Developed By: Saber Interactive
Published By: Focus Interactive, Mad Dog
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
It has been 11 years since Left 4 Dead brought us hordes of zombie killing in a co-op space. From there on comes a spawn of zombie killing releases from a multitude of developers as they realized that severing zombies in many ways with a couple of friends is actually very fun. But of course things got a bit stale and gamers will start rolling their eyes as another zombie game gets developed. Many if not all games of this genre tried to emulate the fun that Left 4 Dead created. Some changed up the formula and it proved to have some success while some just fell flat and be forgotten. By all means Left 4 Dead was no perfect game but many missed the good and simple fun of co-op. Jump in and start playing without needing an extra space to learn up new mechanics or trying to understand some over bloated background story that may or may not make any sense. This year, Saber Interactive brings us another one that is also based on a known book and movie title, World War Z.
The comparison between World War Z and Left 4 Dead is going to be more obvious from here on but with good reason. It almost seems that the latter set up a standardized way on how one should come to expect for a zombie killing co-op game. World War Z seems to have taken that to heart and even upping certain elements to make and feel that the genre has some growth in today’s gaming standards.
Quite the looker
First thing to note as you start the game is how beautifully modeled the characters are especially the female ones. By any means, they are not on the same level of detail like on some AAA titles but in comparison to Left 4 Dead, they are very attractive to look at. On the world itself, the game does look to hold up very well. While Left 4 Dead sets itself mainly within the US, World War Z features locales of 4 different countries – New York, Jerusalem, Moscow and Tokyo. With the heavy snow covered Moscow to messy streets in New York and to the dirt and sands of Jerusalem, much of the worlds were made quite well. Although some things may look over-dramatic like the snow-laden Moscow seems to have too much snow then it should.
The layout of each world is done up pretty well. They neither too big nor too small with just enough room for players to move around as thousands of zombies come pouring down. Speaking of zombies, the way the game handles a horde as they come tearing down the street, it actually looks really good especially from a distance. Couple with how the game engine handles collision detection of each zombie is rather impressive. If you look closely, you can see how at times zombies would trip as they either knock into an object or get knocked down by another zombie from the back. While this is subtle, it really adds up to visual impact overall. While up-close, the zombies themselves though aren’t as attractive as your human characters – as it should be, they still stand out pretty well. You would come to expect that considering the game throws at you such a huge horde, you thought there may be a compromise and making the zombies looking like low-res textured models is one of them. Surprisingly it isn’t as you will start to notice they still look well done up close.
Simple but not quite
World War Z plays out in the third-person perspective which makes sense with the scale, amount of zombies and having a wider peripheral vision helps. From start till end, World War Z is just as simple as Left 4 Dead was. You start at one point, clear out a horde, move to next point. While the concept is simple sounding, the game does throw in a series of tasks along the way such as activating switches, barricading a safe house, collecting supplies and more while gunning down the undead horde. Teamwork and communication are key in order to get the whole flow going. While the easiest difficulty has little need for it but on the higher ones, everything counts in order to get through. Add in friendly fire into the mix, there is no way there isn’t a need for proper communication unless the temptation to pester your friend is far too strong. Nonetheless, there is no option to turn the friendly fire off. The game determines it through the sensitivity of it. In other words, the higher the difficulty, the more damage you will receive from your team members. Hence watching where you are aiming also becomes a priority.
The controls in the game is surprisingly pretty good. It is not tight like any Call of Duty games but it still works for a zombie shooter. As if the third-person perspective isn’t enough, the game’s button prompts like activating control panels or restocking ammo does felt like it took some notes from The Division. There are times I actually kept smashing the X in hopes to actually roll out danger but alas, it is not to be. While it is understandably acceptable as the characters aren’t trained agents or soldiers, it would be good to have an escape mechanic to be used when the going gets too tough.
The game’s levels are divided into 4 episodes and each episode consist of 3 scenarios with Tokyo having only two – the next episode will be released soon as a free update. Each of these episodes consists of a different set of characters with different personalities and backgrounds alongside with the premise of each episode having different objectives from one another. Every mission in itself is a lot of fun however many of its objectives are the same old stuff and clearly, it will start to feel stale after a couple of playthroughs. Missions can take about 10- 15 mins or lesser on the lower difficulty while the higher ones may take up to 20 plus but that depends on the competency of your teammates. Many of these levels, while linear in it’s paths, does actually have some areas to be explored as weapon cases or Heavy weapons are scattered around.
Weapons in this game while seemingly a lot but in actuality offers much less variety then it looks and is somewhat bland as well. Every weapon behaves as it should though with the recoil of each weapon is somewhat more on the stable side. Using the SMG for example, you would come to expect that the recoil is would need some proper handling due to the higher firing rate but it is rather stable. It can feel rather odd but then again it is understandable considering what kind of game this is. The only weapon that stands out is the crossbow which fires explosive arrows. The melee weapons in this game are also not a lot with only the machete and a shovel. I was rather disturbed to find that there are some characters that were portrayed to be using a katana and yet there there weren’t present in the selection. A very puzzling and questionable design choice.
Uninspiring Same Old
World War Z clearly took much inspiration from Left 4 Dead and it has no intention to make further improvements for the genre. From the first look in the game, it is quite evident that the game doesn’t feel original and is limited as well. Take for instance the special zombies themselves. At this time, there are only 5 – The Screamer, Lurker, Bull, Screecher and Gasbag. Many of them are a direct carbon copy of the ones from Left 4 Dead’s special infected especially from the way how each of the special zombie functions. From the Screecher that screams to attract more hordes to the Bull that charges at you and chokeslams you to the ground and the Lurker that pounces at you at a distance. Furthermore, there isn’t any final boss towards the final stretch of each episode. It truly felt like a missed out opportunity with the given mechanics the game has.
While much of the game tries to follow Left 4 Dead in some aspects, the game differs itself by offering what it calls Classes. Each of these classes has different sets of skills which can be bought using an in-game currency which you earn by completing a mission. There is a total of 6 classes. For example, the Gunslinger has skills ranging from dealing more damage to special zombies to marking them within 20 meters automatically and there is also the Fixer which allows you to supply bags for explosive rounds to passive skills which allow increasing ammo capacity for your teammates. The classes do bring something new to the table but at times it also felt limited and not as impactful as you might think. Having a competent teammate would still help the most regardless of which class you are being paired up with.
Player vs Zombies vs Player
The game does offer a multiplayer mode if the co-op mode starts to bore you. The game offers some standard modes that you have come to know for any shooter based games. There is Swarm Domination, King of the Hill, Scavenge Run and Swarm Deathmatch. Many of them play just as you would come to expect from each mode however this time around you have the horde of zombies being thrown in. The game treats the zombies as part of your usable arsenal rather than just a feature to make it different. You can actually make use of certain things to attract the zombies towards your opponents so they will be the ones handling the zombie horde whilst you can take advantage of the whole situation. All in all, it is really nothing big to shout about but it is rather fun when you get it working for you.
It is worth noting that the upgrades on each class are separate from the co-op mode so that means whatever you have invested in there will not take any effect on the multiplayer. From my experience, the multiplayer mode has been surprising. Everything from the controls down to the feel of the multiplayer mode is really fun. That being said it is no Call of Duty but nonetheless the game still holds up well even if the multiplayer may not be the main highlight of the whole package.
Coming back to the weapons. The game’s idea of upgrading a weapon is rather baffling. You don’t specifically have a way to customize the gun you are using but instead, you need to increase the level of each weapon being used in order to unlock a better version that comes with the small intricate upgrades. The baffling part is how the game handles these upgrades. You can actually buy the best one as soon as you reach the max level of 5. It totally beats the purpose of having different variations of the same weapon when you can just continue to keep using the initial one until you reach max level. Let’s not mention that the only obvious difference in all of the weapon upgrades is the mag count and the recoil which by the way is barely noticeable.
*UPDATE*: It seems the game has just received an update whereby you to purchase the next tier of a particular weapon in order to progress the experience bar further to unlock the next tier. However, it still makes weapon upgrade still feeling pointless with no actual impact on gameplay.
Another questionable but understandable point is the impact of weapons on the zombies. When you see zombies forming up pyramids at the side of the walls to get to you, it is natural you would either whip out a grenade or a rocket launcher and in hopes causing bodies splattering and flying around. While the game delivers in its sound effects, the way the game handles explosion impact is rather meek. It’s not to say bodies don’t fly but rather you see some small parts flying, debris going out a bit and while some zombies get blown to bits in the most minimal fashion. However knowing the game throws that much amount of zombies at one go, it is understandable they are trying the best in order to get the game running as stable as possible. It is not a major issue but something that needs to be pointed out especially for those that are expecting huge impact visuals.
What I liked
- Simple and understandable gameplay
- Rather attractive looking characters
- The number of zombie hordes is visually impressive
- Stable performance
- Multiplayer is surprisingly fun
What I wished was better
- No Bosses
- Weapon Upgrading system seems pointless
- More variety in Special Zombies
- More different objectives that do not need to have everyone huddle together
- To have more content to follow up to the stories that were built in the episodes
Overall World War Z can still be considered impressive for its scope, the budget and the genre itself. While the game is not going to be groundbreaking at all but it does serve its main purpose – to offer a mindless fun with friends for a couple of quick games. Limited as it sounds, it has done its job. It is one of the few games where I would pick it up and play when I have limited time to spare. I hope the game continues to improve on and expand further. It not going to win any awards but it definitely has the potential to fill the zombie co-op itch while everyone is hoping and waiting for the next Left 4 Dead to be announced if ever.