Left 4 Dead and its sequel really was lightning in a bottle. In the decade since Valve’s original co-op zombie shooter, many have tried and most have failed to emulate what made Left 4 Dead the go-to co-op game in my house and among my group of friends. Sadly, that’s still pretty much the case, even with the release of World War Z on PS4.
Before the game’s release it was said many a time that World War Z would be the Left 4 Dead 3 that we’ve all been waiting for. The similarities between Saber Interactive’s effort and Valve’s untouchable Left 4 Dead were obvious from the start and the developers even admitted they were big fans of the latter and that they wanted to make a comparable experience, albeit set within the World War Z universe.
As expected, then, you don’t get a fully fleshed out single player campaign. Instead you play through different chapters set in various locales around the world. You’ll be taken to Moscow, Tokyo, New York, and Jerusalem, with each location being played out across a few chapters. You’ll pick your character and class – there are multiple classes to choose from, depending on your preferred playstyle – and then you’ll make your way through the levels. It’s a by-the-book affair on every level, almost, with menial tasks being doled out to keep you busy throughout the short chapters. Some of the tasks are fairly fun, I admit, but others are just tedious. One example that springs to mind is an early New York level where you need to collect weapon boxes and bring them back to the train before the guys who’ve taken over the locomotive will take you and your mates out of the station. One box? Fine, that’s manageable. Two? OK, I could live with that. Five? Yawn. Repetition is nobody’s friend.
Others are a little more engaging, such as protecting a bus as it makes its way to a checkpoint. The undead spill out from the shadows and you’ve got to take them out before they destroy the bus. It wasn’t the most exciting of scenarios but at least there was something at stake.
For the most part, this is how the levels run in World War Z; go here, do this, protect that, bring this, continue. However, there is one massive highlight that is nearly – nearly – enough to make the rest palatable. Each level has you hunker down at one point or another to defend against an incoming swarm of zombies. This is by far and away the most impressive part of the game. Seeing hundreds of zeds bounding over one another in an effort to eat the flesh of me and my comrades was genuinely frightening, or at least it was the first time. Much like in the movie, the undead will pile on top of one another to form a pyramid to overcome fences, walls, and whatever else stands between their teeth and your succulent bum cheeks.
That being said… It’s not all that difficult to overcome even the biggest swarms. The game is generous in displaying where ammo and weapons can be picked up, even more so during these stand-off moments where you’re forced to defend against the incoming waves. The stand-off scenarios are good fun, mind you, as they offer up a bit more choice. You’ll know when you’re in a stand-off scenario because a countdown clock will start ticking. The idea is that you take this time to build up your defenses and coordinate with your team mates on how best to defend against the onslaught of smelly zombies. You can set traps, build barriers, lay mines and set up turrets. It’s alright for what it is, but once you’ve played through them a few times it loses some of its shine, even more so if you’re playing with friends who know what they’re doing. If you’re an experienced player, these tense moments turn into a memory exercise where you just need to remember where the hordes will spawn from.
I started out playing World War Z alone and found it to be just fine. The AI isn’t completely stupid and it did manage to hold its own for the most part, but to get the most out of this one you’ll want to team up with a friend or two. It’ll make things easier, sure, but it’s also more fun to chat to a mate rather than shout at an AI character that doesn’t know you exist.
On the technical side, World War Z performs admirably. Well, on PS4 Pro, at least. I can’t speak for the PS4 Slim but on PS4 Pro the game is a rock-solid 30 frames-per-second, even in the most demanding of scenes with hundreds of zombies flooding the screen. It’s an impressive feat, for sure, but the limitations start to show themselves as you realise you’ve killed the same zombie character model dozens of times in the space of a few seconds. But I digress. It’s still impressive and it looks the part, too. Instead of going the super-dark and moody route of the games it takes inspiration from, World War Z is surprisingly bright. Each location is well-made with easy to navigate corridors, passages and streets, as well as nice incidental details scattered around to give the world a little more feeling to it.
One thing that the game is really missing, in my opinion, is the great sound design that elevated Left 4 Dead. World War Z apes the game in every other manner, including special zombies, but it doesn’t have the audio cues to back them up. The sound design is fine, mind you, with zombies screeching and roaring with eerie conviction, but there’s just something off. I guess if I wasn’t so busy comparing this to Left 4 Dead, I wouldn’t care so much. But seeing as how the developers were open about what they were doing… I can’t let it slide.
As it stands World War Z is an average team shooter that’ll probably do better than it should, thanks to the World War Z license attached to it. There’s enough to keep you and a few mates busy for a weekend of zombies and beers, but past that I can’t see myself keeping the disc in the console for much longer. Even with the game’s multiplayer, the staying power just isn’t there. So… Left 4 Dead 3, when?
World War Z PS4 Review
- Overall - Not Bad - 5/105/10
World War Z is, at best, an average shooter. It's going for broke by reaching for those dizzying Left 4 Dead highs, but in the end the zombie pyramid crumbles and you're left with a weak imitation that leaves you wanting for something more.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.