The world of zombie games is wide, varied and foul-smelling. There was a period where it seemed like every other game was packed to the brim with zombos. It makes sense, really – zombies make for great enemies, since they’re slow, easily killed and don’t have much moral quality associated with them so you don’t feel bad about taking them out. Games like World War Z really focus on another unique aspect of zombies: there’s a lot of them. A whole lot of them. And in World War Z, you end up having to fight pretty much all of them. Sometimes at once.
You’re probably a little familiar with the World War Z brand: there’s the Max (son of Mel) Brooks book and the 2013 Brad Pitt film, though the game doesn’t appear to have much in common with either, aside from the overall theme, though seems closer to the film – odd, given how that came out a solid six years ago. Said theme is there’s been a worldwide zombie outbreak and there are groups of survivors in different areas around the planet who are trying to find safety.
Scenarios take place in varying settings from New York to Japan and feature differing characters and maps, so you’ve got a few options, but none of them really stand out aside from the others – though there’s something to be said for a zombie campaign taking place in Russia.
Anyway, World War Z is a Left 4 Dead clone. You’ve got four party members controlled by either CPU or human players and you complete objectives while dealing with zombies en masse. Dealing with said zombies consists of blasting away at them with firearms and explosives or hacking away with melee weapons. This is a pretty standard take on that sort of gameplay, all in all, and outside of cute class perks your characters don’t tend to feel especially unique or different.
Remember the World War Z movie? Remember how the undead would pile onto each other like ants? Well, you’re in luck! The big selling feature here is the tendency for zombies to pile up on each other to climb up walls in a similar fashion, which is neat and leads to hilarious moments where you break down their pile…and that’s pretty much it. Otherwise, it’s Left 4 Dead. You’ve got the odd quirk here and there, like a mode where players fight each other in the middle of a zombie horde, but I like to think that Umbrella Corps showed us how well that works.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Left 4 Dead clones can work. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the Warhammer franchise’s Vermintide games, for instance, and those are pretty much the same thing. Here, though, it’s just zombies yet again and that’s not necessarily going to feel as unique or fresh as the ratlike Skaven hordes of Vermintide. If you don’t require innovation, though, World War Z does what it sets out to do and does it well.
It also looks damn nice while it’s doing it. As one of the headlining games for the Epic Games Store, which is selling itself as a “high-end” take on Steam that flushes out the turds that infest that storefront, World War Z really wants to show off some high production values. From that perspective it succeeds, especially when it comes to precisely how many zombies you’re dealing with; it’s impressive to deal with hordes of hundreds of zombos at a time.
Still, World War Z is, well…a cooperative zombie-killing game with the same sort of gameplay you’d find elsewhere (hint: Left 4 Dead). That’s not going to be enough to set it apart from the crowd, which appears to be getting more crowded all the time. As a generic fun-with-friends shooter, it still works. As a AAA title in 2019 when we’re expecting new experiences and gameplay, not so much. People seem to love these things, however, so you’ll want to join the fray and see if its familiar killing style tickles your undead fancy.