Ever since trying out the original Left 4 Dead on Steam, I've been hooked on this particular sub-genre of shooters and put many, many hours into that game and its sequel, as co-operative zombie killing was just so much fun. Unfortunately, as we all know (especially Half Life fans...), Steam doesn't make games anymore, so fans of the Left 4 Dead franchise are forced to look elsewhere for their fix.
And that's where World War Z comes in. This title is obviously named after the World War Z book and movie, making this game a tie-in, .which is kind-of weird. I mean, first of all, the movie was released back in 2013! To be honest, there's only two things I really remember about World War Z: Brad Pitt and thousands of zombies using each other to climb up buildings and walls. Well, this game has one of those things in spades (and you can probably guess which one)!
Crazily enough, one of the things I ended up liking the most about World War Z was how they handled the story. Instead of just being a group of survivors, they actually split the story into four distinct campaigns, covering survivors from the United States, Russia, Israel and Japan. Each of these campaigns have four survivors you can play as, with their own background story that is unlocked as you play. In the world of World War Z, though, your past hardly matters anymore as survival is the key.
Each of these campaigns focuses on the party members fighting for survival (or perhaps acquiring a weapon to take out the hordes), and are surprisingly well-constructed. The story often features interaction with several NPC characters (including some escort missions but don't worry, these NPC's are hardy!) as you move from set-piece to set-piece, placed under attack by the horde a LOT through each campaign, often while trying to protect something or someone from the "freakers.” All in all, the story is surprisingly good and (more-importantly) sets the stage for the game play nicely.
Now onto the best part, the gameplay! If you've played games like Left 4 Dead (or Killing Floor) you'll be right at home. Before you start a game, you'll pick what class you want to be from multiple available choices, and each has a set of abilities to unlock. At the beginning, though, you definitely won't have many abilities, and that's one of the defining things about World War Z: the more you play, the more it rewards you. After each level, you'll unlock new abilities for your class and level up weapons. Of course, you'll need to purchase these upgrades with the points given but that lets you control how your character grows overall. And I feel like I need to point out, they give you plenty of points. This game isn't a micro-transaction filled mess like some others I can think of.
Each class has a primary and secondary weapon they start with, but honestly you can find and use any weapons as you come across them. Weapon boxes are frequent and randomly hand out weapons or extra healing items. There are also "Heavy Weapons" that you can only use one time (such as a rocket launcher). One other thing I liked was the addition of defense structures that you could find and set up. Things like automated or manual turrets, barbed wire and voltage grids help you keep the horde back long enough to survive. When a teammate does go down, you can fight your way back to them and help them up as they have a dying health bar but there will be times when you can’t be able to help someone. When that happens, they'll just be killed off, resurrecting them into another zombie a short while later. This is a really neat idea, even if your teammate returns to the group 60 seconds after they die off.
That sounds great, right? I enjoy the class variety quite a bit (and find myself constantly trying new classes and weapons as a result). Still, though, the core game play here really boils down to you and three friends (or online strangers) traveling from A to Z killing thousands of zombies along the way and that's still just as fun now as it was back then. The pacing of the campaign levels strikes a good ratio of actually traveling to "hold out against the zombies" moments tied to whatever objective you are trying to complete. Protecting NPC's while they work on a super weapon, holding out for your helicopter or boat to arrive, World War Z constantly finds a reason to throw the horde at you, and maps often include walls and fences to force the zombies to climb on each other (the biggest homage to the movie) to reach you.
Speaking of dying, the culprits that are going to get you are the "special zombies" that randomly spawn in as you play. You know the ones I'm talking about, and their addition here is the biggest reason people are going to call World War Z a Left 4 Dead clone. You have the "tank" zombie that will charge at you and slam you into the ground. You have the "creeper" zombie who will pounce on you and keep you pinned. You have the "screacher" zombie who brings in MORE zombies until you kill them off, and finally the "infected" zombie who spews a cloud of acid out once you kill them (that obviously hurts you). Yeah, the inspiration for these special zombies is pretty obvious, but don't they say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
Graphically, the game is quite solid. The decision to put in multiple campaigns brings a nice amount of variety to the game, and the developers didn't slack off with the environment details either as there's chaotic details strewn about each level. Plus, the level designs here are just fantastic, which I touched on earlier (they really do go out of their way to try to make environments where the zombies have to climb on each other to reach you, and I love it). The character and zombie designs are solid as well (especially the playable characters), but they didn't blow me away like the environments did.
The audio throughout the game does its job as well, with the actual music picking up when the danger does (fairly normal for this type of game, you get more of an ambient or combat soundtrack than anything else). The voice acting is well done, though, with every character sounding great and occasionally trading barbs with each other based on their backgrounds.
We both know these types of games are just naturally re-playable (although I highly doubt the PS4 version will get the type of mod-support that the PC may get). Still, World War Z takes it a step above with its various multi-player modes. You can play (and level up in) a variety of PvP modes including death match, king of the hill, flags and a supply gathering match among others. These multi-player matches add a lot of extra re-playability of course, and are fairly fun as well as they often add quirks like roaming zombie mobs from time to time.
All in all, World War Z is undoubtedly a ton of fun, especially if you have friends to play (and chat) with. If you're a fan of the Left 4 Dead games or Killing Floor, chances are very good you'll enjoy this game as well. If you aren't, I would recommend trying this game as a rental just to try it out before you dive in, as the entry price (for now) is rather high compared to similar games in the genre. And of course, remember to aim for the head.
It's good to meet you! I'm better known online as "Bkstunt_31" and have been writing Reviews and video game Strategy Guides/Walkthroughs for WAY too many years! Feel free to stop my my Facebook page and say hello! Have fun and keep playing!