World War Z
What a feeling it must be for developers crafting a game to pair along with a movie that had such a tormented origin. The movie finally came out. It wasn’t a colossal disaster and indeed won praise from some critics. I’m unsure whether this influenced the game’s creation itself because World War Z on iOS is a parallel story. There is no Brad Pitt here. Max Brooks’ novel, of which the movie is tied to really only by name, has nothing to do with the game either.
World War Z starts out with Doug, an ex pilot, sitting around in a bar until a plane crashes into the building and all hell breaks loose as zombies jump out and start attacking victims. Doug’s wife is a military woman stationed in Japan with his son. While fighting off zombies, he gets a mobile call where his son confesses to killing the zombie version of his mother. He promises to get to Japan and asks him to stay safe for now. Doug then fights his way out of a city and extraordinarily flies half way across the world. The circumstances are about as believable as some moments in the movie.
Along the way, the game forces Doug to solve environmental puzzles whether it’s finding disconnected wires to open electrical items (usually a door or a switch) or running around trying to piece together numeric passcodes to open access panels next to locked doors. Conveniently, these codes are written on whiteboards scattered throughout buildings. Then someone got smart and started spreading the code on to different whiteboards with fake codes that trigger an alarm. Of course you can’t just run around a floor of a building finding all the codes. There are fires that need to be put out to get to one part of the room necessitating you to find a fire extinguisher. I’m sure you get the picture now. The puzzles can get monotonous and repetitive as they force you to back track over areas you’ve already gone through.
Of course, what’s a zombie game without actual zombies to shoot. The default control scheme has you double tapping to walk to places and when you wave the target reticule over a zombie, Doug will automatically shoot. There are also other control schemes that are more traditional where you get a direction pad. I didn’t mind the default scheme. Combat is split into three flavours. The most combat you’ll see is similar to Virtua Cop or House of the Dead. Doug is frozen in some indefensible position and has to shoot incoming zombies; usually from two different directions. Melee combat can also happen when you walk through staged ambushes similar to Call of Duty. You have to swipe in certain motions to dodge, push back and finally kill the zombie. Why you get ambushed all the time I will have no idea because often the zombies are so slow I think drawing a gun and shooting is probably a more effective way to dispatch the undead. Finally, there are rail shooter action sequences where you are on a vehicle trying eliminate hordes of zombies similar to the movie itself. The last part is the most dramatic but it happens infrequently.
As you solve puzzles and make the undead stay dead, you’ll also scavenge bodies and the ruins of each locale for supplies. Gun control laws are definitely not in effect in the near future because ammunition can be found in abundance if you just walk around looking for it. You can also pick up pieces of paper of people’s diaries that add to the dystopia but none of the fiction is actually riveting. How many notes about suicide and missing loved ones can you actually read? This isn’t Bioshock or Deus Ex.
Perhaps the most irritating thing about World War Z is its placement of checkpoints for game saves. There aren’t enough but the game has an inventory system driven by gold and experience. Experience is something you can pick up in the game itself. Gold, on the other hand, is something in-game purchases can buy you. So if you find yourself about to die and you know the last saved game is at the beginning of the level, you can bring up the inventory and purchase some medical kits to instantly heal yourself. The same applies to ammunition. I found it extremely irritating but that could explain why the game is only $2.99.
World War Z has its dramatic moments. How developers managed to fit mountains of swarming zombies in iOS I don’t know, but they do a good job. At times, the game even offers a creepy feeling and draws on that sense of desperation found in a game like Resident Evil. Those moments are unfortunately too far and few in between spaced out by endless environmental obstacles, annoying surprise melee attacks and some shooting gallery sequences that artificially exposes Doug to unnecessary danger. If the story were more compelling, you would want to see it through but sadly it’s not. After the movie’s initial box office results, Paramount has given the green light to film the next chapter of World War Z. Perhaps in a second outing, we can follow the Pitt character or someone else who doesn’t have to open a dozen locked doors to get to the next zombie horde.
Reviewed By: Lawrence Wong
Publisher: Paramount Digital Entertainment
This review is based on a digital copy of World War Z for the iPad from the Apple iTunes Store.