In one of the rare occasions when I wish I’d actually listened to Brad instead of unleashing the hounds on him, it turns out that World War Z is a damn good game. It’s not complex stuff, but it is endlessly cathartic fun when you feel like switching off the ol’ brain cells and mowing down wave after wave of undead cannon fodder as they throw their infected flailing limbs at your face.
World War Z at its best is when you and several other players need to draw a line in the sand and make a last stand. The game mechanics shine at this point, as hundreds of bodies move like a swarm across the screen and into the line of fire, making for some tense action. That moment of glory is pretty much getting a dedicated mode today, in the form of the imaginatively titled Horde Mode Z. “World War Z throws a crazy number of zombies at players. Up to 500 on-screen at a time, sprinting full speed at you,” Creative Director at Saber Interactive Oliver Hollis-Leick wrote on the PS Blog.
The game was created from the ground up with this goal in mind, and having our own Swarm Engine was a big reason why we succeeded, since it allowed us to adapt and tailor it to what we needed.
We had one very simple and effective rule: The more screen space the swarm fills, the more impressive it looks.
The hordes needed to be huge and dangerous, while maintaining excellent performance and graphical quality. When we started testing the game, players often didn’t shoot at the swarms because they thought they were decorative background scenery until it was too late. The pyramids that zombies create – climbing over each other to create a growing pile-up of undead flesh – are also not there because it looks cool; if you don’t topple them, they’ll pile high enough to reach any high ground you’ve managed to secure.
The main technical challenge of having so many zombies was making the game perform smoothly over a typical internet connection. When the swarms are distant their AI is simplified but, as they get close, each individual zombie can emerge from the swarm to become independent in its actions. It took a lot of work to make this transition as seamless and unnoticeable as possible.
There’s going to be a proper challenge in this mode, even when you’ve got a full team of friends helping you mow down the infected. Fret not though! Alongside actual strategy and guns, players will have plenty of other tools to make use of when the horde pops up. “To combat the zombie hordes, players are given extremely powerful tools: heavy weapons, explosives, and environmental features such as cars that can be blown up,” Hollis-Leick explained.
Many of these defenses will be accentuated in the upcoming Horde Mode, since there is a more distinct preparation phase in between each increasingly more difficult wave. Players will make use of mortars, electrified fences, barbed wire, claymores, and more. The six classes allow players to split into roles with different strengths.
The Exterminator excels at killing swarms, but is weak to special zombies, the stand-out enemies with special behaviors. The Slasher is good at covering teammates, especially from up-close special zombies. We originally had doubts about the Slasher, since the melee combat isn’t a focus of the game, but it turns out the class is fun and viable due in part to its other complementary features, such as the Stun Gun. With Horde Mode Z, these roles will be pushed to their limits, and we’re excited to see which combinations come out on top.
It all sounds good! And considering that Christmas is around the corner, Horde Mode Z should be perfect for anyone who wants to blow off some steam after having survived the mindless throngs of shoppers in a local mall.
Last Updated: December 19, 2019