On­line romp revels in samey, sprint­ing un­dead ac­tion

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Dave Meik­le­ham

No, Brad Pitt isn’t in this de­com­pos­ing, late-to-the-party spin-off. Deal with it. While it’s a bum­mer that Hol­ly­wood’s most hand­some mug doesn’t grace this chaotic, grace­less, yet ul­ti­mately like­able Left 4 Dead wannabe, at least Saber In­ter­ac­tive used the cash it could have spent on Mr Dur­den’s im­pec­ca­ble face on al­most lim­it­less piles of zombie flesh. Thought Dead Ris­ing had a lot of cof­fin-dodgers? Think again.

Spend even the briefest of mo­ments in World War Z ’s com­pany and you’ll come away feel­ing like you’ve been trans­ported back in time. Scrunch your eyes a lit­tle, pic­ture Gabe Newell whis­per­ing sweet noth­ings in your soon-to-be-chewed-off ear, and you could well be play­ing Left 4 Dead 2.5.

A four-player co-op cam­paign that re­volves around slaugh­ter­ing hun­dreds of zombie pests? Check. A con­stant need for tac­ti­cal gun­play and self­less re­vives? You bet. Spe­cial­ist un­dead classes that in­clude Mr Spitty So-And-So, Charg­ing Bas­tard, Lurk­ing Creeper With Bound­ary Is­sues and Loud Jerk That Alerts All The Other Zombs To Your Pres­ence? Of course.

Un­dead to rights

Though World War Z is un­doubt­edly de­riv­a­tive, at least its core me­chan­ics are fairly well ex­e­cuted. Gun­play is re­li­able, re­spon­sive and agree­ably meaty, while the globe-hop­ping four­chap­ter cam­paign is pleas­ingly var­ied. Whether you’re wast­ing zom­bies on the ru­ined streets of Man­hat­tan, fight­ing off hy­pother­mia and the un­dead in the snow-cov­ered squares of Moscow, or try­ing to catch a ferry in a dystopian, al­beit au­tum­nally pretty Tokyo, the end-of-the-world scenery is ar­guably more en­gag­ing than ei­ther of Valve’s de­fin­i­tive on­line ef­forts.

The un­der­ly­ing tech pow­er­ing these vast un­dead hordes is also quite im­pres­sive. Is World War Z a tech­ni­cal knock­out? Hell no. When it comes to base looks, the scrappy ac­tion – full of clip­ping and un­con­vinc­ing an­i­ma­tions – is about as vis­ually arous­ing as a plate of steamed as­para­gus. Still, when the zombie posses amass (and boy, do they ever) the sheer spec­ta­cle of see­ing hun­dreds of sprint­ing ca­dav­ers ad­vance upon your squad’s po­si­tion is both alarm­ing and stir­ring.

These swelling masses of rot­ting hu­man­ity don’t just pro­vide im­pres­sive win­dow dressing: such heav­ing corpse piles also present tac­ti­cal chal­lenges. When the un­dead be­gin to swarm – most mis­sions have at least one set-piece where you have to stand your ground against hun­dreds of en­e­mies who all pile on top of one an­other – you’re forced to take steps to beat back their num­bers with as lit­tle ammo as pos­si­ble.

Ex­am­ple? In a cute move that re­calls the orc-smash­ing fun of the Battle Of Helm’s Deep from The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Tow­ers, you can send those zombie crowds top­pling like a flesh-eat­ing house of cards. Simply aim for the ghouls prop­ping up the un­dead

flesh tower and the whole swarm will col­lapse on itself; a squad-sav­ing move that can often be ac­com­plished with a sin­gle frag grenade.

Saber has also done a rea­son­able job of try­ing to break up the monotony of all this re­lent­less zombie mur­der. Yes, 80 per cent of the ac­tion re­volves around mind­lessly mow­ing down un­dead cronies, yet in key mo­ments, be­spoke ob­jec­tives give lev­els some wel­come va­ri­ety. Whether it’s es­cort­ing a bus through the ru­ined tun­nels of Tokyo or pre­vent­ing a nu­clear catas­tro­phe in an un­der­ground Rus­sian bunker by fid­dling with re­ac­tors, it’s good to see Saber has the sense to oc­ca­sion­ally halt its often over­whelm­ing un­dead car­nage.

Squad goals

As much as it’s best sam­pled in short on­line bursts, World War Z also does its best to en­tice com­mit­ted sur­vivors with long-term goals. Reg­u­larly re­visit mis­sions and you can both im­prove guns through weapon cus­tomi­sa­tion and tweak the game’s mul­ti­ple classes with perks – say, an un­lock­able power which high­lights spe­cial zombie vari­a­tions around cor­ners, or an­other bonus that in­creases the dis­tance of your push at­tack by 50 per cent.

If you want to damn World War Z with the faintest of praise, it’s at least as good as the un­der­whelm­ing Pitt flick. It also has some­thing the schlocky film doesn’t: self-aware­ness. Un­like the some­what tone-deaf movie, the game knows it’s campy, ul­ti­mately good-na­tured trash. There’s a rea­son for the lower price point, and a know­ing, wink­ing phi­los­o­phy that sees ev­ery el­e­ment of the game, from cliched char­ac­ter design to painfully generic menus, feel like they were birthed in 2008. Yet when you con­sider the source ma­te­rial, this wry cheap and cheer­ful qual­ity ul­ti­mately works in the game’s favour.

De­spite the largely one-note ac­tion, no­tice­ably low bud­get, as well as the lack of imag­i­na­tion on show, there’s at least a scrappy charm dis­played here that makes this zombie romp just about worth­while. If you have a few Xbox Live chums who have an un­dead-an­ni­hi­lat­ing itch to scratch, you could do worse than wag­ing this brain-bit­ing battle.

“In key mo­ments, be­spoke ob­jec­tives give lev­els some wel­come va­ri­ety”

Pub­lisher Fo­cus Home In­ter­ac­tive / De­vel­oper Saber In­ter­ac­tive / re­lease date Out now / cost £34.99/$39.99

Left The Tokyo chap­ter has your sur­vivor seek­ing refuge on a lux­ury liner.

right Sadly, the un­dead don’t get the snif­fles – even dur­ing freez­ing bl­iz­zards.

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