Review

World War Z Review - Zombie Zeitgeist

  • First Released Apr 16, 2019
    released
  • PC

It's raining undead.

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Despite its departure from the novel, the film adaptation of World War Z was compelling because of its terrifyingly fast and uncharacteristically cooperative zombies. Seeing hundreds and thousands of undead bodies crawling over one another to create haunting swarms or towering pillars helped make the staple fictional enemy feel fresh, and it’s the exact energy that gives its loose video game adaptation the same strong foundation. When it's all about gunning down thousands of enemies with a couple of friends, World War Z is at its most entertaining.

Simplicity is at the heart of World War Z. Each of its 11 stages are filled to the brim with undead enemies for you and up to three friends to mow your way through, using an assortment of firearms, special weapons, and explosives. There's not much else to each of these missions that make them more complicated, which works for World War Z in its initial hours. The straightforward nature of gameplay makes it incredibly easy to jump into a match and immediately understand how to contribute. Pointing a gun at enemies and pulling the trigger rewards you with satisfyingly gruesome kills that thin the horde, allowing you to push further to the next objective. Optional lower difficulties for each stage let you get by without much synchronized play, letting you get to grips with World War Z's multiple classes.

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Unlike Left 4 Dead, which is clearly an inspiration for the cooperative gameplay, World War Z gives you the flexibility to choose which roles you fulfill in a team. Although you're able to equip any weapon you find, classes determine what you start with and what unique abilities you bring to each match. The Exterminator, for example, excels at lobbing Molotovs into gathering waves of undead enemies and has an upgrade tree that increases damage done to enemies that are on fire. The Medic can heal teammates without a first aid kit, and Gunslinger can distribute ammunition for use across all weapons. Classes can be tweaked slightly with unlockable traits (which you purchase with in-game currency earned from playing matches), though you can only equip a handful at a time.

The classes are fun to experiment with, and as you start taking on harder versions of each stage, they become more crucial to your success. At higher difficulties enemies are more ferocious and deadly, while you have fewer chances to revive downed teammates before they die. Friendly fire also becomes more unforgiving, making the frenetic nature of firefights a lot more challenging to deal with. These combine to better encourage well-balanced team configurations that capitalize on both healing and offensive abilities in order to survive, highlighting the usefulness of each class ability better than lower difficulties.

Playing as your favorite class unlocks perks for said class faster, and the same applies to the weapons you pick up. Kills accumulated with each weapon levels them up, giving you new attachments to purchase that increase damage, handling, reload speeds, and more. Weapons are separated into ascending tiers, with tiers increasing as you progress through a stage. Although you'll start with a Tier 1 pump-action shotgun, for example, you can just as easily find a magazine-loaded and automatic version before the climactic final battle of each story chapter. This gives you a reason to slow down and poke around each of World War Z's maps, as well as hunt down valuable explosives that give you entry into weapon-laden safe rooms. Picking up a new and improved weapon has an immediate and tangible effect on your ability to cut down increasingly large hordes, which makes finding the perfect one rewarding.

Stage-specific objectives are less exciting, though, only serving to push you from one combat encounter to the next without much strategy. Most of them just pad each mission with uninteresting interactions with switches or terminals just to group everyone up again before the next big zombie encounter. They're boring and rarely offer any opportunities for synchronized team play. Only a handful of scenarios attempt to add some variety into the mix, and even fewer succeed. One standout encounter tasked me and my team to venture into a multi-level room filled with toxic gases, forcing us to hunt for keycards that could be used to interact with terminals and bring the gas level down. This one scenario makes you wish there were more like it spread throughout the multiple story chapters, and it's frustrating that it isn't the case.

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The combat set-pieces these objectives funnel you towards are more regularly engaging. World War Z replicates the signature dread of its film adaptation by inundating you with hundreds of enemies at a time. These "swarms" are fantastically exciting to strategize around. You'll get the chance to place up some defenses before the swarm invades, setting up automated gun turrets or electrified fences to aggressively attack chokepoints or establish new ones to slow down their movement. The sheer scale of these battles is impressive. It's haunting to watch zombies cascading off the sides of buildings or collecting to scale tall fences, all with the single mind to come and tear you and your team apart. Breaking down these swarms is both challenging and satisfying, giving you a sense of accomplishment when the tide subsides and enemy numbers thin to a slow trickle.

Each swarm is fun to battle against, but their predictability and placement in each stage quickly diminishes their effect on the action. World War Z's stages don't change outside of difficulty scaling. Sneaky Lurker enemies who can jump and pin you down will appear in the exact same areas of each map every time; a large and dangerous Bull will charge at you during the same set-piece battles that trigger in the same places during each chapter, while enemy-attracting Screamers will pool together foes at choreographed stages during each level. The predictable placement of these special enemies makes return trips to story chapters less exciting due to their predictability, which diminishes their appeal.

Breaking down these swarms is both challenging and satisfying... but their predictability and placement in each stage quickly diminishes their effect on the action.

This swarm mechanic permeates World War Z's limited PvP modes too, turning simple team deathmatches or king-of-the-hill skirmishes into fights not only against other players, but also dynamic pockets of undead enemies. This is the only surprising spin on PvP, considering that the loose shooting buckles under the weight of the precise requirements of more serious competitive play. It's nice to have something outside of the limited chapters in PvE, but it has a severely limited appeal without any competitive-focused progression or exemplary modes to make your time invested feel worth it.

It doesn't take long for the 11 chapters to feel tiresome, especially when World War Z struggles to remain stable and keep you in games. I had the game hard crash and boot me back to the PS4 dashboard on numerous occasions, during anything from intense firefights to simply joining an online game. The frame rate was also wildly unstable, especially when being rushed by hundreds of foes on screen. It's not surprising that it happens, but it still negatively impacts the fluidity of each encounter. The four locations that house each of the chapters are delightfully varied and immediately recognizable (the two chapters in the cherry blossom petal-littered streets of Tokyo were particularly beautiful), but they can sometimes also fall prey to flat and boring textures that struggle to enrapture you with the desolate apocalypse around you.

World War Z has many rough edges that are easy to spot, exacerbated by limited content that makes repeated playthroughs less interesting with each run. But it's also a cooperative shooter that has the space for those dynamic and ridiculous player stories to emerge in. The rush of taking down a swarm with friends is core to what makes World War Z's action work so well, and it rewards you well for the time spent on the classes and weapons you like. It could benefit from having more to go around, but if there's a future for World War Z and its chaotic cooperative action, this is a good foundation to build it on.

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The Good
Swarm set-pieces are exciting battles against seemingly insurmountable odds
Classes offer compelling options for you to contribute to your team
Weapon upgrades reward exploration
The Bad
Technical issues ranging from frame rate troubles to numerous hard crashes
A lack of variety can make the stages on offer feel stale quickly
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Alessandro didn't have to cut anyone's hand off, but he did survive numerous swarms with thousands upon thousands of undead kills. He spent over 15 hours playing each of the four story stages three times and dipping his toe into some PvP matches. Review code was provided by Saber Interactive.
29 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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InstantKlassick

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I'm having a blast with it on PS4. I pay no attention to frame rate and all that. If the game is fun, and works, I'm happy.

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Dolezuhe

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Look awesome and I really like it but...

Will there be FPP mode in the game? I have an aversion to TPP and I think it's a funny mode.

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Just1MoHr

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Edited By Just1MoHr

So I have been playing Killing Floor 2 & have been addicted to it, and it came out of left field for me & shocked me at how much I enjoyed it. It is like a L4D, without all the tedious tasks & focuses on the fun of tearing up zombs. It feels great & pleasurable to see all the blood & body parts go flying all over the place. WWZ on the other hand gets boring fast & all the zombies look similar and bland & the controls are a bit sluggish for me. It was fun for the first few hours, because of the novelty of the hords, but I just don't have the desire to play it and just chose to play KF2 instead. KF2 shows blood stains as more & more zeds are killed & shows blood splatter all over and guts, and breaks zombies into pieces, which is immensely gratifying and more immersive and one feels like a total badaaazz. Earthfall is even better than WWZ IMHO.

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lodoss900

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ACG gave it a buy.. says its pretty fun

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Ivanov70

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Don't play this on base consoles and the technical issues disappear.

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julittok

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This is garbage, Days Gone is a boring mess, I just hope Techland does not disappoint.

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phili878

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The games I played in the 90s had less bugs (or quick bug fixes) than this garbage of today where crap short games are made, full of bugs. I am starting to think we're to blame actually. We are so content with a BF and CoD game on a yearly basis that all devs just pump crap full of bugs as fast as possible and people buy and play it.

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captainwonton

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You can’t start the this review saying how good the world war z movie was, that’s just wrong

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JimmyCos

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Four maps is unacceptable. What kind of DLC monstruosity is this

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silv3rst0rm

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I think you just need to face this game with the correct "mindset" to actually enjoy it!

Of course story is crap, of course graphics aren't top notch, of course there's not much strategy involved.

It's just a mind-numbing game where you just blow brains, limbs and just blast your way through very minimal scenarios.

It is satisfying for what it is but of course, you can't compare this game against games like The Last Of Us or any other deep, story driven games!

Had it been a full 70$ retail price, it'd be a ripoff but at 40$, I'm pretty satisfied with it and I like the fact that you can easily get into it for just 15-20 mins of intense action then go on with your life.

This is a good "complement" to a library.

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naryanrobinson

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Edited By naryanrobinson

I'm so confused about the rules for getting punished for having bugs in your game.

Seems like some games are just totally immune from criticism regarding it, or sometimes even having it mentioned (lookin' at you, Bethesda),

and other times it's first in line in “The Bad” list, and a really big deal.

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silv3rst0rm

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@naryanrobinson: Well, to me, Bethesda bugs actually makes the game hilarious more than anything!
I can live with glitches that will make me scratch my head, go "Wtf?!" and have a laugh about it.

But bugs that are gamebreaking and getting you killed pisses me off to a point where it deserves to be mad about and noted as a negative thing!

Besides, in Bethesda games you can save like crazy, at every second of the game if you want to, so bugs won't be much of an issue, you just reload save state that was 1-2 minutes ago.

Some other games work with checkpoints and not saves and some are pretty far from one another and it can be very frustrating when you just managed to pull it through a hard part to have to reload mission or checkpoint where you have to do it all again!

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JimAbadon

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Edited By JimAbadon

First The Walking Dead from Overkill, now this. Guess everyone wants a piece of that Left 4 Dead success. I do enjoy L4D from time to time but I also believe originality is important in this industry.

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proceeder

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What's going on?!

Did MK11 steal review points off of zombie games?!

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Profil84

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Edited By Profil84

Thats fine score cause game got -3 at start for stupid shallow concept of killing zombies, like c'mon this was fun few years ago.....oh wait this was not fun even then :D

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sladakrobot

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Friendly fire in a simple arcade horde mode game? C'mon!

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silv3rst0rm

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@sladakrobot: Yeah Friendly Fire pisses me off too as I'm trying to focus on healer class...
So I'm always staying behind my buddies so I can hardly shoot at anything without hitting my pals behind the head!

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dani3po

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Better than Days Gone. And cheaper.

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off3nc3

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Edited By off3nc3

@dani3po: Excuse yourself ? Days gone is one of the most fun open world game released in a while , get your head checked.

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dani3po

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@off3nc3: Tell that to GameSpot. The have given a higher score to this game than Days Gone.

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sladakrobot

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@dani3po: different genres

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rarerichz30

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Edited By rarerichz30

this game is way better then left 4 dead ignore this review its stupid , this game is easily a solid 8 with current content.

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SuperKlyph

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@rarerichz30: LMAO better than L4D.

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JustTheTip

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Edited By JustTheTip  Online

@rarerichz30: Nope. I learned my lesson after Elex. GameSpot gave it a super low score and then every regular gamer on this website was saying GameSpot was wrong and it was at least an 8. That game was at most a 3. I’ve believed the average gamer on here a few too many times, and been burnt just about every time. I no longer listen to people who don’t professionally review games.

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mdinger

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Edited By mdinger

@justthetip: I too gave Elex a try. Was pretty interested in it since it is a "European RPG", and I'm a huge fan of Risen 1 & 2 and the Gothic games and Elex looked like that sort of thing. Played it for at least 10 hours and really wanted to like it. But it was just awful.

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JustTheTip

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JustTheTip  Online

@mdinger: Yeah. If you go look at the comments for it, a bunch of people were saying just how wrong GameSpot was on it, and that it was a fun game. I bought it since so many people were saying it was really good. That was the last time I trusted non-professional reviewers. It was terrible.

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gamingdevil800

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@justthetip: I just say reviews should never deter you from buying a game one mans garbage is another mans treasure. I really liked ELEX and Technomancer but they got lynched by reviewers.

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BLiTZ_156

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Edited By BLiTZ_156

I'd give it a 7.5, experienced no crashes or frame rate drops at all though. (On an i5 + GTX970)

If you enjoyed L4D and similar, you'll enjoy this. More so if you have people you know to play with. The first time seeing a practically literal wave of zombies rolling towards you makes for some interesting reactions!

Have missed this type of co-op for a while, been having a blast with friends. Upping the difficulty makes things more interesting for sure. I cleared the campaign quite quickly, wouldn't recommend rushing it or you will get bored quicker, naturally. There are only so many chapters at this early point. But with harder difficulty and punishing friendly fire damage, you have to think and play better. Good satisfaction getting through a hard part by working out a plan with your team.

The multiplayer has a lot more classes than the campaign, and PvPvZ is interesting to manage and play around. There have the traditional modes, but with the twists of zombies and hordes interrupting the battle.

Definitely give it a go if you enjoy zombie games and surviving with friends.

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JustTheTip

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JustTheTip  Online

This game is several years too late.

10 • 

World War Z More Info

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  • First Released Apr 16, 2019
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    World War Z
    6.7
    Average Rating37 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate World War Z
    Developed by:
    Saber Interactive
    Published by:
    MAD DOG GAMES LLC, Focus Home Interactive, Five Star Games, H2 Interactive Co., Ltd.
    Genre(s):
    First-Person, Shooter, Tactical, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature