Fighting To The Ends Of The Earth
HIGH Tearing down a literal tower of zombies with a flamethrower.
LOW Getting rat-locked.
WTF I freeze when away from a heater for 90 seconds, but zombies in T-shirts are fine?
Taking only minimal aesthetic and mechanical inspiration from the movie that inspired it, World War Z started as a way to fill the shoes left empty by Valve’s decision to abandon the Left 4 Dead franchise. For two years now, it’s performed that role expertly, offering a set of extremely replayable campaigns following disparate groups of survivors struggling to stay one step ahead of the ravening infected hordes. With Back 4 Blood on the horizon looking to reclaim Left 4 Dead‘s title and audience, the developers of World War Z have gone all-in on a large expansion designed to keep their players locked in.
WWZ: Aftermath‘s biggest change is the new first-person mode. Up until now the game had only offered a third-person perspective on the action. While that was great for maintaining situational awareness during setpiece zombie swarm events, it was always difficult to work with in the many cramped, dark hallways that players will traverse during their journey through the seven separate mini-campaigns.
It’s a good addition — the new first-person mode does a fantastic job of getting players right into the action, and let me say that a tower of zombies stacked on top of each other looks incredibly intimidating when they’re just feet away from the camera. More importantly, when playing with a mouse and keyboard, I found it far easier to score headshots in first. My shooting in third-person tends to be pretty sloppy.
The developers have wisely gone all-in with new detailed firing and reloading animations rather than asking players to accept the original animations which were never meant to stand up to close examination. The only thing wrong with this new system is that there’s no way to switch camera style with the press of a button — the technology to do so obviously exists, as WWZ jumps into third-person whenever the player performs a melee attack. Being able to do the same on demand would be a great addition, since going through menus to swap can be extremely dangerous since as there’s no way to pause, even offline.
The new campaigns are beautifully designed. Rome looks fantastic, and the steep, narrow streets are perfect for unexpected zombie swarm ambushes. WWZ‘s AI has always done a great job of keeping the action moving quickly, and the Rome maps demonstrate its abilities to the utmost. I was never able to let my guard down for a second, turning the whole campaign into a thrilling, grueling journey.
The Russia campaign was also a nice chance of setting. Exploring ice-bound boats was a completely new experience, especially when the fresh gameplay mechanics were added in. In one level players have to quickly move from one kerosene-heated room to the next, lest they die of hypothermia inside of two minutes. In another they have to lug around a flamethrower to melt their way past ice walls. Both provide an interesting complication to the action, and the flamethrower doubles as a high-quality horde deterrent.
The new player class — the Vanguard — is another strong add. They start with a couple of disposable shields (more can be found by searching levels) which they can equip anytime to drastically lower the amount of damage they take. They can’t really attack while shielded, but they can pull the focus of huge numbers of zombies, and while the undead flail helplessly against their shield, the rest of the team can make short work of them. It’s a bit unusual to see a support class actively wading into the middle of danger, but it fundamentally works here, and as a result, the Vanguard more than earns its place in the lineup.
World War Z: Aftermath makes an excellent case for the continued relevance of WWZ. My only disappointment was that the heavily advertised new mode — Horde XL, which features at least double the amount of zombies onscreen at once — was not available at launch time. The developers have stated that it will eventually be added as a free update in 2022, but at this point it’s disappointing to discover that one of the key features of Aftermath can’t be played just yet.
Overall, World War Z: Aftermath is a great team-based shooter, and if players have been waiting for the game to be significantly updated before checking it out, the time is now. Likewise, anyone who played at launch will find that this revamp is well worth a second tour of duty against the undead.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Saber Interactive. It is currently available on PC, PS4/5 and XBO/S/X. Copies of the game were obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and 15 in multiplayer modes. The game was completed.
Parents: The game was rated M by the ESRB, and it contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, and Strong Language. Keep kids far from this one. Not-stop brutal violence against human enemies. There’s no content in the game other than blasting huge numbers of people to pieces. Mature only, please.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be be altered and/or resized. I played almost the entire game without sound and encountered standard FPS issues in that I was regularly attacked by offscreen enemies I couldn’t hear coming. The game provides directional indicators to let players know which way the attacks are coming from, which is helpful, but maybe stick to easier difficulty levels.
Remappable Controls: Yes, the game’s controls are remappable.