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World War Z Review - Can it Survive?

VO: Dave Thibault WRITTEN BY: DT
World War Z may not be the modern equivalent of Left 4 Dead, but there are a few good things about the game worth checking out. But is there enough good to keep it alive?

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World War Z review

Soooo uhh, World War Z huh? Yeah it does seem odd that we’re getting a movie tie in game for a film that came out 6 years ago, especially given the overcrowded market of zombie games. Although this one is heavily based off the “Left 4 Dead” series, and we haven’t had a “Left 4 Dead” game since 2009, as it's a well known gaming fact that Valve seems to have trouble with the number 3. So can Saber Interactive’s take on this beloved co-op format fill that void? I’m Dave with MojoPlays, and this is my review of World War Z.

When I say “Heavily based on Left 4 Dead”, I mean that as a severe understatement. Aside from going for a third person perspective, this game’s main 4 player co-op campaign is almost a complete recreation Valve’s zombie shooter, right down to it’s special zombies and Director A.I., but at the same time I’m not saying that as a knock against the game, after all no series should be allowed to have exclusive rights to a game genre … PUBG!!!

The co-op campaign is split into 4 different chapters set in New York, Jerusalem, Moscow and Tokyo. Though as a nod to the narrative style of the novel; each chapter has its own set of 4 different heroes to follow, rather than focusing on the same team throughout the entire game. I gotta say I’m not a fan of this direction, as none of the heroes really have enough screen time to connect to the player, they do have their own animated sequences that tells their backstories but even now writing this review I really couldn’t remember any of their names.

Ok so while the story takes a backseat, the gameplay does shine through, If you’re not familiar with the “Left 4 Dead” series, the game tasks 4 players in co-op to make their way from one end of the map to the other, while facing waves of zombies that ambush them along the way. On top of that, the game will randomly generate new weapons and health kits in hidden locations depending on how well your team is doing.

Then of course you have your special zombies that keeps players on their toes; you have Lurkers (or Creepers as some NPC’s call them) which act just like “Left 4 Dead’s” pouncing Hunters, Then there are Bull’s, which are essentially Chargers albeit with lots of health. Hazmat Zombies eject toxic gas whenever you kill them, and Screamers will attract more zombies with their piercing screams as their names would imply.

Still there are some elements in “World War Z” that make it stand on its own, at multiple points in each map you’ll have to hunker down and prepare to defend yourselves against a massive swarm of zombies. While these were in “Left 4 Dead”, “World War Z” add a deeper layer of strategy to these sections by allowing the players to set up various defences like automated turrets or shock traps. Careful placement of these defences can be vital during harder difficulties, especially as the simple spectacle of seeing just how many zombies are coming at you can be pretty frightening.

During these moments, the zombies will also recreate that iconic “Zombie Pyramid” scene from the film, as they try to climb up to your position or over fences. Yeah it does lose its novelty when it keeps on showing up, but it does keep the team on its toes, especially when multiple breach points like this start to show up.

The game also sports an XP progression system, where players level up after completing a level, the higher the difficulty the more XP and In game coins are earned. XP adds more skill tree perks to become available, and In game coins are used to unlock them. There are six different classes to choose from, each with their own skill trees and thankfully there’s no microtransactions in the game. However you will have to replay the levels quite a few times if you want to unlock everything, as each of the four campaigns takes roughly an hour to complete

Fortunately there are plenty of incentives to replay the levels. The game sports 5 difficulty levels, all of which are fully explained about what modifications they bring to the game, as well as a what level the player should be at before starting, though to be honest, you could probably skip the 1 skull difficulty setting. While the content did feel lacking, I did find myself coming back co-op more times than I thought I would, so there is a good reason to stick around.

The game also sports a competitive multiplayer mode. But it’s not like “Left 4 Dead’s” multiplayer at all. Instead, it’s your typical Deathmatch & Domination modes you’d find in the likes of “Call of Duty” though with a twist. While each match has 2 teams of 4 against each other, zombies are crawling around the map and every few minutes a swarm will flood the map and attack whatever they come across. While it’s cool feature that makes the undead feel like a force of nature, the PvP overall feels underwhelming due to some barebones features. For one you can’t choose which map you want to fight on, as matchmaking is only reserved to quickplay, and what game mode you want to fight. The classes in the PvP are separate from the campaign, thus have their own progression system. But with no real standout modes here, the experience started to feel like a tacked on afterthought.

Graphics wise, the visuals won’t be pushing any technical benchmarks, and I did encounter a few visual glitches from time to time such as animations not playing properly, zombies clipping into one another or explosion effects not appearing. Though nothing during gameplay that hurt my progression.

Unfortunately throughout my review session I also experienced frequent problems with the game’s matchmaking: In the campaign, there’s no option to switch between joining a lobby before a game starts, or joining one already in progress. Meaning if I wanted to join a group of strangers, the game would always put me in a mission where the other players were way ahead of me, or pretty late into the mission. I also had frequent cases where the game wouldn’t get past the loading screen where it said it was “Waiting for more players” but nothing was happening for a good 5 or so minutes. In these cases; all I could do was force quit the game from the taskmaster.

Overall while it’s a bit rough from time to time, I found my time with “World War Z’s” co-op mode to be enjoyable, PvP not so much. Yet as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into, and at reduced price of $35 on PC and $40 on consoles I can still give this game my recommendation. It may not be the “Left 4 Dead” successor fans have been holding out for, but it’s still worth looking into if you’ve be dying for a quality title in the genre.

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