|Publisher||Mad Dog Games|
|Platforms||PC, PS4, Xbox One|
World War Z is a decent but forgettable co-op shooter.
World War Z is the type of game that’s spoiled by a familiarity with its inspiration, whether it be the novel it claims to be based upon or the 11-year-old game it borrows heavily from. World War Z the game comes out the loser in either comparison. Additionally, the odd timing of its release (6 years after the mediocre film, 11 years after Left 4 Dead, and 13 years after The Novel) doomed the game before it was even announced. It’s shockingly out of fashion, missing the window for zombie fever by a good four years.
When World War Z works as intended, it’s a spectacular emulation of that hit Valve franchise, offering heights just as awesome as Left 4 Dead’s best. It’s in the other moments that the game falters, offering a core gameplay loop that’s quickly stale and unchanging. Unfortunately, those “other” moments make up the majority of your game time, and there’s very little to keep you invested once the campaign is done.
Much like in Left 4 Dead, the player joins up to three other gamers from across the globe (or closest server) in co-operative campaigns set in various locations around the world. Unlike Left 4 Dead, World War Z is a class-based shooter, with each character option bringing their unique loadouts and skillsets to every run. There’s only ever one goal and that’s to survive. Get from Point A to Point B via Points C, D, and E. Players must work together to get to the end of each stage with as few casualties as possible. Of course, the hordes of undead aren’t going to make it easy.
The much touted zombie horde physics are genuinely jaw-dropping, allowing hundreds of the undead to flow across the landscape like a river of half-rotted bodies. It’s at times horrifying, though just as often hilarious. As the uncountable cadavers crash into each other, the stage, and various objects, they occasionally get stuck in the environment or get randomly launched into oblivion. Mowing them down is undeniably satisfying; it taps into that primal joy in wanton destruction that make Dynasty Warriors and Left 4 Dead such massive hits. If only the game could maintain that level of wonder and chaos in subsequent runs.
The one thing that makes World War Z such an underwhelming affair is its lack of an AI Director, that clever bit of code that toyed with the tempo and dynamics of each run in Left 4 Dead. Without it, World War Z lacks variety and volatility, relying on its bombastic set pieces to keep you coming back. The trouble is, set pieces are just that — set. You can only play through them once before the wonder is gone. Without a conductor behind the scenes managing the ebb and flow of your runs, completing stages is reduced to memorizing spawn points and optimizing trap placement.
It’s not a great game, no, but it would be unfair to accuse its developers of phoning it in. There’s effort and artistry in the stages and game design, even if there’s very little love. World War Z doesn’t have an original bit in its code, save for its genuinely awe-inspiring horde physics, but that doesn’t make it a bad Left 4 Dead clone. Your first run through its campaign can rival the sheer mad delight of a great Left 4 Dead run. It’s too bad that a complete run only takes about 6-7 hours to finish.
You'll get a good 6-7 hours of fun with World War Z, but there's no diversity in its stages, making subsequent runs boring and tedious. You can level up your characters by grinding stages, but why would you do that? There's really no reason you shouldn't be playing Left 4 Dead instead.