World War ZZZz?

I have to admit, I'm starting to get a little burnt out by the plethora of zombie related content that's still shambling around the various entertainment media. From books, to films, to games, there's just no end to the hordes - just like the hordes themselves. Just as I was starting to suffer serious Z-fatigue I got a code for World War Z. The game based on the world from the book, which is also a film.

I've not seen the movie, because zombie movies are often hit and miss with me and I admit it's hard to beat the master: George Romero.

I also share that sentiment with three zombie games, which I consider are at the top of their class.

The seminal: Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2, and State of Decay 2: A constantly evolving badass zombie/base/community survival game.

So my first reaction was Zzzzombies, again?

Not World War ZzzZz

Welcome to Saber Interactive's Co-op and Solo Zombicide third person shooter!

Even though it's quite short in terms of the actual campaign, there's a lot of variety in the characters, the locations, and the set pieces. I can finish the first story mission on the easier difficulties in just over 20 minutes, and that includes some actual stealth. On the harder difficulties, yeah, it will take some time - but honestly - this is just padding the game due to harder enemies and tougher hordes.

Saber have been clever though, because they've put together a game which riffs off Left 4 Dead a heck of a lot, and put their own spin on it. You could call World War Z a clone, and some folks have, but honestly there's more to it than just copying Left 4 Dead wholesale.

There are 11 missions in total at the moment, but skip to the end of the review if you want to check out the roadmap for the game's first 'Season' of content. These 11 missions are split over 4 chapters, with 3 missions in Chapters 1 - 3 and 2 missions making up the final chapter.

These missions can be replayed and whilst the locations won't change, the enemy A.I. placement will, and the 'Director' does a good job of creating a fresh play-through with different challenges as you repeat the same content over and over.

Class Based Zombicide

Whilst the playable characters, themed to each region, don't actually change the way you play the game. The classes you can assign to your character do.

Each of the 6 classes comes with perks, weapons, and equipment and dictates the kinds of unlocks you'll get in terms of your arsenal.

Gunslinger: Good for beginners, the Gunslinger is a good damage dealer and takes hits much better than the other classes.

Hellraiser: The best way to describe the Hellraiser is in terms of demolitions. This class makes the big booms, which attract hordes of zombies, but also deals massive explosive damage. If you want crowd-control this is where it's at.

Medic: What it says on the tin, the Medic keeps you running as a squad and keeps you alive when you might not make it. Great support class if you like playing healers.

Fixer: This is definitely another class if you like to support your comrades co-op, this class is the ammo bank for the squad. This class does a good job of keeping your clips full and the zombie heads exploding as you mow down horde after horde.

Slasher: Not a Serial Killer who stumbled into a zombie apocalypse, but a class that's focused on going toe-to-toe with the chewing dead. This class comes with a stun gun and a few other neat tricks, including a better understanding of melee weapons and the ability to chain together melee attacks.

Exterminator: Similar in many ways to the Hellraiser, the Exterminator uses fire and shotguns to eliminate the relentless dead. With fire based claymores and a few other tricks, again, this class is your number one ticket to fry the dead with flare and panache.

Playtime with Zombies

You can play this game with others (the best way) or seek offline mode and play with 3 bots filling in the gaps. The bots are decent and the game's fun solo too.

The game plays in third person, with a reactive A.I. Director module which takes into account a lot of factors as you play. For the most part, it's possible to actually sneak around a lot of the levels and headshot zombies to avoid triggering bigger and more dynamic hordes. A few of the walking dead are OK, a whole slew of the buggers gets downright nasty fast.

So all your characters have a silenced pistol and the team A.I. knows how to use them.

There are times where you'll encounter set piece battles/hordes, and then stealth is out of the window at this moment. You can set up defences, auto-turrets, shock traps and the like and then its zombie slaughter till the zombie cows come home.

Which is actually extremely satisfying, all thanks to the solid shooting mechanics of the game.

There are also 'special' zombies who will spawn based on the way you play the game, if you're loud and proud and don't care about making noise, expect a massive horde of the dead to come knocking dutifully supported by a cast of specials.

The Bull: A brute of a zombie in full armour and tactical gear, body slamming you into the floor with all the fury of a budget Hulk

Lurker: Sneaky precious, hides in the shadows, or nearby, then leaps out and pins you to the ground and plays drums on your chest with its claws.

Gasbag: If you see this yellow hazmat suit zombie coming your way, shoot it and steer clear of the huge cloud of poisonous gas it leaves behind. Apparently according to some it's mildly worse than being trapped in a lift as a gangster with Peter Sellers.

Screamer: Loud and annoying, summons zombie hordes by the hundreds, the screamer will yell out and attract all sorts of Z's to your location until killed. So, kill it quickly.

World War Z plays well though, and it's fun, which is what you want with a game like this. It's got tricks that L4D didn't have and the star of the show here are the zombies themselves.

These zombies are capable of using varied tactics, and even the regular zombies who exist as grinder material can surprise you now and then. What is fantastic though and the pinnacle of the game for me, the pyramid.

The zombies can climb and when they gather in massive hordes, they can climb each other to make a huge pyramid of brain-eating death as a way for their buddies to get to where you are and swarm you. It's impressive to see hundreds upon hundreds of the buggers clamber upwards and make this inhuman ladder to get to your fleshy parts.

Of course, a few grenades and shots at the base of the pyramid will topple it and allow you to get some nice carnage in.

Expect a bunch of objectives in the game from time to time, collecting crates, flipping switches on timers and more. These punctuate the regular gameplay loop and break it up into horde scenarios, and tense moments - they work.

I definitely recommend playing this game with friends though, because it's really designed for human player interaction and fun!

The Thinking Dead

OK, I want to talk a bit about the A.I. in the game. The special zombies are really well done, and the Lurker is especially annoying in a fun way since they behave like the Hunter from L4D. But again, the zombie A.I. itself is far more nuanced than the one from L4D. These zombies behave in different ways and react to your character's actions.

They'll ignore you unless you're spotted or you don't get them with a headshot. They'll alert their friends and they'll even try and flank you if you don't stop them.

Rather than just rushing (which they also do) it's a nice change of pace to have to think in a zombie based shooter.

I mean don't get me wrong, they're not Division 2 A.I. and they don't have to be. They're also damn good at rushing, and they do it really well.

Shooting Humans in Adversarial

There's a multiplayer component to this game to add extra content, but honestly, I'm not really interested in shooting other humans with zombies milling around. Yeah, it's cool and all, but I only dipped into that part very briefly

I came for the zombie hordes, not the human deathmatch. PvPvZ is interesting, but ultimately not a big draw for me.

Zombie Shooting Done Well

The bottom line, even with a short campaign, the game's put together really well. It has a great atmosphere, looks good, plays well, and has some nice music and sound design. It's what you want from a zombie shooter really.

Lots of zombies, some great hordes, and tons of fun with friends.

It runs smoothly on an Xbox One X and delivers really solid gameplay/graphics/animations/character models and design.

World War Z is also physics based in terms of the damage model, so you can blow limbs off zombies and the gore level is arcade zombie fun. Nothing is here to give you nightmares.

It all adds to the fun factor!

So if you skipped to the end of the review, here's the thing: Fun solo, but even more fun with a group of friends. Sit back and spend a few hours levelling up, killing Z's and reliving those moments where things almost went south but the Medic saved everyone again. The Swarm Engine that creates those hundreds strong zombie hordes is really impressive and a stand-out feature of the game.

Roadmap of the Horde

As I said previously, the horde isn't over and the dead aren't stopping there, there's a slew of content on the way for the game to keep it supported/fun/fresh as season 1 kicks off.

Focus Home's post on the Roadmap

See you out there amongst the Z's!