Come with me on a journey through time! We’ll be taking that time machine gathering dust in the corner over there a teleporting ourselves deep into history, to the year 2012. As we step out of this technological marvel, I want you to take in your environment. I want to really feel 2012 in your bones. Feels weird, right? It feels so long ago, yet still so fresh in our minds. I assume you no doubt have already seen the reason I’ve brought you here. That’s right. Zombies. They’re everywhere. In your books, in your movies and most notoriously, in your games. 2012 was huge for zombies in games to the point where zombie shooters became a bit of a tired gimmick, kinda like how “post-apocalypse” is now in 2019.
With that in mind, I don’t think anyone was really expecting World War Z to be something special. It looked like a Left for Dead clone set in the gritty, realism of the WWZ mythos, and after playing it a whole lot I can confirm that it is exactly that. And oh, boy it is wildly enjoyable.
Despite many describing the game as a cut and paste co-op zombie shooter, I don’t think that’s a fair description at all. Sure, it has features of the genre: Four player co-op, chapter-based levels, a variety of objectives to complete in each mission before eventually escaping. Yet what World War Z does remarkably well is take those tried and tested gameplay elements and bring them into a modern setting with smart additions that not only expand the cooperative horde based shooter but make it so much more rewarding.
World War Z adds XP into the mix, experience that is shared over the dozens of in-game weaponry and the playable classes (more on those in a second). Levelling up weapons and abilities is as addictive as it is simple, with points earned after every match that can be set on the desired modifications. The ability to switch abilities and mods before the game starts lends itself to a sense of preparation; to understanding what the level will be throwing at you and adjusting rather than just picking up an axe and letting rip.
This preparation can also be seen in the game’s unique classes, each offering a different playstyle. The gunslinger is strapped up with grenades, the medic has stims to buff their teammates and the fixer can lay down explosive ammo for the rest of the squad as just some examples of their individual roles. The introduction of classes adds an element of “building a team” to the game which not only provides variety to players but also a layer of strategy above from “click on their heads good”.
While it’s feasible for players to just play as a gunslinger on the easiest mode, anything above normal difficulty becomes punishing when different team compositions aren’t taken into account. These classes also have purchasable upgrades to have them function even more efficiently against the hordes. Also, side note, despite World War Z’s emphasis on XP and upgrades, I didn’t see a single microtransaction in the game’s menus. So if that was something that was concerning you, rest your wearing head on Saber Interactive’s loving shoulder.
Once the game gets rolling, it just doesn’t stop. Games are tense and long, capturing the sense of massive, global scale the film adaption got so right, despite its many misfires. Zombies come sprinting at your squad, falling over one another, shoving their undead comrades off ledges just to get a nibble off your tasty flesh.
They pile into living pyramids to scale walls, their bodies kicking and falling over one another as you unload magazine after magazine into the swarms, watching hundreds of bodies collapse to the floor. It’s adrenaline pumping, to say the least. All the guns have an impact too, with limbs flying off with the right shot and weapon. Similar to L4D2, some may not enjoy just how quickly the zombies melt in WWZ.
Despite great sound effects on the weapons, zombies collapse very quickly as it feels like your bullets pass through them like thermite through butter, but I enjoyed it. WWZ isn’t about individual kills, it’s about the excitement of unloading an entire belt of bullets into a collective horde of monsters and watch it shrink in size as you sway your muzzle back and forth picking up stragglers.
Despite all the fun I’ve been having with WWZ, I would be lying if I said it didn’t have problems. While many of the locations and environments look great (Tokyo being a stand-out to me), many felt very congested and claustrophobic. While sometimes intentional, like the basements in Russia, large scale scenes like New York’s streets and malls felt boxed in by one too many invisible walls or ajar doors that can’t be interacted with.
Perhaps my biggest issue with the game is the AI that accompanies you while playing by yourself: It sucks. On more than one occasion was I ambushed by a creeper (one of several special zombies) and pinned to the ground only to have my computer-driven teammates stare at my shredded corpse like it was deeply upsetting puzzle. To really get the most out of this game, it should be enjoyed with at least one other friend.
That being said, World War Z is not in a state where online play is super accessible. This isn’t a AAA game, so the numerous server problems experience by the team since launch are, honestly, acceptable to me. They’ve already released a hotfix to stabilise game crashes surrounding online play. What I do think is a massive oversight and hopefully, one that be addressed soon is the lack of private lobbies meaning that you and one other friend can’t play with bots but must join strangers online. The fact that private lobbies weren’t included strikes me as an odd decision, yet Saber Interactive has proved that they’re willing to listen to the community and fix what’s broken so here’s hoping that these can be added in a future update.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy World War Z. Going in, I thought it was just gonna be a run of the mill zombie shooter. After a few hours in I was rapidly trying to convince my friends to buy their own copy of the game just so I could share in how much fun I was having with someone else. Despite some questionable decisions, World War Z is a smart, exhilarating step forward for cooperative shooters and I’m hoping desperately that the game grows larger and larger in the next few months.
Last Updated: April 23, 2019