Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 16 April 2019
Price: $34.99 USD (PC), $39.99 USD (Consoles) / $59.95 AUD (Consoles) – Available Here
Note: Capsule Computers was provided a copy of this game from Saber Interactive for review purposes.
Set in same world as the World War Z book and film, the video game takes players to the US, Israel, Russia, and Japan. Survivors of the zombie outbreak are just barely hanging on, each group looking for long term security. The World War Z game offers four player story-based co-op and 4v4 PVP.
The stories in World War Z are short. Each chapter represents the story from one locale, and each chapter contains two to three episodes. The straight forward nature makes it easy for players who haven’t watched the film to get a rough idea of what is going on in the world, though there are certain major events referred to in the dialogue that aren’t fully explained for those new to the franchise.
The game’s writers have only enough time to offer some basic background information. While episodic four player co-op shooter games tend to be short on story, World War Z is further limited by having different settings and characters for each chapter. There just isn’t enough time for any reasonable character development or deep plots. The writers do a decent enough job given the circumstances. The plots are interesting, albeit straightforward, stories. The writers try to make up for the lack of the character development and background information in the collectible tab in the main menu. Where the character development falls the shortest is the random character lines in game. The writers fail to use quiet moments in the game to better flesh out characters through conversation as most of the lines seem purely focused on the task at hand.
The voice lines in the game are a bit corny and limited. The audio engine seems to favour a chattier environment, which makes the woefully inadequate number of lines obvious. While reducing the number of random callouts would be a workable fix, World War Z would have been better off with more lines in general.
World War Z does not stray far from the gameplay first established by Left 4 Dead. Four players cooperate to blast their way through hordes of zombies and protect each other from special zombies that can incapacitate stragglers or restrict movement. What differentiates World War Z from other titles in the sub-genre is the fast paced, arcade style action and the defensive set ups.
The game’s zombie behaviour is impressive. It’s incredible to watch the zombies swarm, behaving almost like a fluid than a mass of undead bodies. On their own, the basic zombies are easy enough to kill, but their vast numbers and quick speed is what makes World War Z so challenging. It only takes a few seconds for zombies to suddenly swarm and overwhelm the players.
Co-op is a lot of fun. The map design is good, though generally very straight forward. The game’s pacing is well balanced, breaking up forward momentum with interesting defensive set pieces. The game limits the randomness between playthroughs to item drop location and types of item, so learning the maps does not take long. The defensive items have pre-set locations, encouraging players to focus more on overall strategy than finding the perfect arc of fire.
Players have access to a variety of character classes and weapons to level up. Account level, class level, and weapon level all increase independently. Account level is the total amount of experience gained, while class and weapon levels are based on performance with that class or weapon. Reaching a higher level will only make an improved version of the weapon or class ability available for purchase with credits. A set amount of credits per difficulty level are awarded for winning a co-op or multiplayer map, with lesser amounts awarded for a loss. As a result, World War Z requires a bit too much grinding, especially as prices for higher end skills and equipment rises. A boost in end of game credit rewards would be an easy fix to the issue. I think a 15% overall increase would be a good start.
The AI is passable, but still short of an actual human player. The AI does a decent job of staying close to players and freeing them from pins. Their aim is okay for the difficulty level, but they don’t carry or use items. Solo players will have their work cut out for them as they alone will be responsible for finding defensive items and setting them up.
The difficulty is generally balanced well between maps. The only exception is the map Setting Sun. The final defensive battle is significantly more challenging than any other map in the game. The combination of multiple places to defend, the inability to see how much health each point has left, and the sheer size of the area requires more coordination and preparation than other levels.
The PVP multiplayer section of World War Z is boring. It’s billed as a player versus player versus zombie environment. In reality, multiplayer feels more like a generic shooter that throws in waves of zombies every once in a while. The bigger problem with multiplayer is how the class system is implemented into multiplayer. The exact same class system in co-op is in multiplayer; the only difference is multiplayer has its own set of classes and no weapon progression. It’s a bit unbalanced, as low level players don’t have access to the same set of buffs as high level ones. Since World War Z’s talent system offers different options at the same tier, Saber Interactive should have given all players a base set of talents, with higher levels unlocking new alternative talents at different tiers.
The PC version of World War Z falls short. The game lacks full support for switching between toggle and hold. Players can only choose for sprint activation, as crouch is locked to toggle and aiming is locked to hold. There is no option for adjusting the field of view or support for ultra widescreen monitors at this time either. I also noticed the game suffered from severe hang ups whenever the game needed to load a new area or a player joined the game. Additionally, the game has no option for removing an overlay with game data on the bottom of the screen.
World War Z uses a realistic art style that works well for the game given its movie roots. The character designs fit each locale, and the maps are do a good job of visually conveying their setting. The developers use subtle visual cues well to signal important gameplay mechanics, like yellow paint for areas that can be climbed over and silhouettes where defensive structures can be placed.
The audio experience in World War Z is a bit rough. The sound effects and music are decent, but the game’s voice acting is poor. The voice actors do not always have great lines to work with and several are noticeably weaker in skill. A couple voice actors really struggle to maintain their accents, often falling back to an American accent at random times. I found the inconsistency to be rather jarring and suspect using only American accents would have provided a better experience.
World War Z offers an enjoyable, fast paced co-operative experience. The game is far from perfect, as the multiplayer is completely forgettable, and the voice acting is pretty rough. The game will benefit from more content, especially new story content with the existing characters. World War Z isn’t the new king of four player co-op shooters but Left 4 Dead fans will definitely enjoy the change of pace until the mythical third game finally appears.
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