I’ve said it before, Valve has left a Left 4 Dead shaped hole in our hearts. Last year’s Earthfall was a good stopgap for the time being, but now World War Z has entered the ring with some zombie slaying action. I do have to admit that I rather liked the movie that this is loosely based on. Sure, it wasn’t a perfect movie, but it was a zombie spectacle and fun to watch. World War Z as a game is probably better than the movie, but it still has some problems.
World War Z takes place over four core levels, each split up into a few smaller sections. Players will move through sections of New York, Jerusalem, Moscow, and Tokyo as they slaughter the undead. Anyone who has seen the movie know what type of zombies to expect. These are fast moving enemies that can quickly overwhelm, especially on harder difficulties.
Actually getting into a match is probably the worst part of World War Z. Playing with friends is easily the best way to play, which means you have to play online. Going into a level puts players into a lobby, which more often than not ends up shoving players into a match in progress at any point in a level. This can even end up with players joining in at the end of a level. I spent probably half my playtime joining a lobby and then leaving just to find a level that hadn’t started yet.
Once each round begins though, it’s game on. Each level is pretty linear, not allowing much in the way of situational improvisation. Run, kill, repeat. Occasionally throughout a level there are more open areas where traps can be placed to deal with the impending horde. It’s pretty impressive how well World War Z runs even when there are hundreds of zombies on screen. I didn’t even have any framerate issues during my playthrough, and everything ran silky smooth.
I did however deal with a few bugs. At one point near the end of the Moscow level, my game crashed and I lost all of the class and weapon experience I earned during that run. Another time a player joined my game at a weird transition area, causing the next point of interest to not appear. These two things were really frustrating since there aren’t any checkpoints in World War Z, meaning I had to replay the whole level again.
There are a handful of classes to pick from, and each has a significant level progression system. I chose to play as the gunslinger, and some perks that I could unlock dealt with reload speed or damage buffs depending on other actions I was doing. It was nice having something else to unlock throughout the game, but it wasn’t synergistic at all times with random players. There are four or five playable characters for each overall stage, but any character can play as any class.
All players start with a pistol and a weapon specific to the class they’re playing. The pistol is silenced, and it’s easy to get through the first few areas in each level using that. It helps conserve ammo and keep zombies off your back. However, playing online with strangers doesn’t work so well with this because people often run and gun with their main weapon attracting zombies. As you progress through the level you’ll come across better weapons (generally) than the ones you start with.
They’re all pretty standard fare, with assault rifles, semi-auto weapons, and shotguns. The really fun weapons are the ones that players can find and equip as heavy weapons. These can range from grenade launchers to a large chainsaw. They’re easy to dispatch enemies with, and even more fun to use. Completing levels rewards players with in-game currency, which they can use to upgrade their starting weapons or the weapons they find around levels. Currency takes a while to accumulate, so it’s pretty important deciding whether to spend it on weapon upgrades or class perks.
Level design is pretty decent, if uninspired. Dark tunnels hide the undead, and lurkers hiding in corners can easily get the jump on players. One interesting level has players avoiding placed mines while fighting. At one point on of my teammates ran ahead and walked into a minefield just to get downed while we got swarmed by a horde. World War Z doesn’t have the best level design, but it certainly isn’t the worst.
The world looks really good at least, and each level looks significantly different than the last. It’s impossible to not make comparisons to Left 4 Dead throughout, but this outing is third person instead of first. One of my other complaints is that there just isn’t enough content. My favorite part of World War Z is easily the hordes.
Hordes move incredibly quickly, and can form towers to gain access to higher areas. It’s important to lay down defenses like auto turrets or mortars to gain the upper hand in these fights. Occasionally though, fighting can devolve into melee strikes, especially when ammo is low. On easier difficulties melee attacks were often my go to, as they took enemies down quickly and efficiently. I really wish there were more special enemy types though, because taking down the same few special enemies every couple of minutes grew stale.
On top of the main campaign, there is a competitive multiplayer mode available with a few different game types. The main thing that keeps this mode fresh is the inclusion of hordes that occasionally appear to storm the battlefield. Overall though, the competitive modes are mostly forgettable. Players are bullet sponges and hit registration felt off a lot of the time.
Overall, World War Z is a pretty fun game. It’s not Left 4 Dead, but it works as well as Earthfall did since we probably won’t be getting a new game out of Valve anytime soon. It’s hard to not make comparisons to Valve’s franchise, but it does a few new things that should be able to entice players in. Tense horde fights made up for the occasional bug I experienced, but this is one that should absolutely be played with friends if you’re thinking about jumping in.