05th Oct2021

‘World War Z: Aftermath’ Review (Xbox Series X/S)

by Phil Wheat

Since the PS4/Xbox One era arrived I’ve almost exclusively avoided AAA titles, spending most of my time playing indie games or Western releases of weird Japanese games. Though most, if not all of my time, is spent playing shmups and fighting games, with the odd racer thrown in for good measure… And I’ve been happy with that, even moreso with playing those kinds of games on the Nintendo Switch. I’ve never felt the need, or the desire for that matter, to play games like Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption 2, or any of the Assassin’s Creed titles. But there was something about World War Z that I was drawn to – and even only after playing the game for a few hours I know why. It’s brilliant. It’s as simple as that.

World War Z is a modern-gen zombie shooter that reminded me very much of the fantastic Left 4 Dead franchise – in the best way possible of course! Insomuch as this is easily the most fun I’ve had with a AAA title in years… After all, what’s not to love about killing swarms of zombies whilst trying to stay alive? It’s what I love about films like Romero’s Living Dead series, and it’s what I loved about Left 4 Dead and its sequel. Though its NOT what I loved about Killing Floor 2, which took zombie swarms to ridiculous levels! What makes this game, I think, more fun – and more playable – than similar shooters is the CPU characters. Those characters actually take part, actually play a role, in taking on swarm after swarm of zombies; so much so that you can concentrate on the objectives at times and leave them to the zombie-slaying.

That’s part of what I wrote about World War Z when it debuted back in 2019 and two years later pretty much all of that still applies. But what does this version of the game deliver over and above the original?

Well this time round there are more two episodes to battle through, a myriad of small touches that tweak a few issues the original game had and there’s more player classes added to the game and the melee options have been tweaked for the [much] better, which all come together to give players a different experience this time round. The main addition here though – compared to the original version of World War Z, is the inclusion of a FPS mode. Yes, an FPS mode. As if fighting hordes of zombies in third person wasn’t scary enough, World War Z: Aftermath lets you play the game in the first person, which makes the game even more pant-stainingly good… talk about jump scares! Even as a hardened horror movie fan, playing the game in FPS mode really made for a terrifying experience. Plus playing in FPS mode makes those original game elements feel fresh – its almost like exploring a whole new game this way!

The other biggest addition to World War Z: Aftermath are the aforementioned new episodes. The first is set in Rome, at the Vatican City, as you battle swathes of zombies across a decrepit Italy – including ferrying a van through wave after wave of zombies to refuel (how apt given the current climate here in the UK) and some truly apocalyptic looking flame-filled pits than not only are burning with the fires of hell but are also stuffed with the undead! It’s real nightmare fuel stuff. The second new episode is just as nightmarish: the frozen hellscape that is Kamchatka – an episode that not only has you battle zombies on a frozen wasteland BUT the freezing weather affects you too. So much so that you end up fighting the freezing weather conditions as much as you do zombies! This episode is a brilliant change of pace for the game, really upping the ante on everything that has come before.

Speaking of episodes, World War Z: Aftermath can be a REALLY difficult game if you want it to be. Crank up the difficulty and this game is a killer. Even on the easier levels this games various episodes can be a bit of a b*stard – this is all down to the sheer amount of zombies in the game and – at times at least – on the choices you make in the games more zombie-heavy moments. For there are parts of World War Z: Aftermath where you end up standing your ground and defending your position and the game gives you a little “help”. You can plant gun emplacements, rig electrical fences to fry zombies, even lay barbed wire death traps and it’s what you place and where you place them that can determine how easy it is to clear the hordes. It can be a bit trial and error at times but trial and error never hurt anyone did it? Well… it actually might do here :)

Once again, in its latest iteration, World War Z: Aftermath look amazing. It’s not until you see hordes of zombies coming at you down a street, or up the side of a building… because yes, that stunning “zombie pyramid” scene from the movie of the same name is recreated here – numerous time in fact, that you realise just how well the zombies swarms (for they are swarms) are rendered. OK, so there’s some dodgy ragdoll physics a you blast them away, especially when they’re piled up in the aforementioned pyramids or when you use frag grenades, but that’s a small quirk in an otherwise beautifully [horrible] looking game. Yes, I did say beautiful but this game is anything but. It’s dark, grimy, dirty and filled with blood – everything you’d ever want in a zombie game really!

And the audio, oh the audio. The subtle breathing of the creeper zombie that freaks you out as you walk the corridors and you can’t figure out where he is. The thud of the bull zombie (a huge zombie in riot gear) as he starts his charge, the screams of a 1000 zombies as they swarm upon you. It’s a cacophony of terrifying sounds that really adds to the atmosphere of World War Z: Aftermath – creeping out the player, putting you on edge as much as the characters in the game would be themselves.

If you didn’t play World War Z on its original release then buying World War Z: Aftermath is a no-brainer. If you owned the original however I consider whether, like me, you enjoyed the game enough to warrant replaying it on current-gen consoles. For me? That’s a solid yes, especially with the new FPS mode!

**** 4/5

World War Z: Aftermath is available now on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.

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