A movie tie-in app that doesn’t suck? Believe it or not, the World War Z game for iOS feels like an actual game, and not a hastily tossed-off freebie. Designed using Unreal engine, this first person shooter makes good use of the touch interface and manages to tell a gripping, if limited, story.
World War Z starts at a bar in Denver, where your character—an ex-military pilot—gets a panicked call from his son, exclaiming that the world is going crazy and people are attacking each other. As you try to calm him down and make sense of what he’s saying, you get interrupted…by an airliner that crashes through the wall, spewing ravening zombies out at you. As you fight your way out of the Denver, our hero decides he has to get to his son. Small problem—his son is living in Japan.
The zombie plague of World War Z has afflicted most of the earth’s population, turning them into an ocean of bodies that sweep over cars and form human bridges to scale buildings. Nowhere is safe. Fortunately, you deal with them in manageable groups that you can shoot, or one at a time in hand-to-hand combat.
World War Z gives you the option of using a virtual joystick, or a “casual mode” with a simplified interface that can be used with one finger that works much better. To walk around, just touch the floor where you want to go. When you can use your gun, the interface changes to a targeting reticule. Place it over a zombie, and it fires automatically. Head shots do more damage but are harder to pull off, and shots to the legs can knock a zombie over and slow it down.
Melee combat is a bit trickier. You have to time your blows (using downward swipes), but if the zombie gets too close, you get chomped. You can buy yourself more time by either throwing the zombie to the side (which is easier to do), or shoving the zombie back (which causes damage as well, but is harder to time).
But it’s not all run-and-gun; World War Z has an exploration aspect as well. You can pick up ammo and supplies scattered throughout the game, search for access codes to open doors, and search computers, corpses, and file folders, which, along with killing zombies, gets you experience points. XP is the money of the game, and you can jump into the store at any time to purchase supplies, weapons, and armor. You can also upgrade your equipment, giving your guns more damage capacity, bigger magazines, or faster reload times, or make your armor tougher, or cause more damage to zombies in hand-to-hand combat.
In addition to the main story mode (spread out over three cities, each with multiple stages), there’s also a Challenge Mode where you attempt to survive for as long as possible against endless zombie waves. In addition to the XP and supplies you get from killing foes, Challenge Mode features additional, well, challenges, such as shooting specific body parts, exceeding a kill count, or surviving for as long as possible. Meeting these goals net you bonus rewards.
There’s a lot to appreciate about World War Z, from a story with characters that are actually developed, written, and voiced well, to the well-designed locations. Also, while you can make in-app purchases with real money to make the game easier, the game is completely winnable on its own. If you die, you retain all your experience and supplies, and the game restocks the enemies and items, meaning that even if you run into a difficult area, eventually you’ll accumulate enough XP to get better gear to get you past it.
At a cost of five bucks, World War Z isn’t a cheap app, but consider that this isn’t a free-to-play collectable card game app (or worse, a gangster film turned into Farmville) that you’ll delete after playing it for five minutes, but a fully-developed FPS. The one knock I have against the game is that it feels too short. I ended the final stage after a few days of play, with a ton of XP that I was hoarding rather than buying the best weapons. Still, with the challenge modes and the knowledge of the levels I have now, I’ll probably go back and replay World War Z, and when was the last movie tie-in app you could say that about?
Buy World War Z
Seller: Paramount Digital Entertainment
Compatibility: iPhone 3GS or better, iPod touch 3rd generation or better, iPad. Some advance features and graphics only supported on iPad 2 or better, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, and 5th generation iPod touch.
Price: $4.99 (with in-app purchases)
Age Rating: 12+
Availability: Out now