World War Z is very much a game of two halves – the co-op campaign and the multiplayer – but these halves are not created equal. While the multiplayer is the undeniable focus, treating the campaign with greater care and attention would have elevated this title from zombie-horror mediocrity to superiority.
Consequently, this review aims to right this detrimental wrong by analysing the pros and cons of the campaign, such as the unlockable lore and the repetitive mission structure, on an equal field of depth to its multiplayer components.
So, without further ado, the time has come to place all the elements that make up World War Z under close scrutiny and see if the interspersed fun it provides is worth the price of admission
When compared to other, heavily optimised, co-op shooters such as ‘Left 4 Dead’, Saber’s apocalypse survival sim is certainly the fairest of them all. The majority of the textures are of a high resolution with the gritty facial models and blood-soaked environments brimming with detail. As a result, the world feels alive, adding terrifying tangibility to the diegetic threats.
Unfortunately, the believability of the World War Z universe cannot salvage the campaign’s mundane mission structure. Every mission from each of the game’s four episodes consists of reaching a location and defending that location from the ‘Zeke‘ (zombie) hordes before rinsing and repeating. Due to this lack of variation, the gameplay spirals into sleep-inducing tedium.
However, the compelling snippets of unlockable backstory for each of the game’s indistinct cast of characters is worth staying awake for. Upon completion of any mission, with any character, an animated video will accompany that character’s bio, providing further incentive to experiment with character selection.
Saber Interactive should have taken a leaf from this by conducting some experimentation of their own where the music is concerned. Unfortunately, the overuse of pulsating drums which steadily increase in volume and intensity emit nothing but bad vibrations. This tragic lack of variation trans-mutates the game’s musical facets into mere background noise.
Overall, the potential is well and truly there for World War Z’s campaign to be more than a mindless time waster, but this potential is squandered by a lacklustre gameplay experience.
Although much of the campaign – which does not support local co-op – has eluded my memory, a couple of World War Z’s multiplayer game modes have not. One notable example is Vaccine Hunt which sees players attempting to attain, and keep hold of, a vaccine that nets their team valuable points. As this revolves around an undead-apocalypse-specific situation, it bestows the game with a modest personality.
However, this is not the only example of the multiplayer feature’s tender embrace of the viral. Should a player meet a grisly end at the mutated hands of a Zeke, they themselves will reanimate as a member of the living dead, motivating that same player to exercise extreme caution from that moment on to avoid being delivered to death’s door by their own spectre.
With immense regret, the praise stops here as the class system in World War Z’s multiplayer has been gnawed right down to the bare bones. For example, there is no custom class system, and there are fewer perks available for each class compared to the campaign. Therefore, it is highly likely that some players will be unable to find a class that suits their unique and specific needs.
Similarly, it appears that stages are selected without any kind of player democracy as I was never once given the impression that battle arenas could be selected and were instead thrust upon me. Since this invisible dice roll is performed by a flawed and unreliable computer system, some players may get to experience their favourite stage less frequently than others.
All in all, the multiplayer half of this mediocre entry into zombie-horror fiction is more memorable than the tacked-on campaign but fails to save the holistic experience.
Overall Score: 6/10
World War Z should have provided multiplayer fun on an apocalyptic scale, but is unlikely to leave any lasting effects unlike the virus that catalyses its wafer-thin narrative.
Despite the improvements the multiplayer makes by playing into the hands of its generic foundations, the damage had already been done. Therefore, this mode is more of a fun distraction from the joylessness present in the rest of the game rather than a beacon of hope.
With graphics that are easy on the eye, and engaging backstories for the game’s uninspired characters, one would believe the game’s campaign to be of high quality. Yet, it feels as though it was cobbled together in a single afternoon due to its glaring flaws.
Unfortunately, the zombie-horror sub-genre has remained stagnant for far too long, but there may be hope yet if developers go all out and take a few necessary risks.
Format: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4 and PC
Price: £34.99 (Xbox Live Marketplace)
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Saber Interactive
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 16/04/19
Review copy provided by publisher