price$34.99 (PC) / $39.99 (Console)
ESRB RatingMature
Players1-4 Player Co-op

 

*A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by Saber Interactive for review purposes*

“What could possibly be the plus of using the World War Z property over this being an original IP?” This is the exact thought that occupied my mind as I booted up World War Z to give it a try. What I can say now is that I get it.

Left 4 Dead World War Z is an episodic co-op multiplayer 3rd person zombie shooter that takes place in various locations within the universe of the successful book and movie of the same name. With the exception of the last, each of its four episodes has a series of three missions within them that pit your team of four against various zombie (or Zeke) hordes and various obstacles, around the world. This is where the World War Z license was truly used to its advantage with each episode acting as a beautiful cultural backdrop with new diverse characters and light story elements about their struggle for survival.

AROUND THE WORLD

The locations throughout World War Z also offer vertical in addition to horizontal spaces to navigate fight through.

Using its title to great effect, one of the most interesting and exciting aspects of this game are its world settings and map variety. Like the book on which it’s based, the game takes you to the varied locations of New York, Jerusalem, Moscow, and Japan.

Though these backdrops add character, World War Z wastes precious little time getting you straight to zombie killing. While WWZ’s focus is not its story, only offering the player what they need as an excuse to get out there and stacking up Zeke bodies, it really doesn’t need more than that for what it sets out to do. For those wanting a bit more emotional investment though, it does offer optional cinematics for each playable character’s backstory and a bio on a separate menu that explore interesting motivations and cultural values. This is a lovely touch for those like me who willing to put in that extra effort to grow connected to the characters. That being said, it would have been nice to have a more conclusive, satisfying, or bombastic end to the final episode. But if you’re just here for the killing, Saber isn’t holding anyone back.

WHAT KEEPS THIS BABY GOING

The signature World War Z zombie ladders forming to try to reach our team.

A game like this hinges completely on how it feels to kill zombies as that is the main gameplay loop, and I’m so glad to say that it is simply just a blast. With snappy controls, gorgeously over-the-top reactions of the Zekes, the moment to moment gameplay of World War Z never felt dull throughout my couple dozens of hours logged. Though the feel and sound of each weapon never quite accurately convey their power, Each Zeke only takes around one to two shots to completely kill, making it a quick and satisfying to mow through the crowd of ridiculous proportions. Compound this with bullet penetration on some weapons and simple yet well-implemented gore effects and the result is something truly remarkable, as you feel the visceral effects of each shot.

Even though it took around 10 hours to complete the main co-op episodes, replay value is the name of the game here. WWZ has five different difficulty levels but the game does not expect you to reach the recommended level to take on the harder difficulties by the end of your first playthrough. By the time you’ve ramped the difficulty up to its hardest setting, the damage is through the roof, supplies are coveted, and friendly fire NEEDS to be taken into account. This adds new and tense dynamics to the game while you flex your leveled-up class perks and upgraded weapons.

OH YEAH, the progression system!

WWZ sports a multiclass system and upgradable weapons through the span of the game, using a unified in-game currency obtained at the end of each mission. The class system is nothing too unique, offering the standard Medic, Demolition, Soldier type of setup. That being said, the perks that you unlock as you level up, do make a significant difference to how you play. Strong buffs like 25% faster reload speed and the ability to start with a more powerful weapon put you in more favorable positions to rush into battle.

The weapons, while being the standard grounded-modern-shooter array, are numerous and plentiful. Each player has a primary (sniper, assault rifle, etc.) secondary (SMG, shotguns, etc.) and heavy slot (RPG’s, LMG’s, etc.). Each class only starts with a specific weapon equipped, but there are several regular and hidden caches throughout the missions that contain new weapons, ammo refills, and grenades, which allow you mix-it-up throughout the mission should the situation call for it.

While, of course, it’s best to bring a group of friends along to play this game, the AI systems work quite well (though don’t expect any levers to get pulled). The games quick matchmaking and character call-outs also make the game a cinch to play with strangers, mic or no mic.

But is it Pretty?

The winding and vibrant Japanese setting stood out as my favorite of the varied locations.

Visually speaking World War Z is nothing to be drooling over, but for a smaller release is really no slouch either. The general art style rocks an ever-so-slightly cartoony look that really excels, letting the characters pop and accentuate their personalities (don’t worry, they aren’t going full Fortnight with it). But the real star of the show here are the locations and their effects (okay, and the zombies). Every episode has you in a completely different world location, but beyond that, each mission in the episode adds even more variety by changing up the setting; from hellish city streets and dusty train stations in New York to historic city suburbs and misty docks in Japan, each location has enough variety to keep you guessing. As I played, this is one of the aspects that had me walking away thinking this is something very special. The core gameplay look is the main draw, but these locations and environmental design are what keep everything nearly infinitely fresh.

As far as the zombies are concerned, their visual style and horde-look add enough variety to character models to make a horde look actually composed of different people, for the most part. Unfortunately, this variety doesn’t suit every location. As I played through the Tokyo missions it felt a bit strange to see the same type of vastly Caucasian zombies attacking, contrasting with the game’s normal attention to detail with cultural ideas. This, I admit, took me out of the game ever so slightly, but luckily it mostly isn’t a problem for much of the rest of the game.

Killing Zombies While Killing Each Other

Fending off a surprise horde while trying to take the enemies zone in multiplayer.

As a tacked-on bonus, World War Z also sports several multiplayer modes. For the most part, the mechanics transfer just alright as far as 3rd person multiplayer outings go, but the game tries to make up for it in other ways. Essentially the multiplayer modes function as any other; you’ll be playing a typical game of capture the points on the map while firing at one another… but uh oh, sirens go off and now you have to carry on as a horde rushes the scene. This added feature spices up games with not only offering another challenge and enemies to shoot but by creating a new dynamic within your strategy. You can create a loud noise and train the following horde straight into the place the enemy team is holed up within, wiping the enemy team as they’re overcome by dozens of Zekes.

This is extended to World War Z’s various multiplayer modes:

Step 1 – Take regular mode.

Step 2 – Add a dash of zombies.

Step 3 – Watch people run helplessly.

While it may not have the strength of the main co-op offering, in the least, it adds another bit of replay value and variety to an already fleshed-out game with a great price.

Wait… I’ve Been Here Before

My biggest complaint about World War Z is its contentment in its unoriginal territory. While stupendously fun, these concepts are not new… These are not new zombie types… These are not new objectives… These are not new ideas. World War Z, however, does do enough to make it stand out as not a complete clone of the beloved Left 4 Dead; changing the perspective to 3rd, focusing on hordes, and other small tweaks to the system, but when you’re followed by the sneaky zombie (WWZ Lurker = L4D Hunter) and fight the strong zombie (WWZ Bull = L4D Charger/Tank) and so on, it’s hard not to feel a bit of familiar ground below your feet. But you know what they say, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, and they chose a good one to follow. Unfortunately, this is the same case for the music which follows the standard beat by beat action/electronic music of every other shooter game on the market (and their mothers). Nevertheless, the generic music still successfully does its job, ramping up tension when it’s needed.

Firing my newly set-up, mounted turret into the oncoming horde.

However, every so often the game flexes its own abilities and plays with a new idea, like prepping: every so often your team needs to prepare for a large incoming horde, so your team sets out to find turrets, electrical traps, and barbed wire to set up and take a position before the threat arrives. These moments add something pretty new to a well-worn concept and ends up becoming some of the game’s most exhilarating moments, as you jump from running out of ammo on your turret to sniping the bottom out of large hordes climbing a fence toppling them over, while your friend refills the auto-turret. Good not-so-clean fun.

ProsCons
Satisfying gameplay loopLack of originality
Varied maps & environmental designWeak music/gun audio
Pricepoint 
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Graphics
8
Audio
7
Gameplay
9
Story/Game Modes
8
Value
10
Technical Performance
9
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Jonathan Harris is a children's volunteer, a gamer, and a student at university currently majoring in Film, English, and Japanese based out of Seattle. While currently published in the comic book industry, Jonathan also itches to write about all aspects he's passionate about; paramount being videogames.Playing Crash Bandicoot at the age of three, Jonathan has been hooked since, enjoying sinking himself into a fantastic story or frantic rogue-like all the same (and even for a short time enjoyed a ranking of one of the better players of Hotline Miami).