The items that can be bought with in-game moola are sold on a separate tier from the goods that can be bought with real-world money, meaning that you're stuck using in-game funds solely for such things as $6,500 knives and $5,000 bottles of antibiotics. You have to slay an absurd number of zombies to earn enough cash to afford, well, anything. Zombies are also worth experience points, but these seem completely useless at present since the character skill tree system is nonfunctional and grayed out on the main menu. Well, you can use them to buy character skins. Theoretically. It costs 150,000 XP to buy a single ex-cage fighter skin, and you get 5 XP for killing a run-of-the-mill zombie. The math does not work out in your favor.
The pay-to-play structure is a huge problem with The War Z across the board. The game can be bought three different ways solely from the official website. (It was pulled from Steam in December after buyer complaints.) You can spend $15 for the base game, which includes not a single shekel of in-game marketplace gold credits (GC), or you can go for either a $25 or a $50 package that includes the base game plus in-game bucks. Virtually no half-decent items come with the default character loadout, and there isn't much worthwhile gear to be found on the map. Another game currency earned by looting dead zombies can be used only on the aforementioned menu of spectacularly expensive stuff, so you soon find yourself all but forced to buy weapons and survival gear with real money to stay even slightly competitive.
The overall pricing scheme doesn't look too bad at first and seems somewhat balanced, since you can't buy things like guns. Five bucks gets you 625 GC, which sounds reasonable since you can pick up basic gear like a spiked baseball bat for 142 GC and binoculars for 89 GC. Even skins that are as pricey as the Hope Diamond when bought with XP come down to an affordable 376 GC.
But this micropayment system will bleed you dry in the long run. You rarely get to keep what you buy. Getting killed almost always results in your corpse being looted. You can easily spend $10 in the store kitting out your player with a weapon, binoculars, food, and drink--and then lose it all mere seconds into the game after a hidden bandit headshots you and swipes everything. This makes player killing an even more attractive strategy for anyone who doesn't want to spend real money, which further feeds into the vicious circle that is The War Z.
Technical problems cause more frustration. Hacking remains so common that the in-game chat thread is always packed with warnings of cheaters occupying sections of the map. A number of promised features don't exist. Bugs regularly boot you from servers, which can cause you to lose gear that you've just scavenged. Technical problems have also caused the servers to go down for lengthy stretches.
Zombies often freeze in place during combat, causing a crash. Even when the undead are shambling around, they have a weird inability to hit you when you've ascended to even the shortest of platforms: climb onto a crate, and you're invincible. Odd graphical artifacts are common, like your hat remaining suspended in midair long after a zombie has eaten you. Day-night cycles plunge you into pitch darkness for long stretches with only a flashlight and a dim moon to light your way. This ramps up the overall difficulty, especially if you spawn in at night for your first experience with the game. Nothing is quite so frustrating as appearing in complete darkness, flipping on a flashlight, and getting clubbed to death by a camping player lurching out of the shadows.
The look of the game is as backward as the rest of the production. Most of the map consists of generic wilderness with jaggy trees and grass, fairly realistic water, and blocky buildings that you generally can't enter. Animations are choppy, flicker is common, and the frame rate constantly dips into the teens on computers that more than meet the recommended system requirements. Zombies come at you with a weird, shoulders-locked shuffle frighteningly reminiscent of how that kid in the orange shirt danced in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
There is a small variety of character faces and bodies, so the game is populated with about a half-dozen models that you meet over and over again, living and living dead alike. Sound effects are nonexistent aside from zombie growls, atmospheric noises in the woods, and combat thunks. Music is limited mostly to the title screen, but that tune is a creepy number with an ominous bass line and jarring techno effects. Unfortunately, this song is also a barefaced rip-off of the title track from American Horror Story, just slowed down a bit and very slightly altered to ward off lawyers.
This interesting idea of combining zombie-themed survival horror with a massively multiplayer online game sandbox has been left unfinished and unfocused. The whole thing is tied up in the neat bow of a punitive payment system that all but forces you to shell out real-world cash for equipment that will likely be looted from your corpse mere minutes after the cash register has rung. The only way to draw even the tiniest bit of entertainment from the game is by playing on nearly empty servers to avoid the player-killing cheaters and focus on the undead. Even then, you soon get fed up with the dreary zombie combat, or some hacker shows up and puts you out of your misery. Fighting zombie hordes in an apocalyptic wasteland has never been so depressing.