Since Valve is more interested in selling other people’s games these days, it was only a matter of time before another developer would spiritually carry the Left4Dead torch. Heavily inspired by L4D and L4D2, World War Z feels like it could be L4D2.5. With so many similarities between these two franchises, it is difficult to not compare the two but glad Saber Interactive stepped in where Valve will not.
WWZ, which is an offshoot of the Brad Pitt movie which was an offshoot of the novel, essentially follows the same formula as the L4D games only with a stronger emphasis on the zombie horde. Up to four players can join to traverse a linear path to the end of each stage. Along the way, there will be buttons to press, positions to defend, switches to activate, and a ton of zombies to kill. Each of the four campaigns are composed of a few different stages but will only take a few hours to complete them all. There is also little reason to replay these campaign stages unless you are an Achievement hunter and want to maximize the optional upgrades.
The one feature that WWZ does differently is the weapon upgrading system. As the player kills more zombies with each weapon, the weapon levels up like any RPG. Once a higher rank has been gained, then new gun perks become available such as a bigger magazine, a scope for zooming, or faster reloads. For the most part, these unlocks do not truly alter gameplay as players should be able to clear the campaign just fine without upgrading anything unless playing on the steeper difficulties. It is just a disappointment that all playable characters play exactly the same despite the developers writing backstories for all of them. There are different character classes but the difference is mostly just the starting loadout and a way to artificially extend gameplay time if players feel the need to max all stats. Although not designed for it, I can’t help but feel that something is missing from the lack of a jump feature; a third person shooter without the ability to jump sort of doesn’t feel right. Also, there is a crouch button but the game never requires its use and only the best of competitive multiplayer players will possibly utilize it.
The way WWZ stands out and separates itself from L4D is the zombie swarming feature. Like the scenes in the corresponding movie, zombies can form a massive human ladder to reach new heights quickly by piling on top of each other. Zombies can also just fall from the ceiling like raindrops on a window, climb from ledges underneath you, and simply charge forward or release gas clouds like the special zombie types in L4D. Gun play also feels more satisfying as popping headshots just feels right and zombies are more reactive to body shots. There are times, however, when randomly shooting into a huge crowd of zombies will cause some extra unseen kills. Like, did that one pistol bullet really kill those three zombies in one shot when they weren’t even next to each other? Although it isn’t pixel perfect, it is still entertaining and has a slight arcade touch to it. There is just something fun about mowing down a throng of zombies with a partner at your side, both wielding machine guns, or chucking a grenade into the human pyramid only to watch it crumble and rebuild.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is what makes WWZ so entertaining but there are some flaws that hold back the experience. On more than one occasion I experienced full game lock ups and strange glitches such as doors not opening when they are supposed to. One scene even locked out one of my random co-op companions, preventing the rest of the group from moving forward. Luckily, this odd man out knew what happened and managed to kill himself so the rest of the group could continue without resetting. It is also a bummer that there is no private lobby option. With a game built around co-op play, having difficulty partnering with your friends list shouldn’t be so difficult. Luckily, these are things that can hopefully be patched in the future. It is also weird to jump into a game that is essentially starting the ending cutscene.
There is a PvP option but the progression system is independent of the campaign. All the expected game types are here and competitive multiplayer fans should get at least a few hours of fun from it. However, everything here is typical and nothing that has not been done before. This is something to dip your toe into when the campaign has been cleared.
World War Z has some spectacular moments such as taking down a literal wall of zombies (doesn’t get old), but the rest of the package feels a bit hollow. Suffering from repetition, an empty story, and a progression system that feels shoehorned, this fast paced shooter can still provide a handful of entertaining hours even with its flaws… after you have played the first two L4D titles to completion.
Also available on PS4 and PC.
Not As Good As: Valve’s offerings
Also Try: Zombie Revenge (Dreamcast or Arcade)
Wait For It: World War Z 2 the movie