World War Z – Go Back 2 Dead? Final Verdict

Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.
Release date: April 16th, 2019
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Saber Interactive
ESRB: Mature

Disclaimer – The review copy was provided by the developer, Saber Interactive

Introduction

World War Z is a brand new zombie co-op shooter that’s inspired and based on previous zombie games such as the Left 4 Dead series and co-op games like Warhammer: Vermintide 1 and 2. In 2013, a World War Z film was also released that starred Brad Pitt as the main protagonist. That movie was actually based on a book which is where World War Z came from originally. The video game actually has nothing to do with the movie or the book itself as far as the plot goes, it’s simply a game that’s based in the same universe, timeline and idea. Now that we have a basic understanding of what World War Z actually is, let’s deep dive into our review and discuss the technological aspects, visuals, audio and most importantly the gameplay.

The Core Gameplay and Setting

If you’ve played titles such as last year’s Warhammer: Vermintide II or the old-school Left 4 Dead series then World War Z might have piqued your interest. The game is broken down into episodes with each episode having 2 to 3 levels. At launch, World War Z comes with 4 different episodes including New York City, Jerusalem, Moscow and Tokyo. Each of those episodes have 3 different levels with the exception of Tokyo, which only has 2 for some odd reason.

Each level offers different parts of the city, for example in one of the Moscow levels you’re in a museum and then in another your completely outdoors in the snowy streets of Moscow instead. In New York city, you might be down in the subway and then later going through a sewer tunnels and then end up on the streets.

Throughout each of the levels you will encounter different kinds of objectives, such as defending and holding a position for certain period of time, protecting a VIP target and if he or she dies, then the mission ends and you are greeted with a “Defeat” screen. Other objectives asks you to eliminate swarms of zombies in a certain area of the level or protect a gate from being taken down by the zombies.

During your zombie survival adventures you will come across many different types of weapons including machine pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and even heavy weapons such as chainsaws or RPGs.  The game also has a leveling system of classes that have their own unlockable perks and an individual leveling system for the weapons as well.

For example, if you keep using your pistol repeatedly throughout the missions then that pistoll will level up and you will be able to unlock better tiers of that specific gun. Each tier increases its base stats, such as attack power, accuracy and so on. Once a tier is open after you hit a certain level with the gun, you then have to purchase the tier with credits in order to unlock it and you do that by earning the credits after completing missions or online PvP multiplayer.

Now as far as the different classes go, for the most part they all feel kind of samey – with a few different perks here and there. For example, a Medic class has perks that can heal players a lot faster with medkits as opposed to player who’s also using a medkits but not a Medic class. Meanwhile, the Gunslinger specializes in perks that give him bonuses to guns, headshots, grenades and so on.

You unlock these perks by playing the game naturally and leveling throughout. You then use the credits that you earned to unlock which perks you want to use –  similar to how the gun leveling system works as well. Overall, it’s not a bad system and if you’re the type of person that enjoys grinding and wants to unlock everything for the sake of completion then there is plenty to do here across all guns and 6 different classes.

Throughout my review session me and my teammate came across many annoying bugs such as constant game disconnects, or getting into games that are completely stuck on an objective that never ends no matter what you try to do – basically rendering the rest of the mission unplayable. You are then forced to quit the mission, barely get any experience and restart your matchmaking queue in hopes of not getting into the same bugged game. This can get very frustrating. Also, it doesn’t help that the game doesn’t feel very polished, either.

The gunplay and shooting feels a bit weak, the gore could be a lot better and the special zombies feel like more of annoyance than actual challenges than anything else. There are a total of 3 special zombies in the game including a bull, creeper and screamer.

The bull is an armored zombie unit that has a crap ton of health and will charge you at blazing speed if you do not kill him fast enough. The screamer screams, as the name obviously implies, to create noise and attract zombies to you. Then you have the creeper who likes to hide around corners, stalk and leap towards his victims and claw them to death.

As far as the story elements go in World War Z, well, the reality is that there is no real story setting here other than another typical zombie outbreak going on in different parts of the world. There are 4 different characters that take part of that world and their mission is to save the city or escape. The characters for the most part are pretty forgettable, especially compared to Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. If you’re looking for memorable characters like Luis or Zoey, then you will not find them here, whatsoever.

That is the basics and core of World War Z. You pick an episode, equip your desired class with the weapons you want in and click that start game button in the hopes of not getting into a bugged game and praying to the net-code gods that you won’t get dumb teammates or get disconnected mid game and have to start the whole mission over again. Speaking of teammates and the co-op aspect of the game, there is no way to start a private co-op game with a friend or anything of that sort, which is absolutely unacceptable in today’s day and age.

Majority of the people you get grouped with either have no clue how the game works or are there just to grief someone and not follow objectives. So, in order for you to truly experience World War Z the way it’s meant to be played is to find 3 other players and play with them on consistent basis. And if you want to play with less than 3 people privately, then you’re screwed because the game doesn’t have such options – which is ridiculous.

I lost count how many times me and my employee queued up to only get people who are not interested in cooperating or have no clue how to properly play the game. The bots are honestly more useful than some real players that we’ve encountered throughout our playtime.

Multiplayer

Believe it or not, World War Z also packs in a whole separate multiplayer mode that has different types of game modes ranging from collecting supply boxes and all the way to holding control points. The multiplayer also has its own separate sets of classes and it’s own leveling system as well, which separates it completely from the mission portion of the game.

The multiplayer is also plagued with many issues, if not more including random disconnects, or getting into games with no people on your team while the team just completely overwhelms you and things of that nature.  I am not quite sure what happened during the development time of World War Z or if any of these things were tested during the QA testing, but a broken net-code like this in the year of 2019 is inexcusable. Sometimes, it almost seems that either the bugs were forgotten and went into the “We gotta hit a deadline territory, so we will fix it later.” or “Meh, who cares, this game has zombies so it will sell well.”

The multiplayer also has very strange hit boxes that are quite inconsistent and there is a huge dis-balance in weapons, as well. Some weapons will just 1 shot or 2 shot you while others take forever to kill. I know that competitive gaming is all about reaction and muscle memory, and trust me, I’ve played plenty of competitive Counter-Strike and Overwatch to understand how these things work. But I can tell you right now that the PvP multiplayer in World War Z is an unpolished experience that feels like it was added on to the game at the last second just for the sake of having it at launch to get the game out.

Once again, unacceptable. If you’re going to add a proper multiplayer mode, then make sure its properly tested, fixed and tweaked enough to where the gaming and competitive experience feels polished, enjoyable to play, and most importantly, balanced.

Tech, Visuals and Audio

World War Z is not an amazing looking, but it’s also not really trying to be. For the most part, it does look like a current gen game and most of the environments look quite clean and nice to look at. Particularly, the Tokyo levels are very pleasing to the eye. The game’s main selling point as far as the tech goes are the swarms of zombies that come in multiple times throughout the missions. While at first, its very impressive too see such an amount of zombies on screen at once, but at the same time the novelty of that wears off pretty quickly and the cost of that comes in at bit too high.

Zombies from a far distance animate very strange. When there is a giant pile of zombies on top of each other and you throw a grenade, the explosion looks and feels extremely weak with the zombies falling apart in such a way as if they are made of paper or something. Basically, just for the sake of all the zombies on the screen the game suffers in other different visual aspects like the toning down of explosions particle effects and physics animations.

There are very obvious technical limitations here. Normally if a game wants to achieve many things on screen at once with good looking visuals as well, then the hardware must have a really good CPU which we all know the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One both have a very outdated processor. Unfortunately, the Jaguar x86 8 Core CPU has been bottle-necking many games in the past and will continue to do so until we finally move on to the next-generation of console gaming.

However, I commend Saber Interactive trying to be innovative and make something impressive with the horde of zombies, but I think it came at too much of cost and it would have been better to create a more smooth and visual experience instead. The game was played on a PlayStation 4 Pro and the lack of 60 FPS is quite upsetting, and again, I believe that’s because the developer has made a certain design choice where they had to choose one or the other. In this case they choose a novelty over performance which I think was a huge mistake. Obviously, this is not an issue on the PC version as I can imagine, but that’s PC. It would have been nice for console gamers to enjoy the game at 60 frames, as well.

Now as far as the audio goes, for the most part there is really not much to brag about. Thankfully, there are no weird audio bugs or glitches or disappearance of sound or anything like that and that’s a good thing.  The soundtrack in the game is all subjective but I personally think it fits the game and sounds good to my ears. However, there is nothing to write home about as far as the soundtrack goes, either.

Final Verdict

At the end of the day, World War Z is trying to bring back the DNA and formula of the beloved Left 4 Dead franchise. While it does feel familiar and tries to be original, unfortunately it just fails due to how buggy the game is, inconsistent with its net-code and weird design choices of not being able to play a private game with a friend or two of yours. The tacked on unpolished lackluster multiplayer doesn’t help the game’s case, either.

If you’ve been hoping for a Left 4 Dead revival then I am afraid I have to say you’re going to have to keep on waiting for that one game. Honestly, you’re better of playing Warhammer: Vermintide 2. The only big difference is that it’s far from a zombie game, but the polish, systems, and the actual progression of the game feels far more rewarding and fun than World War Z and the idea is pretty much the same – fight a crap-ton of enemies on screen with your friends until your eyes bleed.

If there is a sequel to World War Z, then I deeply hope that Saber Interactive will take the feedback and create a much better game next time, because World War Z had huge potential to be an amazing game, but unfortunately it missed the mark by quite a bit. Our final verdict for World War Z is a 5.5

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World War Z

0.00
5.5

Overall

5.5/10

Pros

  • Impressive Amounts of Zombies
  • Budget Price
  • Can be fun in bursts

Cons

  • Buggy
  • Netcode is all over the place
  • Not very polished
  • Multiplayer feels tacked on