If you’re reading this review, I already know the question you want answered: Is World War Z more fun than the Left 4 Dead series? No. It isn’t. Let me make this clear though: that’s not really its fault. It’s not by any stretch a bad game. In fact, it’s very competently made. It’s just that it comes at a time when zombie games are starting to feel tired and overdone, and it doesn’t do anything new gameplay wise. It’s one of the most forgettable types of games: A well-made, but ultimately not particularly original one.
As a package, World War Z has great presentation. Environments are nicely detailed and varied, with each chapter of the campaign taking place in a major city that looks true to life and features unique geography and architecture. Visual effects are equally impressive. Blood splatters, flying limbs, explosions, bullet decals, and muzzle flashes abound, and it’s all very chaotic and overbearing (in a good way). The sound also has a rewarding chunkiness to it. Guns sound realistic and meaty, enemies (and the body parts they’ve had separated from them) hit the ground with a satisfying thud, high-resolution directional sound allows for accurately locating where enemies are coming from, and excellent effects processing adds satisfying echoes when in tunnels and soaks up gunfire in wide open spaces.
But where the game really shines is the sheer number of enemies on screen at any time, and how well they’re animated. Combat encounters will have players facing off against hundreds of zombies at a time, which clamber and trip over one another, jump over obstacles, form huge pyramids to get to higher ground, and react accordingly based on where they’re shot, slashed, or bashed. And god damn, it runs like a dream even when shit is truly hitting the fan. Console versions maintain a locked 30 FPS, and a mid-range PC can easily run the game above 60 FPS with all the graphical settings maxed out. Very few titles can handle the sheer amount of detailed action on screen at such rock solid frame rates.
However, it’s just not really all that original or fun to play. Don’t get me wrong, it works absolutely fine: The net coding is good, controls are tight and responsive, and there are very few bugs. But it’s just so generic. Following the tried and tested squad based formula, players pick a class and team up with their friends (or AI partners) to form a four-person team and complete basic objectives across a series of levels, slaughtering hordes of the undead along the way.
Each class has a specific starting weapon (though can equip any weapon after earning some experience), unique active and passive skills, and a special item. There is definitely enough difference between the weapons, skills, and items to actually make it worth trying each class. The Medic, for instance, can immediately resurrect teammates with healing stims, while the Hellraiser gets access to Molotov cocktails. Experience points can be spent to unlock or upgrade skills, and each weapon can individually be leveled up.
Although that makes it sound like there is a great deal of depth to the gameplay, the reality is it mostly just creates an intense grind, and the game itself is quite repetitive. It’s entirely possible to burn out on the gameplay loop well before maxing out all the characters. Each mission will involve a basic objective like switching on a generator or defending a position, which can be completed by any player, meaning that classes really only affect combat. And even though the action itself is reasonably satisfying at first (the first time you throw a grenade at a zombie pyramid and watch the whole thing collapse is definitely enjoyable), there’s really nothing new here. Hordes primarily contain basic cannon fodder style runners, and the “special” zombies are your basic tank, biohazard, scream-and-bring-more-zombies, and stalker types we’ve seen plenty of times before. With how long it takes to fully upgrade even one weapon and character, there really needs to be more variety on offer in terms of objectives and enemy types.
World War Z is going to appeal to two types of people: Hardcore horde-based action game fans who can’t get enough of taking down waves of cannon fodder, and people who haven’t played many zombie titles. But if you’re feeling worn out on the whole zombie trend or on team-based shooters, this isn’t going to rejuvenate your enthusiasm.
World War Z (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
World War Z is very competently made and has very few flaws, but it's just nothing we haven't seen plenty of times before.