STAFF REVIEW of World War Z: Aftermath (Xbox One)

Tuesday, October 19, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

World War Z: Aftermath Box art Back in 2019 when I reviewed the original release of World War Z, I was quite surprised as usually games tied to movie releases are generally terrible. Saber Interactive bucked the trend and actually made a unique zombie game that differentiated itself from others in the genre, and while it had flaws, it was a fun game that has had a following since and even numerous DLC’s along the way. Well, the time has come for their latest DLC offering, titled Aftermath.

Inspired by the movie of the same name, World War Z: Aftermath is touted as the next step and evolution of the game that has seen over 15 million players. While that statement may be a bit of a stretch once I was able to discern what actually was new in Aftermath, it does make it a better game and experience overall. With full PC and console crossplay, gather up to three other friends and take out hundreds of zombies across a multitude of stages. Full disclosure, portions of this review for World War Z: Aftermath comes from my original base game review I previously wrote, as much of the core gameplay is unchanged.

So what exactly is new with Aftermath and is it worth upgrading and purchase? Well, it’s kind of a convoluted answer at best. First off, Aftermath includes all of the content that the Game of the Year (GOTY) Edition of World War Z. If you had just the base World War Z game and was wondering what the GOTY version added, essentially it was a new set of 3 PvE missions located in France, a Horde Mode, and some character and weapon skin packs. Aftermath includes all of this GOTY content as well as its own set of content.

First off, there are two purchasing options, a discounted upgrade kit if you already own World War Z which is essentially half off, or purchasing it outright as a full and complete package. So what’s new in Aftermath you ask? The short form list would include two new maps set in Italy and Russia, a long requested first person view option, a revamped melee system, new characters, a new class, new enemies, a new Horde Mode XL and a few other gameplay tweaks and additions. So let’s delve into Aftermath’s new content shall we?

First, the two new maps are set in Italy and Russia, played as four new characters: Daniela, Giovani, Sophia and Marco. The two maps are just like other campaign offerings, each with three separate acts, both playing quite differently from one another. The first map, Rome, is set in the iconic Vatican City within Italy and culminates in some chaotic and exciting finales. The Rome mission was an interesting change of pace, having you escort an APC throughout the city, ensuring it doesn’t get overrun by near endless waves of zeke’s. This map has some variety to it with its background and street layouts, but also where you’ll encounter a new and annoying enemy; a pack of infected rats. That’s right, zeke rats can swarm you, something you’ll now have to be conscious of to look where you’re going, as they will probably go unnoticed the first few times until you know what to look for. The finale of this map was amazing to witness and really reinforced how the war against the zeke’s is something that really can’t be won.

The second map set in Russia, Kamchatka, is set in a frozen tundra and while unique, was my least favorite of the two. Of course you’ll be fighting against the endless zombie infestation as usual, but this is the dead of winter in Russia so you’ll be battling the deathly cold as well. Given how cold it is in the elements, you’re tasked with finding generators to turn on heaters, but to even get to that point you’re going to have to find fuel for your flamethrower to melt the ice covered doorways blocking your path. Stay out in the cold too long and you’ll actually start to lose health and possibly freeze to death, so you’re constantly in a rush to find the next switch to turn on the heaters to slowly make progress forward. Eventually you’ll also have to solve a simple puzzle, flipping switches in proper order to unlock the path forward, but should someone on your team get the order wrong, it resets from the beginning. You can guess how well this works with random people online on your team. While a unique setting and no shortages of zeke’s, these two maps are the bulk of Aftermath’s offering, so if you’ve been starved for new campaign content, you’ve got these to enjoy as well now.

One of the main selling points to Aftermath is the option to now play in first person view. Normally played in third person, this does change how the game itself feels. This seemed to be a very requested feature by the community, so it’s now been included should you have Aftermath. After using both, I feel that third person is how World War Z is meant to be experienced. Yes, first person works, but it just feels a little off for some reason. Maybe it’s because you don’t actually use the scopes on your guns, instead aiming down the side of the gun at your reticule, but it’s something you could get used to if you really prefer first person.

Previously, while World War Z had a melee system, it was basically a death sentence and really only used as a last resort to fend yourself off from zeke’s. The melee system has been revamped, now actually useful and a way to defend yourself better. Melee weapons now come in light, medium or heavy options, including whole new perks as well. Even better, there’s a dual wield option, so there’s much more variety to suit your playstyle.

I’m not sure if the melee system was revamped for the new class, but it certainly seems like they go hand in hand. The newest class is the Vanguard, a close quarters character that comes equipped with an electrified shield that you can use to run and smash through a horde of zeke’s, even stunning a rushing Bull if timed correctly. You can also use your shield to strategically place in front of doorways and entrances to block your teammates, giving a few moments of breathing room, eventually able to taunt them as well much like a tank class. It’s meant for a unique playstyle and certainly differentiates itself compared to the standard class offerings already available.

Lastly is the Horde Mode XL. As I mentioned in the original review, I don’t know what programming sorcery was used to create these swarms, but even after surviving dozens of them, I’m still impressed every time I witness that horde rushing towards us. I don’t know many other games that can render as many zeke’s on screen as World War Z does with its Swarm Engine.

Most impressive hands down is the technology used to render hundreds of zombies all rushing at once. If you’re familiar with the movie you know exactly what I’m talking about. Zombies in World War Z are unlike others, as they can run and rush at very fast speeds. They gather so quickly that they actually pile on top of one another, able to create an undead ladder of sorts to scale buildings, walls and defenses, and it’s no different here. Sure, the dead ones eventually fade away, but it’s done subtly and you don’t really notice it, or have time to when being rushed. Even more impressive, I never once had any technical issues or slowdown when hundreds of them were on the screen at once and even at 4K 60FPS on an Xbox Series X.

Based on the movie universe, you don’t recreate the movie, nor get to see or play as Brad Pitt, but instead play through separate mini campaigns. Just like in the film, humanity is on the verge of being wiped out from the undead, so you need to do whatever required to survive. While I enjoyed the smaller bite sized campaigns compared to one lengthy one, there was no real overarching storyline to piece it all together, even with the two new maps. While I would normally hold this against a game, it simply works here because you’re coming to kill swarms of zombies; nothing more, nothing less. Each episode has its own special moments and challenges, though generally the gameplay won’t change from beginning to end. Get to a waypoint, fight some zombies, get to next checkpoint, hunker down as a warm attacks you, get to next checkpoint and survive the final swarm of hundreds of zombies rush you. Even though that’s the majority of the game design, the swarm sections never got tiresome as it was always a challenge, especially on the harder difficulties.

Not all zombies are your standard braindead lurkers though. Just like Left 4 Dead, there are the odd few ‘special’ zombies that are much more menacing and dangerous. There are Brutes that wear armor and take a lot more firepower to take down, ones that are wearing hazmat suits that emit poison clouds when killed, Screamers that attract even more zombies and others. While these aren’t as challenging as a standard “boss” in other games, they force you to stick together as a team and take them out, because if you’re singled out and pounced on by these, there’s nothing you can do to escape on your own.

The main highlight of the gameplay though is the defense sections where you’re given a minute or two to find supplies and setup a defense perimeter. You can find barbed wire, machine gun turrets, auto turrets and more heavy weaponry that will help turn the tides. On the Easy difficulties these aren’t much of a problem, but once you start choosing the harder ones and realize friendly fire is a real thing, it becomes much more problematic to survive in. The harder the difficulty the more currency you’ll earn once completed which can be used to purchase new weaponry and skills.

Each class have their own unique abilities and specialties, though I tended to stick with Medic and heal my teammates when needed. Each class begins with a specific starter weapon, though you’re able to swap it out for any other you see during a match should you prefer. Weapons level up the more you use them, and as a Medic I start out with a SMG, so I decided to stick with them and level up that line of weaponry. As you max out a weapon’s XP, you’ll have to purchase the next tier of that gun, for a total of five tiers. The higher the tier, the more powerful it obviously becomes with attachments and stat increases.

Skills unlock at each level as well, allowing you to purchase any you see fit. Some are minor increases and bonuses, whereas others are class defining, so it’s up to you, but spend wisely as coins don’t come easily or quickly early on. Also, I found out very quickly that having to repeat missions and grinding was a real thing if you want to purchase weapons and skills.

If cooperative survival isn’t really your thing, there is a competitive mode as well with a handful of modes to partake in. In these Player vs Player vs Zombie modes (PvPvZ), you’re given different predefined classes to choose from, but like the campaign, will level them up the more you play. While the modes are unique takes on your standard King of the Hill, Deathmatch, Domination and more, the PvPvZ angle add some flair for those wanting to play competitively. I was a little surprised nothing major was added to the PvPvZ aspect for Aftermath, so those that want to fight against others won’t have much new content.

While it does eventually turn into a grind, facing off against swarms of hundreds of rushing zombies never ceases to impress with its technical prowess and core fun of shooting a mass of zombies. While it may not reinvent the gameplay, the Aftermath DLC does add some welcome additions and tweaks that make World War Z and even better zombie slayer.

Simply look at what comes with Aftermath; the two new maps and new class are clearly the highlight and while it runs better on the latest hardware, the asking price seems a little steep for what’s added. Granted, core players can upgrade for about half price ($25.99 CAD), if you’ve previously played World War Z before and was wondering if the latest DLC is going to be enough to change your mind from its repetitive design and grind, Aftermath might be an afterthought. Even so, it’s always fun to fight against a swarm, hoping to survive against hundreds of zeke’s.

**World War Z: Aftermath (Deluxe Edition) was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 8.2 / 10
Visuals: 8.3 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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