Videogaming is the third separate medium that a World War Z title has been released in, and it can be convincingly argued that all three entries exist individually from one another, though perhaps the game and the film are closer to each other than either are to the original book. World War Z the game initially released in 2019, but has now returned (I would make a returned from the dead joke here but the game has actually done quite well) in a Game of the Year edition, with additional weapons and characters, and a news series of levels set in the French city of Marseille.
It would be easy to compare World War Z to Valve’s Left 4 Dead series, and while there are obvious similarities, not least the presence of zombies and a 4-player team of protagonists, it feels like World War Z is designed to be more of a casual experience. Here, you can quickly enter a game with strangers, and communication between party members doesn’t seem to be quite so important, at least until you start playing on the higher difficulties. In addition, World War Z doesn’t adapt itself quite so much to how well you’re doing within a particular level, so while objective placements and weapon availability may change from one run through to the other, the difficulty of each level is predetermined, and doesn’t scale up or down depending on how you’re getting on.
There is a general over-arching narrative within World War Z, and playing through the campaign missions, especially if you do so in order, will take you on a globe-trotting tour through a number of famous cities, each of which feels distinct from the rest. New York, for example, feels busy and grimy, and you can feel the weight of the buildings on top of you, while Moscow is more open, with snow lessening your vision and causing you to play slightly differently. Each chapter of the game focuses on a single city, with three or four missions taking place each time. There are different characters for each chapter as well, though these essentially serve as visual and audible avatars layered over your profile, where progression is made through improving weapons and levelling up your classes.
There are a large number of offensive options included in World War Z, as well as six different classes to experiment with and discover which best suits your playing style. At the end of each level, you will gain experience towards the class that you selected and any weapons that you used during the level, meaning that if you want to get better with a particular gun, you have to make sure that you’re using it frequently. Upgrades to guns can include the addition of a silencer, a larger magazine or better stopping power, and improving your classes can change your starting weapon options or how easily you can spot special enemies, amongst other things. The Game of the Year edition comes with a selection of fully upgraded weapons that you can choose from, and while these did prove useful, I felt as if they took away from my sense of progression, so after using them for a few missions, I put them on the backburner in favor of their basic options.
Each mission follows a fairly similar pattern, though what you’ll be doing specifically can vary from level to level. Each level will have at least one moment where you’ll be defending a set point against an onrushing horde, requiring you to set defenses and hunker down, either for a predetermined amount of time, or until the horde is defeated. While the groups of zombies don’t look as convincing or move as threateningly as the hordes in games such as Days Gone, they are still terrifying to face up against, and each time they started forming towers I began to panic, hoping that I could kill enough of them in time to stop then reaching my position. When not taking on hordes, you can be expected to take part in a variety of fetch quests, sequential switches or trying to find keycards. Taken on their own, none of these tasks are particularly exciting, but when trying to escape from zombies, especially with a group of friends, World War Z can often be frenetic and fast-paced.
While you can play through the whole game offline (either by yourself or with a local partner), World War Z comes to life when played with other people. The AI in single-player is largely functional, usually keeping to a tight-knit group and not getting themselves into unnecessary danger, and they can be relied upon to bring down their fair share of enemies. However, they don’t interact with the game world, meaning that even if they are standing right next to a switch that needs to be hit, you will still need to head over to their position to hit it yourself. This obviously doesn’t happen when playing with other humans, and the ability to strategize and assign certain roles to particular players means that you can start to nail down the best way to make it through a tough area.
Ultimately, World War Z is a solid co-op shooting experience, and while it might be a little harsh to call the overall game shallow, there is a certain lack of depth that may prevent some players from becoming fully absorbed and playing for months on end. However, what is present is a lot of fun, and though it is perfectly playable in single-player, World War Z truly shines when you are able to get a group together, either as friends or strangers. There’s enough content to keep players busy for a while, and the progression system rewards gamers who are willing to experiment with new weapons and classes. While World War Z perhaps won’t be the first game that I’ll go to each time I boot up my console, it’s one that I’ll definitely be keeping installed for the times that I can get a few friends together to blast some zombies.