When I spotted World War Z mentioned in a press email we received my first thought was ‘why didn’t I know about this?’ quickly followed by ‘what’s the concept then?’. We have been fortunate enough to be provided with a review code for the game on PC through Epic Games and have managed to spend a few hours taking out swarms of zombies along with testing out the online PvP multiplayer aspect.
World War Z is third-person coop shooter based on the film (not the book) developed by Saber Interactive and published by Mad Dogs. The game is now available on PC via Epic Games, PS4 and Xbox One. At first I was unsure what kind of gameplay to expect other than taking on swarms of the dead but the game offers an online and offline coop campaign mode for up to 4 players. The game also offers PvP multiplayer with familiar FPS game modes such as Domination, King of the Hill and Deathmatch with two added modes of Scavenge Raid and Vaccine Hunt in which you’ll try to win against an opposing team but be warned, swarms will be incoming throughout. Both Campaign and Multiplayer have their individual level up systems allowing you to upgrade your weapons and perks, customise your classes in order to make your squad member the best they can be.
First up, let’s look at the campaign in which you make your way through 4 Episodes each taking place in New York, Jerusalem, Moscow and Tokyo which individually have 3 of their own Chapters to play through. Initially I thought you had to be teamed up with friends but you can get together with other players who are solo queuing or in a smaller squad to fight against the horde. You can also play offline if you want to take on the hordes yourself with come CPU operated folks! If you wish, there is the option to ramp up the difficulty which offers replayability once you have mastered the controls (which follow the standard FPS style and can be customised to work better for you) and have an idea of what to expect. The classes available cover what you would expect in this style of game with each specialist having certain skills. You can choose from Gunslinger, Hellraiser, Medic, Fixer, Slasher and Exterminator. When you play through, it’s worth testing out all of the classes to ensure that you are unlocking more perks for them. Once you have picked your class, you also get to pick a character so you can mix up who you are playing and aren’t stuck with the same character all of the way through.
The gameplay within the campaign mode is similar to that of Left 4 Dead, Zombie Army Trilogy and to a certain point The Division but this game uses the Swarm Engine to make the fights a little more relentless and intense. Generally speaking, you will have an overall objective to achieve and will make your way through the map stopping occasionally to gather intel, find a way to move forward, fight the swarm and continue this process until you reach your goal and finish the level. You might think this is easy but the game does throw in some unexpected dead treats such as Reapers who leap out from the shadows to catch you unawares, the Bull that charges, picks you up and relentlessly slams you down into the ground until you die unless your friends can save you and Hazmat Suit guys who emit a noxious gas once dead. These are ones to look out for as they can cause some issues if not dealt with quickly. I did find that some players rushed on occasionally leaving others behind which made for some awkward moments when they suddenly realised they had to come back. I dare say using some of the in game comms and chat would be useful if you aren’t playing with people you know. The campaign aspect is enjoyable overall though and I would be interested to see if I worked better in a squad that actually communicate with each other.
The PvP multiplayer reminded me more of the Uncharted 4 multiplayer to be honest and that is a good thing as I spent a lot of time playing that when the game was released. As I was unsure how the Campaign worked, I actually hit the multiplayer arena first which is a sure fire way to throw you in the deep end when you’re a couple of days behind everyone else and you don’t know the controls properly yet. I spent a lot of time in Domination as this is usually one of my preferred game modes but the other modes are also a lot of fun. Vaccine Hunt is essentially a version of Capture The Flag and if you’re up against a well organised team, it can be brutal. As mentioned before, playing as different classes will unlock new abilities for you in order to upgrade and each classes upgrades individually. I have taken a liking to the Specialist and Warfighter but that’s just because I’m not great at quick scoping on PC (yet) and I tend to dislike shotguns as I’m useless with them. I dare say I will spend a bit more time leveling the Trapper class because Claymores are fun and Support as dropping a Supply Bag can be very useful for restocking on frag grenades and the like when you’re running around.
The maps are pretty good with some advantage points for firing down on the enemy team but you also have to be aware that a swarm will appear every few minutes meaning you have to keep moving. The spawn location is randomised but there are a lot of the dead to take down while also trying to avoid being killed by the opposing team. I tend to let the dead take a player down to low health before finishing them off, you need to conserve your ammo after all! You can certainly tell when someone has leveled up a few times as they definitely feel more powerful when they kill you with a couple of bullets. I still haven’t managed to outplay someone with a melee kill yet though which is a little disappointing but I do get an enormous sense of satisfaction when revenge is mine after I drop a grenade as they kill me. The only thing that feels a little slow is the sprinting. I have my sprint control requirement to be held down as sometimes you need to slow up before coming around the corner as you can hear footsteps to a certain degree, but I found a lot of the time, I didn’t seem to be running which made it difficult to escape someone who was chasing me. Still this might just be a case of getting used to more realistic running mechanics more than anything… everyone gets out of puff after sprinting!
So let’s talk about the graphics, the game does look as you would exepct and the post apocalyptic scenery which echos that of the film and other Zombie style games or movies with broken barricades, abandoned cars, malls, train stations covered in dead bodies… everything is just a mess which one would expect. The Swarm Engine is very effective and you may even feel a small pang of dread when you see hundreds of sprinting dead hurling themselves in your direction as they all move and converge on your position as one. It’s creepy and a little bit intense. The sounds of the Swarm also add to this. It’s like a deafening rumble that advances on you and you always feel like there’s a Reaper nearby as you hear the eerie gargle in your vicinity waiting to pounce on you. The characters do have some scripted lines that they perform when needed and if you shoot them accidentally because they walk into your line of fire… which they do all of the time, then they will be sure to tell you to watch your aim. I didn’t necessarily feel emotionally attached to any of the characters but it was nice to have some chatter while playing through the campaign as I wasn’t playing with friends who would likely be talking over the dialogue.
The main niggles I have are with the leveling/upgrading. I can see why they have done it this way but you have your main level, your campaign level, your multiplayer level and then each class has its own level. This is the only thing I feel is a bit much. I am aware some players have had connectivity issues but during my playtime, I have not encountered any issues so I guess I got lucky for once. Some players might find it repetitive however I think the main challenge is in turning the difficulty all the way up and taking on the Swarm Engine at its peak output which is going to be a whole lot of Zombies. I think it’s just a shame that there aren’t a few more coop modes to enjoy as the Swarm mechanic works well and could be integrated into other modes.
Overall I would say the game is enjoyable but does fall short at times with a deeper meaning such as more character narratives and potential special modes in which you just fight waves of hordes for as long as you can. The game seems fairly balanced and although I haven’t gone beyond level two difficulty as of yet in the Campaign, I can imagine things get pretty hectic and hardcore the more you ramp it up which would be interesting to try out. The PvP multiplayer is also fun in its own way, it isn’t Call of Duty or Battlefield but it offers an arena for those of you who prefer to do PvP over PvE. At times the game does feel like a lesser Left 4 Dead but it’s still a bit of fun for those who want to shoot some Swarms with their buddies of an afternoon.