Nostalgia is a hell of a thing. We all have those moments when we reflect on games or experiences while gaming that makes us smile. Or make us laugh. Or makes us cry. Or even remember simpler times in our lives. I often reflect on a video of someone playing Apex Legends and reminiscing about times with Halo 3. Yes, I understand it was made for laughs. But it honestly reflects how I feel when a game reminds me of special gaming moments in my life.
When the opportunity came up to review World War Z, I admittedly accepted the challenge without high expectations. Based on a wonderful book (and mediocre movie), I questioned how it would work as a video game. But about 10 minutes into the campaign, nostalgia hit me like a freight train and a smile arrived that did not go away. You see, one of my favorite series of all time is the Left 4 Dead series. And while World War Z feels very familiar to Left 4 Dead, it has just enough differences to stand out as a top-notch co-op experience.
The story of World War Z plays out in a similar fashion to the book. The four mini-campaigns take place in a different part of the world and features different protagonists and storylines in each campaign. The campaigns don’t go into too much depth or character development, but they do set the stage nicely for some crazy and frantic zombie action. It makes sense to have stories in different parts of the world in order to show the scope of this zombie outbreak.
Any of the campaigns will immediately remind you of Left 4 Dead, in that each stage follows a similar pattern of travel/exploration and major action set piece. While it feels familiar, the development team behind World War Z makes subtle changes that make World War Z its own unique game. You won’t find characters yelling for pills (although I yelled it out plenty of times and chuckled to myself in true dad-joke fashion). But you will find objectives in each campaign that provide unique challenges and keep each campaign from being too familiar. Like Left 4 Dead, you will find areas to restock health and ammo and a wide range of weapons that are more powerful as you progress in the game. You will need all the help you can get as the undead swarm you every step of the way.
If you haven’t read or seen World War Z, then let me inform you that these zombies don’t slowly bumble their way through the streets. They are fast, vicious, and come out you in huge swarms. The iconic swarm climb is featured prominently in this game when zombies run and climb over each other trying to tear your heart out. It looks incredible on the screen and very unnerving. Part way through the first zombie campaign, you will have a section where you need to climb to a safe area as zombies fall all around you. There are moments where you sit in awe and the sheer number of zombies. Of course, the awe turns to terror as you attempt to survive.
Because of the number of enemies in the game, a number of strategies are crucial for your survival, especially as you survive on higher difficulties. You earn currency for each successful completion of campaigns as well as success in PvP multiplayer. Money is used to upgrade weapons and abilities for your character class. Use that currency wisely! Weapon upgrades are crucial for defeating swarms and the special classes of zombies that make your life completely miserable. The class abilities can also help you survive, so whatever class you use, stick with it so you can continue to upgrade throughout your playthrough.
Besides upgrading, you want to use common sense around these zombies. Let me tell you that using a loud shotgun will bring all the zombies to the yard and make life completely insane. Stealth is your best friend. And when you get to swarm engagements (which you will recognize when you get to an area with turrets), you must place defense items carefully and work together. Playing with randoms can be very hit or miss because of the lack of mics or unwillingness to communicate. Playing with friends is ideal in World War Z.
World War Z is fast and a blast with friends. Unfortunately, there are some technical gameplay aspects that I wish the team would address. I would love a dodge or jump button to help me escape from overwhelming zombie situations. I would love the opportunity to switch between first and third person. And this request would be way too challenging, but I would love a little more cosmetic differentiation between the different zombie models. These are just personal gripes that in no way change how much fun I had with World War Z.
The game is available on consoles and PC, and I think the PC has a slight edge over consoles. My PC is marginally above minimal specs, but it ran wonderfully with a smooth framerate and clean, gory graphics. Obviously, a high-end PC would make things look even better, but I believe a standard PC would run things well enough. The game features wonderful sound quality for each weapon and zombie.
Please understand that when I compare World War Z to Left 4 Dead, I mean it with the utmost respect. World War Z is action-packed and features plenty of fun moments in both the campaign and PvP modes. Actually, I should be more accurate when discussing PvP – It’s actually PvPvZ with a variety of modes for up to four players. Dealing with players and swarming zombies adds an interesting wrinkle when playing your typical deathmatch and capture modes. The addition of classes and upgradable weapons and perks is a welcome addition to the zombie formula. World War Z blew my expectations clear out of the water, and I look forward to what the development team has in store for us in terms of future content.
Editor’s Note: A copy was provided by the publisher for review and streaming purposes.
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Fun and frantic zombie action
Upgradeable weapons and classes
Simple, yet fun objectives in the campaigns
Some technical hiccups
Challenging with random players