Disclosure: A free code of this game was obtained from Saber Interactive for review purposes.
Remember the days of the arcade? Sometimes they’d exist on their own, but other times there would be an assortment of arcade games in a movie theater or bowling alley. No matter the assortment of games, there would always be a co-op shooter where you and a friend would grab a couple of plastic guns and have at it shooting zombies, spies, or some other faceless enemy. It wasn’t too threatening or complicated, but it sure was fun. That’s the feeling you’ll get from playing World War Z.
Developed by Saber Interactive, World War Z is the cooperative zombie horde shooter that has been missing from the gaming market for some time. Some may focus on the nostalgia from the Left 4 Dead series or other zombie thrillers, but this game has its own merits and short comings. Personally, I have not seen the World War Z movie, read the book, nor have I played much of this genre in the past, so I only have my different gaming experiences to pull from, but if you are also looking to get into the cooperative class-based zombie shooter genre, stay tuned.
The first thing that you notice when you start the game is the care the developers took towards the many character models. Each character is extremely distinct, with a different character to choose from for each of the four chapters currently in the game. The detail did not stop with the playable characters, however. Many times, throughout this game I caught myself reveling at the fact that the zombie design changed with each section of the stage. In particular, at one point in the campaign, you enter an old Soviet Research center, and to my surprise, many of the zombies were wearing the same lab coats that they wore on their tragic last day of work.
Conversely, there were some issues with the graphics/engine of the game that would occasionally break the realism that drew me in. Playing on PS4, there were times when combinations of large hoards with the use of explosive weapons would cause a severe drop in the frame rate, to the point where I was only getting a few frames per second. In a worst-case scenario, my game even crashed at these points. This was very frustrating for me because there is no checkpoint feature. Each mission in the game must be completed as a continuous stage or it is considered a failure, sending you back to the beginning to try again.
The graphics may be impressive for a $40 game, but if you are looking to buy World War Z for its plot you should probably look for something else. Being based off a book, you would expect a semi-decent story to be tied to your gameplay, however, I instead found myself laughing at the repetitive narrative and flat voice acting. That being said, what this game lacks in plot, it makes up for playability. This game is extremely accessible for any level of gamer with its wide range of difficulty settings. World War Z’s main focus is on cooperative gameplay, and this allows for a group of friends with any skill range to come together to play this game. For a 3rd person shooter, the controls are relatively intuitive and reliable at close and long ranges. It will take you a few hours to really start getting a hang of the controls and class system, but once you get it, the class system allows for continuous improvement, even if your squad cooperation hits some resistance. Overall, I believe that this feature will continue to bring back committed squads who seek to play at a high difficulty setting but won’t impress the casual solo player.
If Saber Interactive wants to increase re-playability for the solo queue player, there are some weaknesses of the game they would need to address in future updates and DLC packages. Most importantly, additional campaign chapters are needed in DLC to keep the game from getting too stale. Right now the base campaign is not very long, only taking a few hours to complete, so consistent DLC is pertinent. Another factor adding to the low re-playability in this game is how one-dimensional the story is. Currently, it feels as if there is only one solution to solve a problem you are faced with instead of allowing the player to make their own choices based on their gaming style. I believe that in future updates if they added multiple paths to an end location, or instead just eliminate many of the invisible walls restricting motion. That would allow players to feel as though they are playing the game instead of the game playing them and pushing them along to the objective.
All in all, I liken this game to a 2019 version of the original The House of the Dead arcade shooter. It is a one-dimensional zombie shooter with a high skill cap that is a blast to play with friends, but a little sad to play alone. While the game can get slow and monotonous at times, it all becomes worth it once you are put up against the seemingly impossible force of a full zombie horde.
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