Regardless of the final execution, it’s clear that the developers of World War Z know exactly what it takes to provide a memorable experience when playing through a story mode. Any game that provides an emphasis on co-op play instantly is a win in my books. There simply aren’t enough of such games, and most that do provide a co-operative experience, only do so as an afterthought. However, playing co-operatively is at the core of World War Z. There is something truly unique about a co-op campaign mode. Firstly, it means that any minor issues within the game become more forgivable as you play with your friends. After all, you’re too busy having a great time together and are therefore constantly hooked into the game. It also means you can experience a game socially without it having to be competitive. World War Z hits all of these boxes perfectly, and its campaign even manages to provide moments of magic that my friends and I will continue to talk about for a while.
In recent times, zombie co-op shooters seem to be the norm, and WWZ doesn’t disappoint. It seems that the rise of the Call of Duty zombies modes (in addition to titles such as Left 4 Dead) has paved the way for other publishers to want to get in on the action. Sure, if you’ve played some of the other zombies games, you’ll naturally want to compare them to WWZ. WWZ doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel. There is nothing unique or innovative about the game. I even believe that the developers purposefully went down this route. Instead, they just wanted to deliver a solid zombies shoot-em-up using the WWZ brand as a means to do it.
Anyone who has either seen the movie or read the book will expect one thing – a massive horde of zombies. Unlike some of the other zombies games that throw small groups of the undead your way, the WWZ franchise has become widely recognized for the sheer volume of zombies that the human race has to face off against. I am glad to say that this fact also remains true in the game. In fact, the number of zombies you’ll see on the screen far surpasses even what the likes of Left 4 Dead was able to achieve. Of course, this will also be largely down to the power of current-gen consoles, but I am still relieved that the developers were able to capture the true essence of the WWZ brand. Despite playing co-operatively, you’re always supposed to feel that you’re outnumbered and therefore constantly fighting for your life. WWZ achieves that with flying colours, which makes this feeling one of the greater achievements of the developers.
There is a total of 11 missions that you need to get through. Each mission provides enough diversity both in level design and the tasks that require completing. As an example, some missions will have you holding your ground as you barricade a safe house. Some may require you to take the offensive route by detonating explosives. Regardless of what you’re doing, talking to your comrades has never been more crucial. In many shooters (including multiplayer games), there is always one fool who runs off on his own thinking that he can take on the rest of the team. Quite often, he may even succeed. However if you do that in WWZ, you’re going to get punished. To succeed, the team needs to communicate and stick together. Sometimes, you need to leave your post to help an ally who is being ambushed. Other times, you may even need to take risks and leave your post to try and find more ammo and gear. There are opportunities to explore, which you’ll want to do if you want to find as much gear as possible. Unfortunately, the missions only last about 30 minutes each, some a little less. You can probably complete the whole game in about 6 hours, which isn’t a huge amount of time invested.
The formulae used for a lot of the missions will seem familiar. In particular, the missions that require you to defend your zone is reflective of what you will experience in Call of Duty’s zombies mode. You even get a short time to prepare before the zombies start pouring in from every direction. I would have preferred if the developers took a slightly different direction, but it is a formula that has worked in the past and there didn’t seem any intention of changing it for WWZ. Despite making the comparison to CoD, I do have to admit that the level design in WWZ is much better. The missions where you have to actively complete an objective are a lot more creative and enjoyable.
To further make things interesting, there isn’t just one type of zombie. Instead, you’ll occasionally encounter special zombies and each one of these need to be defeated using a different tactic. Some of these special zombies may try to get close to you so that they can unleash a poisonous gas. Others summon even more zombies. The Bull is my favourite, since that zombie can rush at you and completely kill you instantly. Just when the mission is going your way, Bull can completely turn things around if given the chance.
If the special zombies weren’t enough, to make you feel out of your comfort zone, the weapons you have access to are minimal and don’t even deal the greatest of damage. You have basic SMGs and shotguns, but in addition there are special weapons that you need to find. These weapons are rare so if you find them, you’ll need to wait for the right moment to use them. I do wish that there was more diversity with the weapon choice. I don’t mind that they’re weak, but it would have been fun to at least have a better variety of weapons to choose from. It just seemed like my friends and I were trying to race for the rocket launcher. Why not unlock a fun mode where once we have completed the campaign, we can replay it with everyone starting off with rocket launchers etc?
Like other traditional shooters, WWZ also has a class system for your characters. There are six classes to choose from. Depending on which class you belong to, you’ll be more of an expert in healing, explosives, gun damage or even as a medic. None of the classes are unique to WWZ; you will have seen them all before in other shooters. The longer you play as a class, the more abilities you will unlock. Unfortunately, you can really choose any class since the differences are so minimal that the class-based system may as well be removed. The only exception to this is the fact that each class has a special weapon that can often act as a difference maker during a battle. If you play the game on an easier difficulty, these specialist weapons aren’t needed, but they become very useful on a challenging difficulty.
Visually, WWZ certainly beats some of its competitors. I’d much rather enjoy a zombies game based in famous cities like Tokyo and New York. The developers have done a great job in depicting a post-apocalyptic world through cities that we’re all familiar with. Even when zombies are rushing down a street and falling from the tops of skyscrapers simultaneously, my PS4 Pro was able to cope with the action. This just wouldn’t have been possible with older-generation consoles. In many ways, WWZ is a fantastic advert for what current-gen consoles can do.
The game is so specific to a four-player experience that it will even replace missing players with bots. If you’re missing a human player half way through a mission, a bot takes his/her place. This is perhaps where the game’s cracks begin to appear. Unfortunately, the friendly AI is not up to scratch. I don’t expect the bots to be as effective as humans, however they don’t even stick to the team. They run off on their own and quite often, get stuck. Fortunately, I spent 95% of my time playing with three other humans, so I didn’t experience the full extent of the useless friendly bots. I’d rather have a lacklustre friendly bot than awful enemy AI. Fortunately, the enemy AI is spot on.
Despite the main attraction being PvE, there is a PvP mode in WWZ too. Here, you can play king of the hill, deathmatch and an objective-based mode where you need to gather vaccines. The hit detection seemed on point and the maps work well even in a PvP setting. However, WWZ will not be going eSports anytime soon. It does feel that PvP is an afterthought and whilst the mode is fun with friends for a short while, you won’t see yourself playing it for too long. The only unique selling point is that there are rarely any stalemates, since even in the PvP modes, zombies sometimes rush through to centralise the action. They help flush out campers, which is a stroke of genius.
World War Z was a very enjoyable experience. It provides a blend of what’s great about Left 4 Dead, Killing Floor and CoD’s zombies mode. I particularly appreciate that the developers focused on the co-op element of the game, since there aren’t enough games that provide a great co-op experience. If it weren’t for the fact that the game only has a six hour PvE campaign and a basic PvP mode, I could see myself playing it for a lot longer. As things stand, unless there are any plans for additional (and free) DLC, I cannot find any reasons to go back to it.