Since the release of “Left 4 Dead 2 (L4D2)” by Valve back in 2009, fans of the fast-paced zombie survival genre have been clamoring for a new addition or one of equal quality. Well, my friends, the wait is finally over. World War Z by Saber Interactive not only fills our requests but overflows it with unexpected new elements which produce one hell of a zombie shooter.
There is no denying it that movie tie-in games almost always are subpar cash grabs. However, a virtual tear of joy rolled down my cheek once I realized this was not the case for World War Z. This fact is quickly apparent with the high level of polish that this game has. There is also no mistaking the “L4D2” influence in the gameplay and design. World War Z offers a four-player co-op episodic story mode and a great assortment of multiplayer modes.
By name, the game indicates that its taking place in the World War Z movie universe. However, the episodic story mode takes the approach of the book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks which was released in 2006. The book is a collection of interviews from zombie attack survivors from all over the world. You can see this influence within the episodic story.
There are four episodes to choose from including New York, Jerusalem, Moscow, and Tokyo. Each episode has three levels and introduces new characters with unique backstories. During my first playthrough, I played as Tashaun Burnell, a New York City firefighter and first responder to the 9/11 attack now living with PTSD. Each character has a unique bio that can be unlocked by completing at least one level.
You can play any one of the four episodes in any order that you wish. I started in my hometown of New York and was amazed by the attention to detail within the world. The lighting, building designs, sounds and dialogue between the characters instantly engulfed me. Each level has objectives such as unlocking an area which contains a power switch or meeting up with an NPC who thinks he/she may know a way out of the current location. There are a lot of twists and turns that make the overall progression a joy to play, which brings me to the gameplay.
The controls feel familiar and responsive. There are a plethora of weapons and class upgrades that you can obtain. World War Z nicely organizes all of these variations by “classes” in which there are six to choose from including the following:
Continuously playing with a class will allow you to level up that class and unlock the ability to purchase new perks / loadouts for that class through earned in-game currency. This currency can also be used to unlock new weapons. After a few hours of play, I had multiple perks unlocked and purchased some high-end assault rifles. This level of customization is a great addition and provides countless hours of replayability trying out each class and building the ultimate zombie killing loadout. With all that said, let’s talk about the swarm.
If you’ve seen the World War Z movie, then you will recall the key standout feature of the film was the super aggressive zombies who sprint toward their target. I found it extremely impressive how Saber Interactive was able to incorporate this into the game. At times, I would take a screenshot and try to do a head count. At one point, I counted over 100 pouring out of a building onto the street below and upon landing, getting up and running towards my team. The overwhelming feeling of dread hits instantly and the “wow this is awesome” feeling quickly follows. There are various types of zombies you will encounter which I won’t’ spoil.
The character dialogue keeps the story going and at no point did I ever feel stuck or unsure of where to go next. In the rare point that you do get displaced, the game will do a 10-second countdown and respawn you back with the group. Reviving a fellow team member is also surprisingly fast, taking under 5 seconds. The same cannot be said for when you die. You are treated with watching your character transform into a zombie and run off to join the swarm but it will then take a full minute to respawn. The game is fast-paced and I feel that a minute is a bit too long.
One other criticism worth mentioning before moving on lies within the name of the actual game. I feel that simply tilting the game World War Z wasn’t creative enough and perhaps adding a subtitle could have made it stand out even further. Game tie-ins from movies are generally perceived as subpar offerings and I’m afraid that many may pass on this game thinking that this is the same case. Hopefully, I’m wrong as this game definitely is deserving of your undivided attention.
World War Z multiplayer incorporates your progression from the co-op story mode. Therefore, everything that you unlocked carries over and can be used in all five modes. If you are a fan of playing multiplayer then you will be right at home with these offerings:
- Swarm Domination
- King of the Hill
- Swarm DeathMatch
- Scavenger Raid
- Vaccine hunt
World War Z also does a great job adding its swarm variant to these popular modes. Again, it’s amazing to see so many zombies while at the same time engaging in PVP, in turn making a standard deathmatch for example into an all-out war. If you aren’t sure which to try first then you can just select “quick play” and jump in. You will earn class and weapon XP along with currency from all of these modes.
We have seen many L4D2 style games but none have ever hit the mark and surpass it like World War Z. This is what we’ve been waiting for, a polished, exhilarating, nonstop thrill ride of a zombie shooter with plenty of replay value to keep us engaged and coming back for more. I honestly feel that this game is a must-have for anyone who is a fan of the genre and for those who enjoy a great pickup & play co-op game.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of World War Z for the PlayStation 4 provided by Focus Home Interactive and Mad Dog Games LLC.