“Movie game”. That phrase can make even the most stout gamer’s blood run cold. It seems the particular genre known as “movie-based games” is prominent for churning out simply bad experiences. Looking back now, I don’t know why I expected mobile FPS World War Z to be any different. It’s difficult enough to find a good movie-based game for consoles, but to find one on mobile would be incredible. I’ll have to keep looking for such a game, since World War Z is certainly far from incredible.
World War Z places you in the shoes of unassuming deadbeat father Doug, who is shoved headfirst into the zombie outbreak when an airplane crashes into a bistro he is loitering in. Not wasting any time, he grabs a discarded pistol off of the floor and fires at the incoming shamblers. I’ll stop right here and say that this is not a bad way to start a game. You are thrust into the action fairly quickly, and the shooting mechanics hold up well. It’s when the game tries to tack on a plot and other peripheral mechanics that a downhill slide starts. And once it loses its footing, it keeps going down.
If the plot in the game is anything to go by, the upcoming film will tank (and I’m putting it nicely). It’s not the voice acting; the actors, bless their souls, seem to output a fine performance considering the lines they were given. Rather, the at best weak plotline, overly existential script, and robotic and seldom seen characters drive the story into the ground. The characters’ lack of screen time may partially be blamed on the mobile platform the game was released on. However, instead of trying to work around that restraint, the developers tried to cram in an epic narrative, which winds up being underdeveloped, underwhelming, and falling flat.
I didn’t come for a great narrative, though. I came to unload guns into the squishy bodies of the infected. And when World War Z scratches that itch, it works well. The guns have kick, the zombies recoil satisfyingly, and their overwhelming (and at the same time underwhelming) numbers gave a sense of tension to most of the shootouts. The default controls are nicely conformed to the mobile setup as well. You simply hover over the body of your desired target, and the game automatically pulls the virtual trigger for you. The shooting should have been the game’s focus. (In fact, the only mode other than Story mode, called “Challenge Mode”, mainly focuses on the shooting. It’s not the game’s saving grace, though.) Too bad the game doesn’t stick to the good found here throughout.
The peripheral mechanics added to “spice up” the game are simply lacking. A half-hearted melee system is more of a nuisance than a welcome change of pace; locking you into random zombie encounters and forcing you to swipe and dodge your assailant until it crumples under your blows. I suppose the fighting itself isn’t terrible, rather, the game’s forcing you into these close-quarters combat situations is what kills the mechanic. I mean, I just spent a bunch of experience on a new gun, and you’re telling me that I can spare even a second to whip out the firearm and unleash some just desserts?
The other big mechanic found only in Story Mode, environment exploration, feels heavily inspired by Infinity Blade, if Infinity Blade was in first-person and was a bad game, that is. The default controls have you tap at a spot in the environment to move to that position. Using this simple movement, you will interact with computers, shuffle through file cabinets, and rifle through the pockets of some recently deceased, among other things. Not a bad idea, since players should always have some variety. However, the exploration that starts as intriguing quickly becomes monotonous filler between melee battles and firefights.
The graphics don’t pack the punch they need either. The environments shift in texture quality from gorgeous to unfinished, and the actual levels generally feel flat and restrictive (not in a good horror game way either). The sound works, but it won’t be winning any awards.
On top of all of this, the game which already retails at a price of $5 has the nerve to include in-app-purchases as a quick method of progression through the in-game store. Gaining experience from exploring or killing zombies to get new guns, armor, and other stuff already feels a bit too ripped from Infinity Blade (not the guns, just the store system). The fact that you can just buy your way through the guns and upgrades is inexcusable.
It is clichéd to say so, but this is another movie tie-in game that could have been great.
Had it run through a few more rounds of touching-up, and dumped the inexcusable IAPs; World War Z might have swiftly grabbed five stars.
But this isn’t a dream world. In this cold reality, World War Z is bad. Sadly, this title will become just another name in the invisible garbage bin of bad movie tie-ins.