Too little too late...
ChickenMcBastrd wrote this review on .
The First World War, WWI, the Great War. It’s known by many names, was one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the human race, and led to a revolution in fighting tactics that have been used by the world’s militaries since. After years of trench warfare and machine-gun massacres, the revolution of the tank and allied blockades brought Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire to its knees. But what would have happened if WWI never ended? That’s the universe that World War Zero explores. Unfortunately, this European port of the original 2002 game doesn’t bring in anything new and is as basic and rudimentary a shooter as they come.
A coalition of Allied forces have banded together to defeat a determined Germanic-Mongolian-Russian-Chinese-and whoever else they decided to throw in foe. It’s the 1960s, WWI never ended, and armies have been put on the stock exchange in a random cheap shot at our capitalist/consumerist culture. In the middle of this is you, a covert operative with a penchant for solving basic puzzles and massacring progressively harder enemies along the way. It’s not that it’s a bad idea, it’s just that it’s something we’ve seen before. Developer Reef made no effort to add any original content to this release, which comes a full three years after we saw it over in the U.S.
The game attempts, early on, to mimic the WWI-style of fighting, with heavy action in fortified bunkers and trenches. As you sprint from trench to trench you’ll have enemies leap out from behind corners and appear from above. It’s laughably easy, and a bit contradictory considering the game’s inclusion of tanks and air strikes, the very thing that made WWI-fighting tactics and trenches obsolete. There are sporadic machinegun and rocket-turret emplacements but will only come in handy to eliminate the three or four troops that are triggered as a result manning them.
The puzzles are very basic and will vary from locating switches to open certain gates to finding a grate to blow up in order to access the next part of the level. Those trite obstacles are all that break up the rest of the game, which boils down to mowing down troops, reloading, and repeating. Occasionally you’ll get some help from conveniently-placed explosive barrels and there’s an odd tank thrown in the middle of a couple levels but those won’t present much of a challenge either. The only difficulty you’ll encounter is knowing where to go next. There are times in the game where it’s not completely obvious on what the objective is. You’ll be doing a lot of searching and backtracking on certain levels until you find the right ledge or oddly-placed window to jump out of.
Levels are laid out linearly with a few exceptions which offer a separate branch to the same destination. Some hidden areas will give you access to turrets which can be used to eliminate unsuspecting enemies. There are plenty of dead-end paths that contain various powerups, med kits, and can contain certain side-missions, not that completing them will help you along at all. In fact, it’s entirely possible to get to the end of certain levels without completing the main objective. You’re penalized with a deduction of “mission points,” which seem to be an artificial number included for the sake of having points. You won’t be forced to restart and the points don’t seem to buy anything in terms of extras, so it all seems like a giant waste of time.
Another waste is the inclusion of the user-interface menus. A lot of the options aren’t adjustable and the game will run at a fixed 640x480 resolution without being able to increase the anti-aliasing or change your anisotropy settings. If something can’t be changed, then what’s the point in having at all? The developer could’ve at least axed the menus that weren’t being used like they did the multiplayer. The act of cutting online play from the game is a big disappointment considering the game’s weapons lend themselves to fast-paced multiplayer games.
You start with a basic pistol and sub-machine gun. As you progress, you’ll gain access to some nifty guns and gadgets. Sniper rifles offer a powerful shot with precise accuracy and excellent magnification and the game’s Auto-RPG makes armored threats and sentry-guns seem like child’s play. There’s also a flamethrower, a powerful semi-automatic rifle with good zoom, a minigun, and a few different grenade types. All told there are fourteen different weapons and each one is fairly powerful. There are a few issues, such as explosive shots taking out a single enemy in a group without any regard given to splash damage, but other than that they are very satisfying. Nothing will bring a smile to your face faster than decimating an entire platoon of reinforcements with a single volley from your minigun.
You may miss the first time, however, because while the AI is relatively outdated, it’s still got a few tricks in its bag. Enemies will surprise you from around corners and duck back behind cover. If you kill some of their comrades they’ll run away to regroup. Throw a grenade and there’s a good chance an enemy will seek cover. The majority of your enemies will just charge head-first into the receiving end of your bullets but a few smart ones remind you that it’s called artificial intelligence.
If anything is for certain, it’s that World War Zero won’t win any prizes for its beauty. The graphics are straight out of the 2002 version and may come as a visual-shock to those of you familiar with more recent graphical heavyweights as Battlefield 2 and Doom 3. It’s sort of like browsing Playboy or Page3 and then glancing over your shoulder to see Joan Collins disrobed and spread out on your bed—your eyes will want to kill you. Textures are poor, and individual soldiers are rendered quite poorly. Enemies may warp through doors and as you walk around certain levels you’ll encounter some flickering, where walls disappear if you view them at certain angles.
The sound isn’t much better. Your communications officer, in contact with you throughout the game, is barely audible. Weapon effects can vary from fulfilling thuds of rocket shells to the annoying screeching of the minigun. Your footsteps will occasionally register, but most of the time you’ll be running in complete silence. This works to your advantage as you can pick out which direction enemy steps are coming but in the end is just another gripe to add to the long list.
Even at £19.99, World War Zero is still too expensive to consider. Its gameplay and graphics are severely outdated and essential elements like multiplayer and graphical options have been cut. Anyone who has played a more-recent shooter will see no reason to buy this. The concept is original however, and could offer FPS-newbies good training in rudimentary shooter gameplay.