One minute you're relaxing in an upscale coffee shop in the heart of the big city, the next you're in the back of a moving truck, holding on for dear life as a sea of hungry humanity surges against you. This is World War Z for iOS and Android, and the situation isn't pretty.
Based on the upcoming movie adaptation of Max Brook's historical record of the great Zombie War, the mobile game presents a more personal look at how to survive in the post-undead world. The player takes on the role of Doug, a man with an obvious military background who is trying to reach his son a midst the chaos of a global zombie outbreak. The problem is his son is in Japan, and he's in America.
Luckily Doug has the skills he needs to survive. He's handy with firearms. He swings a mean crow bar. His insatiable curiosity has him rifling through papers and tapping at computers as he navigates abandoned buildings, something I would not give one shit about if there were zombies flooding — literally flooding — the streets of the town I was in. He's even got people skills, which is how he hooks up with an altruistic helicopter pilot promising to wait for him atop a tall building until nightfall.
There's a real story to the World War Z game, cleverly unfolding through a series of mobile phone conversations between Doug and his fellow survivors. Over the course of several conversations we learn more about our heroic avatar. We might even begin to root for him, which is generally a bad idea where zombies are concerned. They're the epitome of hopelessness, when they aren't relegated to set dressing for a morality play about humanity or the government being the real monsters.
Gameplay consists of a mix of exploration and combast, similar to Phosphor Games Studio's previous Unreal Engine 3-powered offerings, The Dark Meadow and Horn. Expect things to touch around every corner. Books give experience points. Documents give experience points and unlock journal entries, fleshing out the game's back-story. There are computers to tap, bodies to check, bullets to collect — Phosphor Games really wants players to explore, even if it means rushing headlong into situations where you're facing off against every dead thing in town.
It's pretty amazing how well World War Z covers its bases, control-wise. There's a casual tap-to-move. There's the finger slide. There are virutal joysticks, should you prefer. Shooting can be automatic when a zombie is in your sights, or the much more challenging free aim, because you don't need no help.
Despite all of the cloning needed to get hundreds of figures on screen at once, knocking over vehicles and making a genreal nuisance of themselves, Phosphor manages to once again demonstrate their mastery of the Unreal Engine 3 on mobile, pulling off a game that could easily pass for a last-gen console offering. What impresses me most is how they still took the time to make sure the zombie hordes had appropriate levels of lens flare.
For a movie tie-in, World War Z is much better than I expected it to be. It feels a lot like Horn and The Dark Meadow stuck in a blender with zombies, messy but satisfying. Not a bad way to end the world.
World War Z
Genre: survival horror Developer: Phosphor Games Studio Platform: iOS, Android Price: $5.49/$4.99 Get World War Z from the iTunes App Store. Available sometime today on Google Play and the Amazon App Store.