World War Z is a third-person shooter zombie game developed by Saber Interactive and published by Mad Dog Games on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC (exclusive on Epic Games). It was released in the second quarter of 2019, which is back on April 16 to be exact.
This game is closely compared by a lot of players to the classic co-op shooter series, Left 4 Dead. In my opinion, they have a point, and I will probably compare some of World War Z’s elements to Left 4 Dead since I imagine that the latter is the pinnacle of co-op zombie games, or at least at one point, it was.
My girlfriend and I are both suckers for zombie games, so we have already played hundreds of rounds of World War Z. It did not bother us much that the rounds were somewhat repetitive, but that might just be because we are zombie game fanatics.
This review is based on its final free update of season 2 which added the crossplay feature with Xbox One. Although, I will also mention later how the launch version of the game is quite subpar compared to the current update.
The story of World War Z is based on the 2013 movie of the same name, which is kind of mediocre at best. Although, of course, some of the elements are also based on the World War Z book. Honestly, I have not read the books so I have no idea how close-knit it is to the source material. I assume this game heavily leans on the movie adaptation, which I think is not good at all.
Anyway, probably the closest thing that it takes from the book that I know of is that we are put in the shoes of various groups of people from different countries. So far, what we have are New York, Jerusalem, Moscow, and Tokyo. Each map has different groups of characters you could play and each city has a different story to tell. Although, it is the same concept of escaping the city as it is being overrun by zombies, or zeds as they call them. The difference, however, is how they survive and what they did to escape the city.
I suggest you play each character so you can get their background story. You have to finish a mission using a character to unlock it though. Each character has around three minutes worth of backstory on how they ended up being a survivor in the game. It acts like a collectible, which was scarce in World War Z at launch, but in the recent update, you can finally get a new skin or accessories for the characters.
Personally, some of the origins of these characters are kind of way off the mark on how they interact in the missions. Although, I guess the outbreak has changed them but everyone seems to have a platonic relationship despite having little to no interactions throughout the missions. This is different compared to Left 4 Dead which only lets you play with the same guys throughout the whole game, giving the characters more chances to interact with each other, as well as having continuity for the group’s story.
The story for each campaign is bare bones. Dialogue is very linear and does not offer any variety of sorts. The characters are way too serious in the game and put too much focus on accomplishing the mission, which is fine normally, but they have terribly boring personalities.
Originally, most of the campaigns only have three chapters, which runs around fifteen to twenty minutes to complete. The length of each chapter is fine for a mission in a co-op game. However, I believe that the overall campaign is still quite short, even after they added new chapters throughout the year. This renders all the characters forgettable, considering how each location has a different set of characters to play.
Quick math: 4 locations x 3 chapters = 12 missions in total, then 12 missions x 15 minutes for each and we will end up with a total of at least 180 minutes or 3 hours of game time. It is lacking in content for the price it initially asked for, which is $34.99. Even if you include the three chapters added later on, it would only add 45 to 60 minutes of game time. It is a good thing they did a price drop to $22.99 now, and they even gave it for free from March 26 to April 2, 2020.
Right now, I would give it a five (5), it used to be a four (4) or 4.5 when it first launched, but since they added more scenarios from the past several months. The added point is a good reward for the developers since their updates are free. Sadly, the game is still just way too short and very linear. I wish that these different characters reach a point where they interact with each other, but at least for now, we still have a storyline for a game like this, and we are not moving from one point to another without a narrative. Although, as I said, the more time we get to spend with these characters the better.
Now, how about the visual designs of World War Z?
The graphics of World War Z are definitely not that great, but imagine hundreds and hundreds of zombies running towards you in a video game. With the help of Saber Interactive’s Swarm Engine, it is now possible and it is really terrifying to watch, especially when the only stopgap is a fence or a bunch of cars that now serve as a barricade. Props to them for actually getting it right just like what we saw in the movie.
The details of this game are above average when it is close up, especially when you check the character models on the main menu. The guns look really good, especially when it is upgraded. The characters look unique on their own, I especially like the guys in Jerusalem, specifically Ethan Wolfe. He just looks so badass in my opinion.
Zombies, on the other hand, may get their limbs torn off when being shot with different guns, and it is satisfying to use the shotgun here as you see the zombies fly back when you kill them using it.
For world design, I honestly think they managed to get it right. All chapters have a different look and feel. I mean, I have never been to both New York and Moscow, but one definitely looks like an urban city in the United States and the other one looks like a city that has been covered by snow in Russia.
The lighting is also pretty decent in most cases, especially on the parts that are dark and in a closed space. A good example of this is the first Jerusalem mission and the last Tokyo mission. These two take place in the dark and showcase good lighting from start to finish. I just want to emphasize that the other missions do not really slack in this department either.
The animation for World War Z is fluid enough, which actually reminds me of The Division without the cover system. Shooting the rushing zombies toward you is really fun, and some have really wobbly physics, but still realistic most of the time.
However, I did notice an anomaly with some of the animations such as when you are doing melee attacks, your character sometimes slides from one zombie to another, which looks really wonky and unnatural. Characters are not even moving their mouth when talking. Moreover, there are also some clipping issues like falling off the map or getting stuck in an area, this is apparent in the Tokyo missions, but these are very rare occasions.
I believe a six (6) for the graphics of World War Z is a just rating. I feel like that this could have been improved so much more. Although I really dig the Cruise Control mission, that was one mission that is visually pleasing to see.
How fun is World War Z, you ask? Honestly, it is fun when playing with friends and strangers if you manage to have a decent conversation with them. Again, very similar to how people play Left 4 Dead.
At the start of each mission, you may select which character you want to play as. I highly suggest you choose different characters as it will unlock their animated introduction after completing a mission with them.
You can also select one of the 6 classes available in this game, which are: Exterminator, Fixer, Gunslinger, Hellraiser, Medic, and Slasher. These classes are not bound to a character, which is nice since you get to play your preferred class and character. I have not tried all of the classes but personally, I like Fixer and Medic since I usually play support roles in games. In addition to that, these classes have really good perks/skills that could help you and your team survive the massive waves of zombies.
Moreover, these classes come with multiple perks, which are categorized in segments. Segments contain three perks each, and every time you level up, you will unlock one perk, and it is up to you to decide whether you like to buy it and use it. You can only use one perk per segment, and this is to balance each class.
Each class has a weapon they start with at the beginning of each mission. This can be changed by buying and using perks that give you a new starting weapon. But while in a mission, you can still exchange your weapons with others that you may come across along the way. Speaking of weapons, there are three types: primary, secondary, and heavy. Both primary and secondary can be categorized into tiers, the higher the tier the better. On the other hand, heavy weapons are the strongest, but they are rare and only have limited ammo. They are the best guns against hordes.
Primary and secondary weapons can be upgraded, which adds more depth to the weapons of the game. However, since both upgrading weapons and getting new perks cost money, you have to juggle or decide which is better to get as it takes a while to grind money.
For the level design of the game, the locations do not really feel boring even after passing through the locations for the 10th time. Although, I wish there would be more branching paths rather than a very linear path towards the end goal. I did notice that some parts of the map are shorter depending on the difficulty that you chose. When I noticed it for the first time, I thought the map was randomly generated which would really be a nice feature, but sadly it is not.
Controls are very straightforward to learn, and I did say earlier that this game is like The Division without the cover system, so if you have played that, then you know how to play this game. Shooting zombies is very satisfying, each weapon has its pros and cons. Moving around is not clunky at all, so you can easily run away from attacking zombies while shooting them.
I have mentioned earlier that each mission is short, but there are some locations that are bottlenecks for your team. These are the parts of the mission where hordes of zombies will come after you while you defend something, either people or gates.
These usually take around three to five minutes, and it takes a huge chunk of each mission as there are at least two spots within the whole length of the mission that a zombie bottleneck would take place. A bunch of defense items such as turrets, barricades, and more will be provided around these areas where you can plant them to help you against the zombie attacks. If you have a breaching charge, which you get from a perk or find somewhere in the mission, you can use it to acquire additional defense kits or guns. This is the most fun part of the game as you can strategize the best way you see fit.
Additionally, there are also special zombies just like in Left 4 Dead. Special zombies from WWZ have some similarities with that of L4D’s but they are not entirely the same. Examples of similar zombies are: the Bull, which is likened to the Charger, and they also have Creeper, which is like the Hunter. An example of a unique special zombie in World War Z is the Gasbag, which lets out dangerous gas around the area when killed unless you shoot him in the head. The Infector is another special infected, which spits at you and affects your vision. You also have to disinfect immediately before you turn into a zombie. We also have the Screamer, which literally shouts and calls zombies upon you. They also have Bombers that explode themselves once they are near you or when they die. The developers may add more soon as some of these are not really included when the game initially launched, just like the Infector.
As for the difficulty, easy is way too unchallenging, even if you are level one. Normal is a lot difficult if you haven’t reached level five yet, or if you are not used to playing World War Z. I suggest you play Normal once you reach level four to give you a challenge, plus you have two usable perks unlocked by that time. The hard difficulty and anything above that are the real kickers if you want a challenge. No medkits when you start the mission, lack of supplies along the way, and friendly fire is on. On easy or normal difficulty, friendly fire does not hold a heavy consequence, but in this one, you can easily knock down your teammates if you are not careful.
Once you have unlocked all of your desired perks, try Very Hard and Insane. After that, you have the Six Skulls or Extreme difficulty, which cranks it way more. This makes the game not feel boring even after several runs, and I believe it is worth playing all the missions at least until on the Insane difficulty. What makes these missions exciting is that they are fast-paced and really heightens your alertness especially during parts where there are zombie swarms. The pacing is really good however, dying over and over again is really frustrating.
I highly recommend playing with friends or strangers. If you have not found people to play with, you can utilize the bots. They are pretty decent in most cases, but you will find it a little bit frustrating on harder difficulties especially when you are planning to defend a place since they just stand in predetermined spots like a random soldier.
With the recent patches, you can even play solo mode, and this makes World War Z a little bit suspenseful since you have no one to save you just in case you are being overwhelmed.
I also like that they added private servers later on because when the game first launched, it was really annoying to join a game that is already halfway done every time you want to play. It was very rare that you get to start at the beginning of the map.
With the private server, you can disable bots so you can play as a duo or trio with your friends. You can also modify the game with modifiers. These are changes that will make the mission easier or harder, depending on what modifiers you have turned on.
Challenges are also provided every week, which gives you Challenge Coins once completed. With these Challenge Coins, you can purchase new skins and accessories for your characters. We also have a horde mode, which is really fun. Basically, you defend the airport hangar, use defense items, and finish off as many waves as you can until your team dies.
So yeah, that is the player versus enemies or PvE of World War Z. It is really fun, and I think it deserves an 8.5 at most, if only the developers focused on this part more, instead of the game’s PvP.
Yup, you heard it right, World War Z has PvP for some reason. I am not saying PvP is bad, but this game does not have survivors vs zombies type of PvP, instead, it just has the mindless PvP with sprinkles of zombies on it as a gimmick.
I think that they focused too much on the PvP aspect of the game, as it has more than five modes! This really reminds me of the first Star Wars: Battlefront. A lot of game modes and only a handful are playing them. Basically, 60% of the modes are not used at all, and now that the game’s initial hype has gone down, I am pretty sure I only got to play two modes: Swarm Domination and King of the Hill. I only managed to play those modes because of the quick match feature which allows players to join lobbies with a lot of people already.
It is not fun at all, and you can play other better games without the zombies. It has the typical class system that you level up, and they also have a different loadout per class. If you have played games like Call of Duty or Battlefield, then you basically know what those classes are. PvP really dragged down the score of the gameplay aspect.
A seven (7) is a pretty good score for this aspect of World War Z. Although, it used to be around six (6) when it initially launched last year because they did not have a private server and the modifiers. Nowadays, I almost gave this an 8.5, but with the PvP being so generic and bland, I cannot give it higher than a seven (7). Furthermore, I really wish the developers continue to make this game grow as I believe that mods will never be available.
Moving on with the sounds aspect of the game, there is no doubt that the voice acting is impressive! Thanks to the seasoned veteran voice actors like Greg Chun who voiced Hiroji, Rick Zieff who voiced Greengold, and many others. Of course, we also have newcomers such as Kyoko Okazaki who voiced Kimiko, Shani Atias as Mizarhi, and Yutaka Takeuchi as Tatsuo. These guys did a great job for their first-time voice acting in a video game.
My problem is connected to what I have said in the story aspect of World War Z; the delivery is good but there is an obvious lack of variety in what they say, and sadly, it makes them so repetitive when you keep playing the same missions all over again. It definitely lacks quips and overall interaction for the characters. One good example is the Horde Mode, it is a new mode, but there is little to no dialogue added, and that was mostly just the PA announcer.
As for its official soundtrack, it builds up to the urgency of the game especially when the zombie swarm happens. This is not a horror game, this is a fast-paced action zombie game, and for that, the soundtrack greatly fits all together, and some of the scores are really good.
The overall game sound design is solid. Shooting zombie flesh has that crisp feel to it. Guns have different sounds although most of them probably sound suppressed since you would prefer it that way in a zombie apocalypse. Special zombies’ sounds are distinguishable from one another, and explosions are loud but not too much. The ambiance is fine. No place is quiet, and if it is, you can still hear the wind gushing. You can also hear where the hordes are coming before they are near you, so you can prepare yourself for the waves of zombies.
I would give this aspect a seven (7). Yes, I highly praised the voice actors for this one. Some parts of the soundtrack are actually great, and the sound design is pretty well-made. I initially gave it an eight (8), but the lack of variety in dialogues hurts the rating. For the soundtrack, as much as I like some of it, there are also parts that sound generic despite being a great fit for the game.
For the replay value of World War Z, it is best correlated with the story and the gameplay that we have discussed earlier. This game, just like Left 4 Dead, is best to do reruns of the same mission over and over again. This is a way to grind for money and level up your classes in World War Z.
Yes, the game is too short since you can basically play the whole game in just one sitting as it is just around three to four hours long. However, you have to play all of these missions again on a different difficulty. It would take you probably at least another two to four hours of grinding to get your first prestige unless you do some of the game’s exploits to get money.
I am actually glad that they have brought down the price from $39.99 initially to $34.99, and that was when I bought the game on its launch date. Nowadays, it has dropped to $22.99 after a year being on the shelf. This has relatively better pricing than before.
Plus, props for Epic Games for making this free for a week during the pandemic, and it really boosted their player base, but despite that, PvP is still dead. Apparently, the servers cannot handle a lot of people, since I never really had a disconnection issue since launch until the time this game went for free. Now, I get disconnected every 10 to 15 minutes, which is really annoying. It happens mostly during horde mode too. Reinstalling the game fixed the issue though.
I also like that most of their updates are free. Now, they have challenge mode, horde mode, and a couple of new story missions. Crossplay is also a feature now for PC and Xbox one users. PlayStation 4 may take a while before they get that feature. Those are the season 2 updates. However, this game lacks content. We need more story missions, and horde mode, sadly, only has one map. On the other hand, challenge mode varies every week, which is fun to play. A good example is that you may get nerfs like your perks and attacks are a lot weaker than usual, but you will encounter fewer hordes in return.
They recently announced a new version of the game which they called World War Z: GOTY Edition. It will come out on May 5, and it will include new weapon packs, new character packs, and a new three PvE episode set in Marseille, France. This is a good thing, but they did not announce how much the DLC would be as it is not free.
For the replay value, it gets a score of six (6), mainly because it is really a fun game especially when played with friends despite its shortcomings. This game still has a pretty decent amount of potential to be better in the future, and it can be more fun if we get mods in this game, but that is unlikely.
Finally, we finish up all the technical aspects of World War Z, and for the conclusion, it has a score of 6.2/10. It sounds like a good score in my opinion, but anything above 5 from my perspective is an above average game, so this game is in no way terrible.
Yes, the game is definitely lacking in the story aspect with all the different characters being played with their boring personalities, which dragged the score down a little bit, but it can be improved upon as long as the developers provide more storylines and content in the future.
Graphics have fine details here and there, but nothing extraordinary that will blow your mind, except the fact that you can actually see hundreds of zombies running towards you. Replay value for what the game is priced now sounds really reasonable at $22.99, and you can probably get this game with a $10 off voucher when Epic Games Store has a sale, but most of you probably got it already when it went free for sure.
Gameplay and sounds are the high points of World War Z, especially the gameplay as it could probably go higher if only the developers focus more on its PvE aspect, or just deliver a better PvP experience overall, but despite that, it is still a fun game to play for hours, especially with friends.
That is all for my review of World War Z. If you plan to get this and you missed the chance to get it when it was free for a week, make sure to have at least one friend to join you because it is more fun with them rather than strangers.