World War Z (Impressions)

When Left 4 Dead arrived on PC consoles it left me with lasting impression of what I expected from co-op games. Putting up to four players together in a mini campaign where everyone has to look after each other whilst taking on the zombie hordes created some exciting experiences and with the game’s “director” in action there was an element of randomness that made it worth playing through multiple times. But it’s been ten years since the sequel (Left 4 Dead 2) landed and despite the original developers trying to strike gold a third time with Evolve it looked like we may not see another good take on the game again for some time. However with World War Z it looks like the developers at Saber Interactive are making sure we not only get a game that totally scratches that L4D itch but expands it in the kinds of ways that would have made perfect sense in a proper sequel.

The zombie apocalypse is not a tidy place.

Taking its cues from the book as well as the film, World War Z is a third person shooter that tasks players to work together to survive the zombie apocalypse. The episodes available take place in different locations throughout the world and follow their own individual narratives however it’s all very much a case of going from point A to B to C and avoid dying in the process. I’m not at all familiar with the book but the game does well in giving the player scenarios that fit with what they may remember of the movie. Especially the movement of the zombies; seeing that flood of bodies swarming towards you and making their way up walls is a very impressive sight and there’s plenty of set pieces during the episodes which give you an opportunity to mow down dozens at a time. Sometimes it’s hard to miss them because there’s so many coming after you. As a result it’s very likely you’ll find at the end of a chapter that you’ve shot up at least a couple of hundred of them.

Technically the game is impressive in how it works. There is a degree of randomness each time you play that not only mixes up what gear you might come across in your travels but at least once I’ve seen alternate routes come up to break player’s expectations too. In this respect it’s not that much different from L4D. And like that game there’s also some zombie variants thrown into the mix too that require different tactics to counter so it will feel very familiar. And with the huge number of enemies you can face it can be a real challenge to pick the dangerous ones out. World War Z does have a few tricks up its own sleeves though with a levelling system which allows players to choose a character class prior to the game start which dictates their starting weapons as well as any perks that they can unlock. Completing chapters earns XP that that unlock additional perks as you level up. Weapons also earn XP in the game too with new variants getting unlocked over time. Credits earned completing chapters can be used to purchase these unlocked items but it’ll be a long grind to max out everything you can get access to. For experienced players finding the right mix of perks for your classes can help you tailor them to your play style while complementing the rest of your team’s choices. Casual players could still focus on one or two classes and build them up fairly well too. For me, being able to unlock an SMG with suppressor early in my time has already made my experience far more enjoyable in the game. I may not hit much but I can at least do it quietly. 😉

Pressure is on when the swarm arrives.

There can be some frustrations in the game though. You can have a session that is being less than generous with the loot drops leaving you to rely on your starting gear which may be inappropriate for your needs. The Bull and Lurker zombies are very difficult to counter and having no dodge ability means that more often than not you’ll be on the wrong end of them unless you have a teammate close by to help you. But then… that might just force you to stick closer to your teammates too. 🙂 Players will respawn when they die but when the whole team is done that’s it for the chapter which is bound to annoy from too but thankfully it’s only around 15 minute of play time per chapter (at the easiest setting) so the time lost is not excessive by any means.

World War Z has really surprised me. The episodes are challenging and when you get a group of likeminded players all playing as a team it’s a great experience that’s easy to play through a couple of times. The levelling system gives players an opportunity to find the right kind of class build for your play style and if you’re willing to grind to earn that XP you’ll probably be one hell of a zombie killing machine by the end of it.

World War Z is out now on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Played on an Xbox One X via Game Pass.

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