Developed by Saber Interactive, World War Z follows the story featured within the 2013 movie of the same name where a global pandemic turns the infected into hordes of zombies who threaten the very existence of humankind. Initial reactions to its trailers showcased similarities to the Left 4 Dead zombie franchise, so we will see if World War Z can fill the void for our desire to dispatch zombies until the Left 4 Dead 3 arrives.
Gameplay is split between a cooperative campaign and a competitive multiplayer where teams of four will battle against one another while holding back swarms of zombies across various modes. The campaign features four episodes, each set within a different location. You will play as different groups of survivors as you encounter zombies in New York, Jerusalem, Moscow, and Japan. Environments are designed to feature both narrow corridors and large open spaces to facilitate strategic defenses when battling the undead with the hope of survival and reaching the final extraction point. The careful execution of level design places structures in the distance to perfectly capture the terror of approaching swarms of zombies as they sprint towards you at full speed, fall down from bridges overhead, and form pyramids to overcome obstacles within their path.
Mission objectives vary from arriving at specific locations, retrieving items, escorting high-valued targets, and defending areas. There is not much depth to the story or objectives within World War Z, but that is entirely countered by the many enjoyable moments that took place throughout the various missions, which makes you feel as if you are experiencing the continuation of the movie.
The first mission in New York perfectly showcases the scale of the zombie swarms as the street goes far off into the distance, giving you a great line sight of the impending doom and the hope that your position will hold against five hundred zombies. Your team of four quickly scatter and determine the best vantage point to fend off the swarm, placing turrets and barbed wire to hinder their progress. Chaos ensues as they get close and break through obstacles and it is here that your survival will be placed upon the shoulders of your team mates. Zombies will attack you from all sides, so having a dependable team will increase your chances of success as you will know you can focus on one specific area while another player protects you from another side.
Zombie variety is on the lighter side as the main type are ones that charge full speed at you. However, there is a heavily armoured bull type that charges at you, which ironically has the same gear regardless of country you are in, another that jumps on you, and lastly a screamer that attracts other zombies to your location. It would have been nice to see additional types of zombies as you progress, but they did stay as true as they could to the film. These more advanced zombies will knock you to the ground and slowly decrease your life and the only way to repel them is for a teammate to usher in a storm of bullets in their direction. This is another main reason to travel as a group or you will find yourself alone and quickly outmatched. Team work is the key to success in World War Z.
There are six unique classes that players can chose from as each one offers special weapons and perks to combat the zombie threat. A Gunslinger is an expert with automatic rifles and grenades, a Hellraiser is an explosives expert, a Slasher has increased melee damage, a Medic is focused on keeping your team alive, a Fixer can boost your team’s firepower, and an Exterminator relies on fire damage. A perfectly balanced team will be needed to complete the harder difficulties, while players should familiarize themselves with each class in the easier missions to level up each class.
There are sixteen playable characters and over thirty weapons to choose from that can unleash destruction against the zombie hordes. Each class starts off with specific weapons, but they can quickly be changed when you stumble across the first weapons cache in a mission. I understand how they are trying to keep each class geared towards certain weapons, but it unfortunately does not work as we can pick up any weapon we desire. It would be better suited to give players full customization and let them select their weapons before starting each mission. The shotgun is also great for close-combat engagements, but it is useless for when you are defending against swarms of zombies that are rushing at you from the distance. Your machete weapon is also overpowered and players can quickly remove several zombies by carelessly swinging away as they approach. Completing missions will grant you supplies, the in-game currency, which can be used to upgrade weapons that have been leveled up after extended use.
The single-player campaign is on the shorter side of the spectrum, but a key component to the World War Z experience is playing through the episodes on the five different difficulty levels that are present. Playing as specific classes and using weapons will grant you experience points and progress you with additional upgrades that will make you a fiercer combatant and prepare you for each difficulty tier that awaits. Easy will give you a taste of what is to come, while the insane difficulty offers an unforgiving experience where zombies deal increased damage, friendly fire must be avoided, and weapons and ammunition is scarce. Only true survivalists will be able to endure this level of difficulty.
The online competitive experience that is featured within World War Z will put teams of up to four players against both another team and the hordes of zombies across several different game modes: teams will fight to the death in Swarm Deathmatch, capture and hold a hill in King of the Hill, capture zones in Swarm Domination, hold onto valued items in Vaccine Hunt, and collecting resources across the map and from fallen enemies in Scavenge Raid. These modes will definitely keep you busy when you want a change from the campaign story. It is also important to note that the classes in the competitive mode are not identical from the campaign and weapons are locked to each specific class as you will not be able to pick up new weapons during the matches.
I am very impressed with World War Z as it offers an extremely enjoyable experience as I had envisioned from first bearing witness to the announcement trailer. The inspiration from the 2013 film is clearly visible throughout and the lack of a compelling story is easily overlooked at the pure satisfaction of repelling the continuous onslaughts of zombie swarms across New York, Jerusalem, Moscow, and Japan. World War Z comes highly recommended and I look forward to the post-launch content that Saber Interactive will reward players with to continue the adventure of ridding the world of the zombie threat.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]