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World War Z review – Left 4 Days Gone

World War Z (PS4) – that’s a lot of zombies
What was at one point pitched as the multiplayer for Days Gone is now its own game and a surprisingly authentic movie tie-in.
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It’s always odd when two movies come out at the same time with a suspiciously similar premise. The likes of A Bug’s Life and Antz, Armageddon and Deep Impact, or Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down all had the strangest of timings. They weren’t following trends, just each other, so either it was all a huge coincidence or, more likely, one script was being passed around Hollywood and multiple people got the idea to make something similar. How exactly World War Z and Days Gone ended up so similar is not entirely clear but the former’s release this month is clearly not by accident.
Days Gone, a PlayStation 4 exclusive whose review embargo ends on Thursday, is an open world single-player game, so on the surface there doesn’t seem much similarity between the two games. They’re both third person shooters though and it’s clear that Days Gone has been heavily influenced by the World War Z movie’s portrayal of zombies, in terms of how fast they move and how they do so in great ant-like swarms. So much so that when developer Saber Interactive realised the similarities they approached Sony about making a multiplayer mode for Days Gone – but were turned down.
In the end the two games have come out at almost exactly the same time, with one clearly intended to compliment the other – even though the connection is entirely unofficial. Which in turn explains why World War Z seems rushed, which would otherwise seem silly given it’s a tie-in to a movie that’s already six years old at this point. It’s a shame because with a bit more work this could’ve been the Left 4 Dead spiritual sequel that Valve refuses to make themselves.

Visually, the game tries to ape the look and feel of the movie as much as possible (although, predictably, without Brad Pitt’s visage anywhere to be seen) but it also uses the book for inspiration, primarily in terms of its wide range of different locations, including Moscow, New York, Jerusalem, and Tokyo. In each city you and three co-op partners must try to defeat the zombie hordes and deal with smaller groups of the undead in a more conventional fashion.
World War Z is not a subtle game but if the idea of pumping endless rounds of ammunition into hundreds of zombies at a time sounds like the way you want to spend your spare time then it does get most of the basics right. The giant hordes of zombies are not a constant fixture, as that would get old very quickly, but there are regular set pieces where you realise you’re about to be overrun and have to go into siege mode around a specific defensive position.
You’re given a couple of minutes to search the immediate area for traps and weapons to help you out, before the floodgates open and the zombies literally pour in. They even do that thing from the movie, where they climb on each other to reach higher ground, and it not only looks impressive but is genuinely terrifying when you suddenly have a mountain of zombies running straight at you.
The problem for World War Z is two-fold though, in that everything that doesn’t involve fighting the horde is horribly generic and boring by comparison, and that the game is frustratingly glitchy and patently unfinished.
World War Z (PS4) – the lesser seen flying zombie
World War Z’s structure is very similar to Left 4 Dead, although so straightforward it barely counts as copying. In each city you’re essentially just trying to escape, so when you’re not fighting the horde you’re taking part in escort missions, solving simple puzzle sections, and dealing with some of the specialised zombie types.
These, predictably, are also just like Left 4 Dead, with the tank-like Bull, the lurker-like Reaper, and the Screamer that alerts other zombies to your location. But not only are these special infected copying Left 4 Dead they’re also almost identical to enemy types in Days Gone as well – where the Screamer one is even called a Screamer.
Whether or not Saber Interactive realise how similar their game is to Sony’s we’re not sure but we’re willing to believe a lot of it is just coincidence and speaks to how generic and obvious these ideas have become. The same can certainly be said of the character classes and weapon upgrade system, whose mix of medics, explosive experts, and engineers you can probably guess at without being told a thing.
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You can play the whole game on your own but, like Left 4 Dead, it’s a rather dull and depressing experience. With friends though it can be a lot of fun, despite the generic design, and the competitive multiplayer – the part Saber Interactive were trying to pitch to Sony – is surprisingly just as good. The ability for zombies to swarm into the map at certain points is one of the few times when the game tries to do something new and it works really well, since for once it doesn’t feel like any other game around.
Unfortunately, ‘works really well’ is not something you can say of World War Z in general, as it’s filled with bugs and glitches, including frequent crashes and dropped connections, that have made playing it near launch a real endurance test. But while we’d give only a very guarded recommendation of the game at the moment, we are interested in seeing whether it will evolve further and make the best of its more interesting features. Left 4 Dead may be a living dead franchise but this will do to keep the concept alive for now.

World War Z
In Short: A curate’s egg of zombie clichés and surprisingly solid multiplayer, with the movie’s undead hordes replicated in impressive fashion.
Pros: The zombie hordes are handled very well, in both co-op and competitive multiplayer – adding some unique twists to the otherwise generic gameplay.
Cons: Extremely derivative of Left 4 Dead (and Days Gone) and everything outside the horde sequences and multiplayer tends to be very dull. Lots of bugs and stability issues.
Score: 6/10

Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Price: £34.99
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive and Mad Dogs
Developer: Saber Interactive
Release Date: 16th April 2019
Age Rating: 18

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