I’ve been a big fan of World War Z since day one. It’s one of those rare games in my library that I have paid near constant attention to since it was launched on Xbox in 2019. The good people at Saber Interactive have continually supported and improved upon the game. Now though they are back with their biggest update yet: Aftermath.
There are two brand new co-op story missions to shoot through, set in the Vatican City and Russia’s snowy Kamchatka peninsula. These follow the theme of World War Z’s epic backdrops that host each separate episode in the interconnected, zeke infested world. Each mission looks distinctly unique and I have to say, the latest two are the best yet.
The climax of the first new episode is one hell of a set piece (no spoilers here), and looks fantastic. The second sees you trying to board a huge, frozen cruise liner which looms large in the background throughout the first part of the episode. It’s a close knit experience that could easily belong in the Hollywood movie of the same name, full of striking cinematic qualities. My only minor disappointment is that despite sometimes appearing the case, the overall story has no real progression, but is instead an endless battle against the zeke with no real signs that an end to the war is achievable.
Despite largely playing in the same way as before, that being shooting your way through the level with occasional pit stops to defend your position from waves of zeke, there are a handful of subtle new elements in this update. Swarms of rats will occasionally ambush you, requiring explosives or a flamethrower to efficiently dispatch, as bullets often aren’t accurate enough. On the subject of fire, you’ll be required to refuel your flamethrower from time to time to thaw your way through doors which are frozen solid. Despite not exactly rewriting the rule book, these small gameplay tweaks are a welcome addition to keep the zombie slaying action varied. But, if you found the action too repetitive before, there’s nothing here that will change your perception.
Thanks to the power of the Xbox Series X|S, this update allows you to play World War Z in silky smooth 4K/60FPS. Having played the game since it’s release, I can really tell what a difference this makes to the action, especially when things get crowded. As it happens, the new Horde Mode XL will put this to the test by featuring hundreds more zombies on screen than ever before, when it launches soon at no extra cost. It’s quite a moment when you hear the zeke screams, and then see swarms of them clambering over pretty much any obstacle in their way in order to get at you. You’ll encounter the occasional floating zombie, whose death sequence plays out in mid air, but on the whole it all runs very fluidly indeed.
World War Z has always felt a little different to other multiplayer focused FPS games for me, as I traditionally grow bored with them very quickly (I lost my way with Call of Duty years ago, as an example). However, the threat of hundreds of zombies invading your playthrough at any second both in co-op and competitive multiplayer makes for a welcome point of difference.
World War Z, rather atypically for a shooter, plays from a third person viewpoint (or over the shoulder as it is sometimes called). I suppose this means that you couldn’t strictly call it an FPS, until now that is. The Aftermath update includes a fully integrated first person perspective which you can toggle on or off at any time from the pause menu. Personally, I’ll be sticking to third person, but it’s a neat little addition for those who prefer the more common point of view for a shooter such as this.
Classes are the way in which World War Z offers the player customisation, with numerous skills to unlock as you gain experience. Weapons also work in a similar way, with you upgrading them in numerous ways as you use them in the co-op campaign episodes. However, in Aftermath the often frustrating melee system has had an overhaul, resulting in finishing moves and weapons you can dual wield such as the sickle and cleaver. Vanguard is the brand new class available in this update, as well as daily missions offering unique rewards which you can find out more about in the brand new message of the day pop up box in the game menu.
There is also a Deluxe Edition available (as is usually the case these days) which includes two bonus weapons, the Sledgehammer and Dual Cleavers as well as the Explorer Weapon Skin Pack. This also includes all previous content from the GOTY edition, but with the base game available on Xbox Game Pass it may be more prudent instead to purchase the standard World War Z: Aftermath upgrade. It all depends on how much of a completionist you are.
In terms of PvP multiplayer, well, it remains largely the same. You can now play as the characters from the new episodes, and it all runs much more impressively in 4K/60FPS. However, it would have been good to see a new mode or two introduced here as this is the area of the game which has gone the longest without a substantial update. That’s one still on the wishlist.
However, World War Z: Aftermath is the most substantial, and impressive update yet. New content and improvements to how the game performs means World War Z has never been in better shape. Its short, sharp, big budget playstyle is building momentum through replayability, pushing this into a must have title. For me, it always was.
World War Z: Aftermath improves on the base game in a number of ways. Despite the new content only adding a few short hours of gameplay, there are more reasons than ever for players to keep coming back for more.
You can pick up the Aftermath expansion for World War Z by visiting the Xbox Store