World War Z: Aftermath Preview – Now with Rats!

Recently, in my continuing journey to hang out with and bother developers, I was invited to play some World War Z: Aftermath with the developers of the game. Along with Fellow writer Rosy Joan, we went forth to check out some new and improved zombie shenanigans. Formerly an Epic Store exclusive on PC, World War Z nevertheless blew up, with players all over the world enjoying the deep, satisfying combat and almost liquid-like zombie hordes. It’s only reasonable that the game would come to Steam. It’s just surprising how much Saber Interactive is going all out for this release.

Let’s start with changes. The game now has a first-person mode. Formerly a third-person affair, the new first-person camera adds a new level of absolutely terrifying. While playing with the devs, we were asked to play the first mission in third-person, and the second in first-person. The change is night and day. Third-person gives you a pretty good sense of where everything is. The omnipotent camera angle helps you see things you might otherwise miss. You’re able to make tactical decisions based on what you’re seeing. First-person takes that away, or at least makes you think differently. It feels almost claustrophobic. You don’t see what’s coming as easily, and I think that’s a strength.

The next big change is two new locations. Vatican City, and Kamchatka; a snowbound bit of Russia. We got to play both maps and honestly, they’re very cool. The attention to detail in the environment is a nice touch and keeps all the levels feeling distinct. You know where you are based on the architecture and feel. There’s no mistaking any of the maps. They are lovingly unique. I kept getting brutally sneak-attacked because I wouldn’t stop dallying to check out the environments.

A new melee system will bring up close and personal zombie murder to World War Z: Aftermath. I found a sledgehammer to be an effective tool for the zombie apocalypse. Thankfully, unlike the guns, the melee doesn’t have friendly fire, meaning you can swing for the fences and not worry about cracking a teammate’s skull in your quest to set the new home run record with zombie’s heads. If you’re worried about your internet connection: Don’t. I played on my rural Oklahoma internet with developers in Russia and Rosy where they live without issue. The connection was fast and reliable (outside of the normal silliness of playing an online game pre-release).

If you’re a World War Z veteran, the game is prepared to find new ways to beat you down. No longer will zombies be your primary concern. Roving gangs of infected rats now stalk the ruined world. I hate the rats. The couple of times I was downed (playing hard mode because here at DreadXP we’re hardcore) was because of rats. They attack in a giant horde and will easily put you on the ground. Hopefully, your teammates are quick to notice your absence and can come free you. The second challenge for veterans and newcomers alike comes with the new horde XL mode. World War Z was already pushing the number of zombies on screen. With the release of horde XL, they’ve decided that they could do more. Hundreds more. That’s right, in horde mode XL the game will throw out previous, silly notions of what “a lot of zombies” means.

During our time with the game, we got to check out Vatican City and Kamchatka. We fought through hordes, got attacked by rats, and had a great time. The game feels deep. The selection of weapons, gear, and bonuses feels huge. You could put a lot of time into World War Z: Aftermath and never see the endgame. I was chomping at the bit to play more. The only real issue I had was that the devs didn’t want to implement my disconnect feature. What is my disconnect feature, you may ask? Well in the 2013 film World War Z, a scientist is getting on a plane, slips on the ramp, and shoots himself. It’s a shocking bit of dark comedy. I asked the devs if they could add in a canned animation of the players tripping and shooting themselves if they disconnected from the match for any reason. They just chuckled.

All in all, I think World War Z: Aftermath is going to have a lot for old and new fans alike. Grab up 3 of your friends, and get to it on September 21st.