It’s a question as old as time itself. Well, maybe that’s going a bit far. Still, which are worse? Films based on video games, or video games based on films? Whether it’s lazy movie tie-ins designed to shift software or poor film adaptations that bear hardly anything more in common than a name with their source material, the outcome is rarely better than average. Logic would suggest the game is doomed to mediocrity.
The film World War Z was fairly well received overall by critics and movie-goers alike when it was released. The plot is centered around a pandemic that caused zombies to overrun most of the civilised world, and it’s left to Brad Pitt to stop them. The film also stars Peter Capaldi who works for the World Health Organisation (WHO) before his starring role as a famous doctor of the same name. Spooky. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, comes not so much a movie tie-in, but rather an extension to the tale of World War Z.
The game’s main mode, Co-op Campaign, follows different groups of survivors who are fighting to escape the hordes of zombies, or Zeke, roaming the earth. This mode consists of four episodes, each made up of three chapters. They play very similarly to Left 4 Dead, your character is accompanied by three NPCs in offline mode, or by other players in online mode. You can play the campaign at five different difficulties, ranging from easy to insane. As you play as different classes in this mode, you’ll unlock new perks to purchase and stronger weapons.
You’ll encounter different types of zombies on your adventures, each lethal in its own way. Some are so dangerous you’ll need a teammate to save you, and pretty quickly too as you’ll be pinned down and unable to defend yourself. Others will call for waves of reinforcements but rather helpfully you’ll be pointed towards where they are lurking, so you can take them down with ease. As you play, you’ll quickly realise that the Zeke’s signature move has been lifted straight from the film; the pyramid. This is where they will basically pile on top of each other in order to climb up to a higher platform, and is pretty impressive and terrifying to watch. In contrast to this, some of the cheekier zombies will play dead, so be wary if you pass a corpse you haven’t killed yourself.
Even on the normal difficulty, you’ll have to carefully decide between exploring for weapons and medkits and getting the hell on with things, as you’ll run out of ammo pretty fast. If you choose to explore though, you’ll occasionally find breach packs, which are the only way to open reinforced doors which contain all sorts of goodies. The balancing act of scouting for gear and pressing on with your objectives keeps things tense and pacey. However, if you get it wrong and your squad dies you’ll be starting the whole chapter again, which provides some real weight to the decisions you make. You don’t have to complete each chapter to progress, and you’ll still earn some XP and supply points depending on how well you do, however it’ll still feel like a failure not making it to the end.
The game also features a pretty standard online Multiplayer mode, similar to many other online shooter games. The matchmaking is pretty slick, but can take a bit longer if you choose a specific game mode rather than hitting “quick match”, which will choose one at random for you. You can then select your character and class, which are different from the campaign mode and each comes with a specific weapon set. There are all the usual modes here, ranging from Swarm Domination (Capture the Flag) to Swarm Deathmatch (Team Deathmatch).
World War Z has a rather unsurprising twist to all these modes however. Zombies. Lots of them. When noise levels peak, which is fairly regularly, waves of zombies will pour into the battlefield and can easily overrun even the most skilled player. If you are clever, you can of course use this to your advantage by luring the waves toward your enemies. World War Z does an excellent job of providing a genuine “heart in the mouth” moment, as you see hundreds of zombies clambering over each other to scale the wire fence to get to you.
The multiplayer maps are standard stuff but pretty well designed including settings such as an abandoned hospital. As I mentioned before, each class has its own weapon set, which will consist of a primary and secondary weapon as well as “equipment”, such as hand grenades or mines. Every now and then a third, “heavy” weapon, will become available, but only for a limited time, so you’ll want to make the most of it. Depending on your kill count and other in-game accolades you’ll earn varying amounts of XP and supply points which will improve your class.
Outside of play, you can view your collection via the main menu. You can view all the characters and weapons right off the bat, but you’ll unlock more detail as you play. For example, as you play with each character you’ll unlock a bio about them and a short arty video delving deeper into their experiences of the zombie apocalypse.
World War Z looks really good in action and things run smoothly on the whole, even when the action gets frantic; which happens a lot. At any one time you could be facing a Zeke pyramid over 100 strong, all scrambling to get to you, but there’s no noticeable frame rate or rendering deterioration. Sadly though, the soundtrack isn’t as impressive. It’s actually rather bland and generic, but serves its purpose. To be fair, the game is all about shooting things after all.
At £34.99 and with add-ons available to purchase in-game, such as weapon packs, some may find World War Z on Xbox One slightly overpriced. As it doesn’t do anything particularly new or different to other games in the genre it’s down to personal preference for those looking for a new online shooter. If you like shooting zombies, it’s definitely one for you.
World War Z is lots of fun and easy to pick up and play, despite being a little on the expensive side. It may not have loads of new ideas, but it delivers a solid online PvP experience that doesn’t disappoint, especially on the zombie front. If you’re looking for your first foray into the online shooter genre, this is as good a place as any to start.