World War Z Review – Starved Lives


You remember this film, right?

Yeah, it’s somehow Brad Pitt’s highest-grossing film, yet nobody really knows why. I’ve never met a single person who goes beyond mild acceptance of its existence. If you wanna talk about placeholders, then the World War Z movie certainly fits in snugly as “Just another Zombie film.” How does the video game hold up?

This is the latest title from one Saber Interactive, a New Jersey-based studio who are dedicated to providing AA-experiences to the masses. TimeShiftInversionHalo AnniversaryGod Mode, etc. Aside from their participation in the Halo series, they mostly made games you glossed over while looking for something a bit more known. An oversight if you ask me, as they have always sought to care for their products, and World War Z is no exception.

An in-game screenshot of World War Z, showcasing the character Arnetta Larkin overlooking an underground sector.

You play as one of sixteen survivors, with those sixteen separated into four different parties in four different locations. You’ve all been surviving since the original outbreak, and all four parties now have a chance for true freedom after fighting all this time. Along the way, you’ll discover how others came to fight for their lives and other survivors with bigger priorities.

It’s a co-op, third-person shooter first and foremost, in the vein of Left 4 Dead, as if that wasn’t already obvious. Being the newest in line behind titles like Alone in The Dark: IlluminationEarthFall, and Generation Zero, there’s some stiff competition here. In comparison to the aforementioned three, World War Z stands head and shoulders above the rest and although that might not sound like much, it really does excel.

The missions have that Left 4 Dead feel, albeit as close to the Hollywood experience of OTT-action that the 2013 film provided. The first mission in New York is a great example of this, as the infamous “Zombie Pyramid” scene is recreated on a smaller angle. The environments are large, the numbers are plenty, and it’s all bloody impressive.

A cut-scene from World War Z, showcasing zombies being neutralized by a purple nerve gas.

Part of this is thanks to some fairly beefy combat. There’s a fat handful of weaponry to choose from, and almost all of them feel fantastic in your hands. The shotguns predictably devastate in any close-quarters situation, with penetration being a huge help in tenser fights. Assault Rifles and their DMR counterparts make their presence worth thanks to their power and previously mentioned penetration capabilities. SMGs also give a helping hand thanks to being great crowd control, despite lack of penetration.

That only leaves pistols and heavy weaponry to judge, and to be honest, they’re both a bit crap. All of the pistols are pathetic in every factor, from handling, to damage. The heavy weapons do get the job done and they frequently spawn, but you only get one clip and switching to them mid-combat is always a faff. They’re usually in the way or hidden somewhere in these surprisingly large maps.

The level design couldn’t be closer to Left 4 Dead if it tried. You know the rodeo: Small and tight engagements, followed up by a heroic standoff in a large playground filled with environmental payoffs, repeat one more time, then boom, next level. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that since it’s supposed to function like an emotional rollercoaster, and World War Z usually equalizes Valve’s effort, moreso than other contemporaries.

An in-game screenshot of World War Z, showcasing the character Timur overlooking several hundred zombies piling on a bridge.

Part of this is thanks to varied locations, utilizing the culture. America has wide-open streets and monolithic sewers, Israel has cramped streets with no distinguishable paths. Russia has snow-covered roads, blocking routes and ruining navigation, and Japan also has the same cramped streets, albeit with more of a mountainous angle.

There is one highlight in the Russia section of levels which was jaw-dropping. I’m not going to spoil what happens, but for me, this was the eighth generation’s version of seeing Ninety-Nine Nights for the first time. Seeing this impossibly large spectacle loom over you, an incoming presence not unlike a stampede… it was wondrously terrifying.

Not like its movie counterpart, World War Z is actually quite a scary game to play. Not just because of the insurmountable odds, since even a single zombie can cause problems, and that’s beyond the special zombies. Bulls, Screamers, Infectors, and Lurkers aside, just a few regular Ad’s can spell disaster for your team if you’re not coordinated with your team properly.

An in-game screenshot of World War Z, showcasing the character Arnetta Larkin overlooking an underground sewer.

This truly is the best new co-op game to play with friends, and specifically friends only. Solo-queuing and finding a game filled with three randys is a deathwish, especially on difficulties higher than Normal. There are just way too many opportunities for your team to split off and get picked apart, although that sometimes works against the game.

For example, the Japan section of levels suffers from some pretty crap game design. The objectives play a bit too fast and loose with what they expect from you, and the battlegrounds are usually too awkward to get to everything at once. This can mostly be tied to the first mission in Japan, where you’re told to protect two different gates at the same time. However one of the gates is situated in a place you can’t physically reach, which means that if you didn’t bring a decent long-range weapon to the fight, you’re ill-equipped and a dead weight. It’s poor planning on Saber’s part honestly, and the stationary turrets you can place down do have limited ammo.

On that note, playing World War Z on higher difficulties than Hard does turn the game into a grind that’s not fun. There’s a class system in play (with there being six), all of them having a maximum level cap of thirty, but realistically, only three of the classes matter. Medic is an obvious go-to, with the reasons to pick one being self-explanatory– Fixer’s provide more ammo for everybody, meaning there are less “I’m empty!” moments, and Exterminators provide absolutely fantastic passive abilities that make swarm moments a breeze.

An in-game screenshot of World War Z, showcasing a character mowing down several zombies with the use of a Stationery Turret

With the rest of the classes, they’re not optimized poorly or anything, it’s just that they seem to be designed for lone wolf classes, something which quite clearly never works. Gunslingers provide mostly personal benefits, Hellraisers rely on you solely being brilliant with explosives, which doesn’t help considering the density and speed of these zombies.

There’s also Slasher, but honestly? No. Melee combat in this game is designed for small encounters, but if you’re accurate, you won’t need to worry about the wasted ammo melee is trying to save. If there was a class dedicated to providing nothing for a team, then it’s Slasher. Don’t pick Slasher. If you pick Slasher, your nose hairs will triple in length.

Finally, there’s a PvP mode and if you’re looking for an opinion about it from me? You won’t find it. Nothing against the game modes themselves, but I genuinely cannot find a game. I’ve tried searching on several different occasions, yet I haven’t actually found a game. Is the player count lower than expected? Who knows? All we can do is assume.

An in-game screenshot of World War Z, showcasing Timur overlooking and attempting to stop a zombie pyramid from being made.

With its announcement of moving to Xbox Game Pass in the coming weeks (at the time of writing), the multiplayer may be used once again. For now, however, I can at least explain what entails inside of World War Z PvP. There are several regular multiplayer modes– Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Domination, etc.– and the threat of zombies also carries over to Multiplayer as well. It isn’t just PvP; It’s PvPvZ. Hell yeah.

Regardless, the quality of Multiplayer doesn’t matter since the game excels and delivers its promise of terrifying high-octane action in 12 beefy missions. The situations are intense, the weapons are wonderful to use, the stakes are high, and Saber have promised more content in the future. This does include the recent addition of Challenge Mode, which sees you playing specific missions with certain detriments. Think Nightfall, but the restrictions are much worse.

A quick example would be this week’s Challenge Mode, which sees three classes having their damage handicapped. That screams “challenge” in the same way that yelling at twelve-year-olds to watch their goddamn corners for Lurkers is “fun.” Then again, Nightfall is something that’s supposed to be a “Pain = Pleasure” experience, so if you think Nightfall is fun, this’ll be for you.

An in-game screenshot of World War Z, showcasing the character Arnetta Larkin overlooking an underground sector.

Multiplayer aside, Saber have really created something brilliant here. As an adaptation of the movie, it more than equals the impossible spectacle of the film. When compared to the book? Well, that’s a whole different ball-game. As it stands though, this is more than worthy in any context.

In the end, World War Z is a terrifying and exciting adventure into the impossible war against the endless undead. It plays wonderfully, it manages to spook you, the levels are huge, and its reliance on actual teamwork is a breath of fresh air. It may not have Brad Pitt’s face for you to project your own onto, but it could be worse!

It could be Jon Bernthal’s face instead.


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