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World War Z – Review

October 29th, 2019 by

wwzWorld War Z was always going to be a contentious subject, given the “in name only” approach the film took to the subject matter and the nature of the gameplay videos that developer Saber Interactive released before launch which heavily highlighted the dynamics of how the flood of zombies, as seen in the films, would work into the game itself.

As such, you would be forgiven for presuming that the game took its inspiration solely from the film, but in reality it is a little bit of both.

While the in game action is all film inspired, the nature of the Story beats aligns more to the individual survival stories that underpin the original source material.

 

Each Story contains multiple stages, following a group of four survivors as they try to survive in the immediate post-outbreak world. Opening with a group of New Yorkers looking to make their way to the docks to escape the encroaching hordes; a squad of soldiers sent in to extract a scientist who was working on a solution to the zombie outbreak in Israel; A group of Russian survivors just looking to keep their small community alive by scavenging the ruins of once great cities; and finally the Japanese volunteer force escorting groups of survivors to the final ferries after the cities have begun to fall.

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The groups and stories have their own characters and themes about what is prioritised in order to survive in a zombie infested world, whether it be finding a safe haven, finding a way to fight back or even ensuring civilisation survives at the cost of the few over the many, each feels like a story that could easily have been omitted from the books overarching collection of personal and individual observations of life in the World War Z universe.

Combat is your standard over the shoulder style employed by third person shooters for over a decade now, although it bears far more similarities to the Rebellion based shooters like Zombie Army and Strange Brigade over the more cover based shooters such as Gears of War, Vanquish or Spec Ops. This movement based shooters are always more chaotic and World War Z benefits greatly from the lack of this mechanic, especially during horde attack set pieces.

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Combat is your tried and tested affair. If you have played any third person shooter, it will feel second nature; the face buttons change weapons, reload, vault and crouch, while aim down sights and firing are initially aligned to the trigger buttons, with melee and class specific equipment on the bumpers. The team at Saber have fine-tuned the mechanics, it feels inately responsive. With such a large scale of enemies bearing down on you at most times, any issues on this would be instantly obvious, but throughout it feels smooth and accurate.

When you begin, you select one of the six classes on offer, all of which have their own perks and loadouts. Gunslinger is your default class, starting out with rifles and SMG’s as their opening selection and when unlocked can receive perks that buff their damage output and resistances, the Slasher is the brute of the team specialising in close combat damage and stealth, but with SMG’s available for those moments where you can get overwhelmed, the Hellraiser excels in explosives and is best at taking out hordes of zombies at a distance, while the Exterminator is focused on setting up traps to slow and disable the encroaching hordes.

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Rounding out the selection are the more support based classes, Fixer and Medic. Where the Fixer is the heavy weapons expert they can also keep the team running with their ammo drops, and perks like “Please Stand Up” allow you to pick up the entire team if everyone is down but not out, while the Medic is equipped with a range revive that can sometimes mean the difference between wiping and surviving. These classes are both weaker in combat than their compatriots, but their utility skills make them a useful addition to any team. Completing any of the eleven chapters rewards you with experience that can be spent on skills and new weapon builds, which is the primary focus for post story multiplayer, while weapon upgrades themselves only become available with picking up and using the weapons in game. As you progress, you will eventually unlock most of the lower tiers weapons, with some of the higher tier weapons being found sporadically throughout the levels, or hidden in caches that can only be accessed using C4 you can find occasionally as you play. These do not carry over, and while some classes can start with a set of C4 to begin, you will find the best weapons and defences in these store rooms.

Each level has key set pieces, where you must hold position against waves of enemies numbering in their hundreds, and to facilitate this you will be forced to stop and reinforce a position utilising, as above, defences found in that area and in store rooms. These defences can be deployed to help deal with the encroaching flood of enemies ranging from barbed wire and electrified floors to slow the hordes down, to automated and fixed turrets. These set pieces are the most film inspired sections of the game, with a flood of zombies scrambling, tumbling and vaulting over each other in a tidal wave of bodies. Usually you are in an elevate position allowing you to shoot out the base of the zombie pyramids that form to try to reach you, allowing you to manage the number of enemies getting in close range. Fail to keep them off your level and you can easily find yourself becoming totally overwhelmed, where other sections see the zombies pouring in and only held back by ringed fencing, allowing you to pick them off as they amass in a single place.

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Other than the standard zombie, there is also numerous default “elite” zombies that take their cue from the daddy of the zombie co-op games, Left 4 Dead. The Lurker is a sneaky tracksuited enemy that will pounce and pin you given half a chance, the Bull is a heavily armoured “SWAT” like zombie that will should charge you down, and easily pick you up and smash you into the ground for huge damage, the Gasbag is a hazard suit wearing zombie that explodes in a cloud of poisonous gas when killed and the screamer is a megaphone wearing worker that will continually summon regular zombies until you take him down, while the spitter, only added in the year one roadmap, has the ability to attack at range with caustic poison and can self revive if not fully finished off.

For all that it does right, the biggest drawback to World War Z is the repetition. While some of the levels have alternate routes and randomised mission item locations, these key set pieces are a bit one and done. Once you know the route the enemies will take to reach you, taking them down becomes less and less terrifying and more manageable. When the fear of being overwhelmed is removed, as you can successfully predict their routes it does begin to drag on the replayability. Saber are aware of the limitation it has, and alongside the additional mission released for the Tokyo map, the second year of dlc will see further stories being released to increase the number of levels to try to minimise the lack of diversity that creeps in after several hours of play.

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While there is plenty of scope in the weapon and class development, World War Z never feels as open, fluid and engaging as the game it is primarily imitating. A lot of people will see the similarities between World War Z and Left 4 Dead, and while there is numerous similarities, in reality World War Z is more akin to a “branded” version of that other 3rd person zombie shooter, Zombie Army, and while both have their unique selling points, (zombie floods and slow motion kills respectively), there is still a L4D shaped hole that could be filled in the current gaming environment.

Overall, World War Z is a well realised and polished game, that just falls down on its repetitiveness, but until a proper successor to Left 4 Dead appears, this will happily fill in the gap for those zombie killing fans among you, especially with the continued support and free dlc promised from the developer over the coming year.

 

Midlife Gamer Rating: 8/10     Format:  PC/PlayStation 4/Xbox One    Release Date: Out Now

Disclosure: Midlife Gamer purchased a copy of World War Z for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of  one week. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.

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