Review: World War Z (PlayStation 4)

Reviewed by Ben Sellwood, posted May 11, 2019
Looking forward to some organic zombie action.
May 11, 2019
  • Release Date (NA): April 16, 2019
  • Release Date (EU): April 16, 2019
  • Release Date (JP): April 16, 2019
  • Publisher: Mad Dog Games LLC
  • Developer: Saber Interactive
  • Genres: TPS
  • ESRB Rating: Adults Only
  • PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
  • Also For: Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
World War Z is the game based on the film based on the real life events of... no: it's pure sci-fi action horror at its body-stackingly bloodiest.
Ben Sellwood

attachFull164755

These days we are surrounded by zombie games, so does this leave any room for more? Are we facing an over-saturation of decaying and blood-soaked gaming? Time to buddy-up and investigate the cold harsh environment of World War Z.

If you've seen the 2013 film you probably know the premise, and you probably know you're going to face insurmountable odds to complete this mission. Going into the game with this knowledge and what people have told me is a "good head on my shoulders" I very swiftly came to the realisation that zombies don't drop ammo. Why would they? Resource conservation is king with sparse yet inevitable checkpoints for restocking on volatile projectiles or spiked goods, and nourishing your weapons with a serving of comforting delicious bullets. The corpse count is seemingly unfathomable; I couldn't keep track of the sheer volume of undead trying to disembowel my squad as they flocked in ever-increasing numbers, consistently ruining my cautious and clandestine style of play.

attachFull164891

The scene is set with a desolate vision of the present day world in a state of decay. Wreck and ruin is everywhere with cars strewn and abandoned amidst a frantic escape, clearly painting a picture of the events prior to starting the game. From the get-go you have five difficulty modes to choose from, ranging from easy to insane, a main character to pick out of the four available, each with their own load-outs, stats, and perks, and a grand total of six classes to level up! Each superbly detailed character also comes armed with a default level machete on R1 for those last stand moments, and to be honest it was probably my favorite weapon in the game; it's exceptionally fun for some frantic evisceration and close combat gore. Though the machete is my personal standout choice, I can see others finding the rocket and grenade launchers more up their alley depending on how much distance they like to keep between themselves and their foe. I loved getting up-close and personal with the horde, the experience increasing my sense of immersion and enhancing my fight-or-flight responses. While you might assume a well-aimed head shot would go a long way in contributing to your next level up, I found myself quite disappointed to see it simply not be the case. Whether with a silenced pistol or scoped rifle, you'll find no real difference between one well-placed shot or five in the torso, aside from the obvious conservation of ammunition.

attachFull164894

World War Z is heavily task-driven, and sadly makes an initially enjoyable experience feel repetitive and ultimately lacklustre. One scenario sees you advancing through an industrial-looking series of walkways with noxious gas creeping in, forcing you to systematically vent each area by hitting a button on a box before being able to proceed. This happens two to three times in a row, broken up with needing to find a key to activate the panel to vent the gassy area. Each box has its own unique key, and each key requires you track down up to three different bodies. It becomes laborious knowing you will almost certainly be wasting your time on the first two bodies, the game trying its best to drag out what could have been a fun idea in isolation. Another task sees you collecting supplies and taking them back to a train. Given the number of your AI comrades you might think it'd be a cakewalk, but it can never be so simple. While you're stuck doing the heavy lifting, your friends are huddled together elsewhere refusing both manual labour and the basic strategy of divide and conquer—either of these having the potential to greatly speed up the process. The boxes of supplies are randomly placed in groups of two and disappear as you pick them up, still leaving your hands free for the running and gunning. With this in mind, I found it distracting to see my allies unable to cover me the same way I could cover them when they were "holding" a box. While it makes sense from a gameplay standpoint for the player's hands to be constantly freed up, the lack of continuity took away from my overall sense of immersion. 

attachFull164892

Protection tasks have you quite predictably fending swarms of zombies from breaking into your given target. Zombies gradually "pyramid" up into stacks that can then bubble over onto your level of walkway, causing a flurry of undead to invade you while you thin them out and get back to the task at hand. There are multiple entry points per mission map for the hordes to secrete themselves from, meaning although there are a couple of obvious places to defend, there is always a constant trickle of brain biters coming from all angles. It makes for a more interesting area of containment as you cannot pin down one area and master it; you have to flank and fall back to clear up stragglers, which left unattended will cause more to gather and invade. You quickly get barraged with sheer numbers of creepers, this being where I found the adrenaline really kicks in: the sheer panic. WWZ feeds off the credo that noise is bad and the more you make the more trouble you will be in. It's those organic moments that really bring out the best of WWZ, with the strategising to attack in the cleanest way possible, while digging in and culling through the randomness of the masses.

The game claims to have a randomised method of distributing gear and enemy spawns, and while it is fiercely impressive getting rushed by a huge swarm of organically sprawling reanimated bodies, without fail, you will encounter non-random events that offsets that initial awe. Every few minutes you will hear a "Screamer" screaming, followed by other characters shouting "someone shut that Screamer up", or a "Bull" snorting and grunting followed by your team mates yelling out the obvious. It happens in the same spots, in the same way time and time again. It takes away from the immersion if you know what's going to happen and how it's going to play out (this is all without dying and respawning by the way). Even the scary moments were so repetitious that they became annoying, you can even see them laying in wait, like a badly hidden coiled spring ready to pounce. I found it disappointingly unsubtle, and it meant I could easily anticipate camping zombies ready to pin me into a berserk button-bash sequence. I also felt somewhat robbed in the fact I wouldn't even remotely get to crap my pants to well choreographed jump-scares.

attachFull164895

attachThumb164897attachThumb164896attachThumb164898

Having played this game on a PS4 Pro with boost mode it sets the game to warp ten: you never really feel anything slow down or tick-over in a way that proves detrimental to the experience. As the bodies pile up you get the very real feeling that the waves of zombies will never end, but you have this foreboding sense your current weapons clip certainly will. The intensity of each environment gives you a superb playground to explore and familiarise yourselves with and an assortment of different domains to study and master, ranging from malls to ice-coated outdoors and their various complexities. For example, Tokyo has a superb outdoor urban vibe that grounds it in reality as you attempt to escort the remaining living on city buses, and Moscow's ornate architecture and frozen demeanor adds a fresh atmosphere to absorb while extracting helicopter crash survivors.

I found the controls incredibly intuitive; it feels natural to strap in and get gunning for your life. Complicated tasks such as laying down traps, setting up machine gun nests, and crafting or destroying blockades were extremely simple to execute thanks to onscreen guidance and pre-devised placement for these objects. It doesn't take much at all for your muscle memory to master that R1 is for the machete and L1 is grenades, which can be an instinctual life-saver in heavy situations.

World War Z is everything I expected and less, as unfortunately this zombie-fest is just not scary at all. Its focus is more on tense, overwhelming, and smothering scenarios, and the heart-pounding feelings that arise from dealing with those situations. It's an initially superb game to play in a squad of four online but I feel the longevity of this title will rely on you really enjoying the first play through of each stage and scenario, as a second play through will be relatively similar to the first unless you go balls-to-the-wall and crank it to insane for an ultra-realistic challenge. Definitely worth playing with pals, but ultimately not the best that the squad-survival-horror genre has to offer. That being said, if the developers really do roll out weekly challenges and more modes, then World War Z could evolve into quite a contender.

Verdict
Pros
+ Impressive mountains of corpses.
+ 4 player squad camaraderie.
+ 6 varied classes to level up.
Cons
- Not all bodies stay on screen for long.
- Repetition makes it quickly become predictable.
7 Presentation
WWZ is well presented and crafts an excellent un-living non-breathing death-like metropolis for you to experience. The layout in menus are well polished and easy to use, while the hud elements and in game displays also spell out your tasks and present situation extremely well; meaning you will never lose your sense of direction or task at hand.
7 Gameplay
Constantly the prey item, you have to evade, struggle and survive. It's compelling and captivating but this feeling is often short lived. The repetitive and linear format of the tasks make the game less pleasurable that something that could-have should-have been far more random, realistic and immersive.
6 Lasting Appeal
In a group of four this game is superb, however playing with bots is not quite as fun as the camaraderie is lacking. It's definitely excellent to have the option to engage the swarms when your buddies are unavailable to play.
6.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
A fun game while it lasts and I can't see it lasting more than around 7 hrs to fully play through with a decent team of seasoned TPS/FPS players. Disappointingly inorganic considering the premise, but if gunning down swarms of Zombies is your thing I think you will get a real kick out of it. Definitely worth a play.


Share
hemi426, Hardline, NoNAND and 3 others like this.
2 comments

  • Reploid
  • hemi426