The co-op action game in the style of Left 4 Dead has, in my mind, been overplayed. They all follow a similar level design with similar enemy structures and offer the similar experience. World War Z is no different. This is pretty much a copy-and-paste of that formula, with similar enemies, weapons, level design, and so on. If you are a fan of that, then this is for you. If you are not, then you are out of luck here. Despite being the same thing in large part, there are some additions to the formula that makes this unique from other co-op zombie shooters. The ultimate question though is how much it stands out from the crowd. This is World War Z, and it’s time to be truly scared of the common zombie.
World War Z the game is inspired by World War Z the movie despite playing out like World War Z the book. The game follows four groups of survivors in four different parts of the world as they deal with the apocalypse in their own way. Taking place in New York, Jerusalem, Russia, and Tokyo, these survivors fight tooth-and-nail to survive against the horde.
While the story isn’t one, continuous event throughout the game, I found it to be surprisingly decent for a game like this. With this style of game, I usually don’t get a whole lot of story or lore out of it, but World War Z does a decent job at creating a journey and creating characters. There are a total of eleven levels, with three taking place in each location (and only two in Tokyo), but the three that take place in each level follow each other in terms of events. You get to see where the characters start and end in their journey across each location, which is a nice change compared to most other Left 4 Dead-like games which have levels scattered. On top of that, each of the sixteen characters have backstory videos tied to them, talking about who they were before the apocalypse. None of it is going to win awards, but compared to its peers, I think they did a pretty good job at presenting a story.
In terms of gameplay, I have already talked about what this game generally is. Expect you and three others to try and get from point a to point b, with some zombie ambushes and missions in between. Expect special zombies, and expect a trickle of better weapons to come your way as the level progresses. Expect the expected, but there are some things that makes World War Z different.
The biggest aspect to this game that makes this game unique are the zombies. You aren’t fighting single zombies or even tens of zombies. You are fighting hundreds at a time. Imagine Dead Rising level of zombies, except running at full speed. Watching zombies pour down like a waterfall into the hole you are trying to climb out of is truly a sight to behold. On top of that, the zombie tech in this game is great. Whenever they are a level below you, they start to pile onto each other like ants to get up to you, and attacking the base of this swarm brings the whole thing tumbling down. Zombies also trip over each other, so shooting the front of a running stampede causes some of the back zombies to trip over the bodies. What surprises me most, however, is how well the game runs despite the hundreds of zombies on screen. The zombies are an overwhelming force in this game, and they feel like a true threat compared to the special zombies.
While almost all Left 4 Dead-like games have an “ambush” period in the game, or a part where a horde of enemies are thrown your way, not all of them offer the ability to build traps. World War Z scatters auto-turrets, normal turrets, mortars, electric fences, barbed wire, and more around key battle areas as an additional means to combat the enemy. While not the first to add traps, the addition of them in this game makes ambush situations a more even playing ground.
There are four characters to each area, and while you do have the ability to choose who you play as, they are no different to the other three. What is different, however, are the classes. You can choose from one of six classes, each specializing in different abilities. As you play, you level up and unlock new traits and abilities for that class, as well as different starting weapons. Speaking of which, there are a lot of weapons to play around with in this game, and using them levels them up as well. I love the classes and the weapons because they extend the length of the game dramatically by offering something to work towards, which is an issue I tend to have with other games of this magnitude.
Getting better abilities and weapons makes the game easier, so the logical thing to do is to kick up the difficulty. I found the difficulty scaling in this game to be solid, as for my friend and I who are playing this game with other random players find ourselves challenged at higher levels despite the high amount of upgrades we have made to ourselves. The challenge of the game is never behind us because of how solid the level scaling is. What ultimately gets us scraping by is teamwork, and one thing in this game that is so simple yet so genius that helps us work together are markers. You can point out locations of interest as well as gear with markers, and trying to fight back smaller hordes by pointing out where they are for all of us to shoot at helps immensely. What doesn’t help out so much are the mediocre bots, who tend to not be so helpful when it comes to reviving other bots. Also, a lack of a noise meter makes stealth harder to do. Because of this, I originally didn’t like the fact that you can’t play privately with a friend, but now I am happy that we are forced to play publicly.
If you do tire out on the co-op mode, then World War Z also offers a competitive multiplayer mode. The multiplayer plays out as a traditional multiplayer game with a stampede of zombies thrown in from time-to-time. I really like the inclusion of the zombie horde, because it adds a layer of unpredictability. I remember defending my area in domination when the swarm decided to sweep over the area I was at, forcing me to move out of the way. The zombie horde adds a nice touch to an otherwise traditional mode.
In the mode, you cannot customize loadouts or cosmetics. Instead, there are ten preset classes with various gear and abilities, and each class can be leveled up. I do prefer being able to customize loadouts, but I think being able to upgrade classes will do for me. Also, weapons are only upgraded as a part of the class upgrades, which also isn’t preferred, but will do. Also, for cosmetics, you can choose any character you want to play as on any map, so seeing a bunch of the same character run around is alright.
What isn’t alright are the issues surrounding the game. For starters, the game has a very small amount of maps, and it only took me about thirty minutes to start seeing duplicates. The teams and the weapons overall don’t feel well balanced, as for the shotgun needs a few very close range shots while the sniper rifle and assault rifles dominate. The class that you choose can’t be changed mid-game, and you can’t upgrade your class in the lobby, which meant backing out every time I leveled my class up. Finally, I personally feel like I am having some sort of latency issue, because I don’t feel as many of my shots connecting despite clearly shooting them. It is only a side mode compared to the main game, but I think it could be a lot better if they fixed it up.
In conclusion, I think World War Z is a good amount of content for its price. While it doesn’t take long to get through the content one time around, there are a bunch of features offered to make multiple playthroughs justifiable. It still can’t hide (and I don’t think it is trying to hide) from the fact that this game is pretty formulaic, but the zombie horde, class and weapon upgrades, and multiplayer inclusion makes this game different. It ultimately comes down to whether or not you are still into games like Left 4 Dead, but I will say World War Z is a solid one-of-those.