We’ve not one, but two zombie games releasing in April and both are fully fledged titles dedicated to dealing with (or avoiding) swarms of the undead. World War Z and Days Gone both tackle the presumed realities of living in a world in which no one ever really dies, where those that shuffle off this mortal coil decide to hang around for a bit wanting to feast on living flesh. They’ve both taken widely different approaches though – one is a co-op multiplayer shooter based on a film that was so loosely based on a book you’d wonder if the screenwriter had ever seen a copy of the original; and the other is a Sony produced big budget epic open world story driven narrative from their Bend studio that really, really, really wants to call itself “Daryl: The Game”. Both have some great concepts that could make them surprise hits, yet both have elements not going their way that could stunt sales. Is it going to be worth shambling after either of them?
World War Z – 16th April 2019, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Taking a leaf out of the book by Max Brooks, World War Z seems more inspired by the individual tales of surviving the outbreak of the apocalypse than following a single person through the campaign missions. Teams of up to four players take part in unique missions across New York, Jerusalem and Moscow and must work together to survive. It all sounds a little Left 4 Dead, but the twist in gameplay comes from the Swarm engine specifically created for this game. Your foes will act like genuine crowds that flow through the environments with promises of them working almost like end of level bosses rather than individual enemies. The system looks really interesting and renders so many zombies on screen it’s a struggle to keep up with the action at times, especially when it factors in the dismemberment and flying viscera.
It’s looking intense and quite intimidating if we’re honest, we’ve never seen so many viscous creatures targeting a player like that before. There’s also a great idea in the competitive elements too where teams of humans face off against each other whilst hordes of zombies are unleashed into the environment. Arguably it’s not a AAA title, yet there’s something so different here it’s going to be tempting to dive in and find out what it has to offer. The question will be whether the limited environments and online only play will give it longevity once gamers are past the initial appeal.
Days Gone – 26th April, PS4
It’s been in development for some time now, and we’ve seen a fair amount of gameplay at the last couple of gaming conventions to know what it’s about. Former bike gang member Deacon St. John travels the ruins of zombie infected America, scavenging for the things that will keep him alive. With only his motorcycle for company (and the odd piece of heavy weaponry) he’s exploring the Pacific North-West looking for a safe haven and trying not to get eaten by the Freakers that populate the land. It’s not only the feral ones to look out for either, there are plenty of human foes to be mindful of as the last scraps of humanity are eroded away. There’s a potential hook in the story with it focusing on the human aspects of loss, regret and doing anything to survive, but it does need to try wrap that around running from lots and lots of zombies.
The swarms in Days Gone aren’t ever present, it’ll be a truly open world to explore, and there’s a hint that with the right style of play you’ll be able to avoid or use the Freakers to your advantage. Weather changes, day/night cycles and dynamic events all promise to elevate this from a simple stealth game into something that maybe we’ve not seen before. Then there’s the heavy reliance on Deacon’s hog – fail to keep it topped up and you could be in for some very long walks looking for fuel. It’s these RPG additions and interesting situations that might just rescue it from the bombing that threatened after poor press showings last year. That said, I’ve never seen a game put out an accolade trailer for a closed door press event preview before, so they’re clearly having to do some work to build up hype.
We’ll soon be able to put out a final verdict on both these titles, it’s less than 4 weeks till World War Z and 6 weeks to Days Gone. In an overly saturated genre it’s good to see a couple of contenders trying to stand out, but whether they manage to convert that into sales is a tough one to answer. Let’s see if they can survive in this brutal and ruthless gaming environment.