Saber Interactive’s World War Z is the very definition of a bland, middle-of-the-road game that takes very obvious inspiration from much better titles – in this case the Left 4 Dead series – and serves up a rather lazy rehash, excelling at nothing in particular while still providing a reasonably breezy good time, so long as you’ve got a couple of friends at hand to plough through its campaign with.
There’s really nothing that surprises or delights here, as you (and up to three other players) bound around the globe in a five hour campaign that takes in locations such as New York City, Jerusalem, Moscow and Tokyo. It’s all perfectly serviceable stuff; hold off waves of zombies here, escort a bus there, mow through millions of cannon fodder, braindead enemies and level-up as you go. It’s on a par with the uber-bland Brad Pitt movie of the same name and, rather foolishly, abandons the lore of the original Max Brooks book – lore which could have really helped to infuse this sterile world with just a little more in the way of character.
The main difference between this and other zombie shooters – the real selling point of World War Z – is the ridiculous number of undead you can have on-screen at any one time, with the game’s signature hordes stacking up upon one another in order to scale walls and reach your location. Shooting out the lower levels of these undead pyramids and watching them all tumble to the ground is where this one excels. It’s genuinely fun taking out a huge number of shambling foes this way, but in every other instance, what’s here is largely forgettable stuff that fails to infuse its action with any real dynamism, instead delivering hugely repetitive gunfights that lack any meaty challenge or strategic spark due to enemies that provide little in the way of variety.
While in the likes of Left 4 Dead you’ll instantly hear, know and recognise different enemy types – immediately shifting tactics to deal with the incoming threat of a boomer, for example – in World War Z, everything looks and feels far too similar. It has “gasbag” enemies; hazmat-suited foes who explode in a green mist and poison everything around them, and there’s the usual gamut of shielded foes to battle with, but they’re so easily dealt with and get so quickly lost in the chaos of huge throngs of Zs that they never really make you feel like you need to switch up your tactics to handle them.
It says everything you need to know about World War Z, really, that as we sit here and try to recollect events for this review we’ve got nothing more than a great big mishmash of uneventful firefights to rake over; we’ve killed millions of zombies in our time with this game, defended checkpoints against swarms of undead, set up turrets and laid down barbed wire, prepped our team for onslaught after onslaught, and barely raised an eyebrow the entire time. It’s all fine, serviceable stuff; braindead, repetitive and safe.
In terms of this Switch port, we have at least been fairly impressed with how well things run. The frame rate tumbles into the low 20s from time to time, for sure, there’s no gyro support (not a huge deal with the game’s generous aim assist) and image quality can get blurry when large hordes arrive at your location, but on the whole, this is the full-fat World War Z experience, looking decent and playing well on a portable console. We did have some rather long waits for online sessions when playing with randoms, but overall this is a very solid port of a game that we expected to struggle on Switch – so kudos to Saber Interactive for pulling it off.
If only there was more to it all in the end; a little more variety and flair, some more inventiveness in set pieces or outlandish weapons with which to slay your foes. As it is, World War Z is an entirely solid but completely bland effort, it does exactly what you’d expect it to with nothing in the way of surprises or style. If you’ve got a few pals to jump into this one with you’ll have a decent time, but it’s nothing you’re likely to remember for very long.
World War Z is an unremarkable zombie shooter that serves up a decent five-odd hours of action if you can find a few friends to play with. It’s repetitive stuff; basic and unsurprising for the most part, but this Switch port is solid, managing to provide the full-fat experience without too much in the way of technical issues or other shortcomings. If you’re in the mood for blazing through bland masses of zombies with a few friends in tow, this one’s got you covered – just don’t expect much more than that.