World War Z Impressions

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I had pulled the trigger on World War Z, after having read elsewhere that it was likened to Left 4 Dead. I was a bit skeptical at first mainly because video games based on movies are rarely a good thing, let alone video games based on movies based on books. However, this doesn’t really correlate with the movie or the book, save for the setting of the real world being overrun by “zeke.” Yes, they went ahead and used a different word for zombie, yet again.

Similarities between World War Z and Left 4 Dead can surely be seen, as it is a game that is level based, and you’ll see various “special” zombies that do things differently than your standard zeke. The co-op campaign pits you and three other players against the zombie hordes, though there are objectives to complete along a fairly linear path. At certain points you’ll encounter huge waves of enemies, and these aren’t the slow plodding zombies of some games, no these guys are fast and pissed off. Specials like the “Bull” or “Stinkbag” can really put a hurting on you, with one charging in to pick you up and slam you on the ground until one of your partners guns him down, while the other releases some toxic gas when it dies, blinding you temporarily. Really, the way the zombies move and the way they climb on each other like ants to scale walls are the only similarities one can make between this game and its movie counterpart.

The game plays like a third person shooter, but does not have cover mechanics. You can attempt to use stealth by crouch-walking and using silenced weapons, but I found that it was just as effective to wade into groups and slash away with my knife. You’ll take more damage that way, but you also save ammo. Each episode is broken down into sections, so you’ll be at that particular location for a few chapters before moving onto a new part of the world. So far I’ve cleared all but the final level which is Tokyo. New York, Jerusalem and Moscow were all increasingly difficult, but we managed to clear them nonetheless. I convinced my best friend to get a copy of the game, as it was reasonably priced at $40, and co-opping our way through it has been entertaining. You would think that only four episodes isn’t really worth that price point, but we have only cleared the “starter” difficulty level (one skull) and there are a total of five difficulties. Much like Killing Floor 2 that we played quite a bit a couple of years ago, there is a progression system that allows you to eventually clear those higher difficulties.

There are two ways to progress in World War Z. Firstly, there are a number of classes that you can choose to play as, and each of them earns XP individually. This means not only is there the option to play these levels again on a higher difficulty, but also to level up additional classes. I really didn’t know what to expect from the game so I didn’t know which class would work best for my personal playstyle, but I ended up playing the “Fixer,” which is basically a support class. It starts with a scout rifle, silenced pistol, and a supply bag that you can drop for your allies so they can refill their explosive ammo. I figured playing something more supportive would mean my teams would be better balanced, and since I’m only playing with one person I know, you can’t rely on randoms to try and make a balanced team. In most of my games most players were using the Gunslinger or other more offensive classes, while my friend was playing a tanky role so we did end up fairly balanced anyway due to our efforts. As you earn experience you’ll unlock perks that can change the way your character plays. For instance, I started off with the supply bag, but eventually got access to “masking grenades” and then later put a point into a perk that makes the masking gas lethal to zombies. This allows me to contribute more to the horde fights, while most players were ignoring my supply drops. The perk tree is pretty long, so I imagine things will change up again before long.

When it comes to weapons, you will earn experience for them by killing with them. As a weapon levels up, you’ll be presented with upgrade options and can take your pick as to how you want to customize your gun. I leveled up an Assault Rifle first, and put a scope on it which gave more power and accuracy. On the Bullpup I went for an extended mag modification. Use a weapon more often and you’ll level it up faster, but having extra goodies on multiple guns is good because you don’t know what you’ll end up with. Apparently on the higher difficulties there are more zeke, they have more health and there are less supplies spread out along the map, so you’ll want to have more than one modified weapon.

Outside of the co-op campaign, there is also a multiplayer side containing several extra game modes. Things like capture the flag, king of the hill and deathmatch are present, but instead of bigger games with only players, these game modes pit small teams against each other, but throw zombies into the mix. For instance, I played a round of deathmatch and the two teams ran into each other quickly and started fighting. The goal of this mode is to get to 50 kills before the other team, but there is also a time limit — if that runs out the team with the highest score wins. After fighting for a while, a notification pops up that states “critical noise level reached,” and at this point a horde will swarm your position. You’ll have to fight off zombies and other players at the same time, but can also try and stay out of sight and let the zombies do some of the work for you. I believe if you die to a zombie the other team gets a point, but I’m not certain. That would make sense.

Looking forward, the dev team has already outlined their roadmap for the summer. All of the above updates are supposed to be free, and so far there are no microtransactions present, but I can imagine the “new weapon variants, new character skins and new character accessories” to be something they might monetize since everyone else is doing it. The new Tokyo mission is something that should have probably released with the game, as each other episode has 3 missions each and Tokyo only has 2 at present. A new special zombie is a nice add, and an extra difficulty level is probably going to be needed sooner than later. Rotating game modes are also a good idea, and I’ve heard they are also working on a wave-based survival mode as well.

Overall I’d say that World War Z is a game that feels like Left 4 Dead and Killing Floor had a baby. It mixes elements of many successful games that I’ve had a blast playing. I see this being in the regular rotation for the foreseeable future. If you’re on console, I’d recommend grabbing this immediately. If you’re on PC, you’ll have to get it via the Epic Games Store… so if you don’t have an issue with that, have at it. A worthwhile purchase for $40.

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