Day Z

  • Type: FPS (First Person Shoo… Um… Survival)
  • Developer: Dean “Rocket” Hall
  • Platform: PC
  • Release Date: 2012
  • Requires : Arma II, Arma II Operation Arrowhead, Internet
  • connection

We’ve all made our plans for the zombie apocalypse (if you haven’t… Why the hell not??!!). Now you get to see if it would work. Ok, maybe not your precise plan. Because you are not in your own neck of the woods. But this is the closest I have seen to a proper zombie holocaust survival game.

Day Z 1

Day Z is a mod (an adaptation of the graphics and gameplay to change the look and feel of an existing game) for Arma II. It changes a fairly realistic combat simulator into a fairly realistic panic fest.

You are dropped off on the coast of zombie infested area of fictional Russia (or there abouts) called Chernarus. You’ve got to love the kind people that left you there, cos they provided you with a backpack containing meager medical supplies and a torch. Gee thanks!!! You then have to survive. Off you go.

Seriously, that is all you get in the way of equipment and guidance (and that guidance is courtesy of me, not the game). Not tough enough for you? Ok. You have to worry about getting eaten by zombies, which I assume you already guessed. But you also have to worry about hunger and thirst. If you don’t eat and drink at regular intervals, you will die. Oh, and hyperthermia. You may note that I didn’t mention food, drink or a nice jumper being in your backpack.

Not to worry. There are plenty of towns around, where you can find everything you need. Unfortunately, this is also where the zombies hang out. They do tend to avoid the vast areas of woodland between the areas of ex-habitation, but good luck finding what you need to survive out there! So all you have to do is sneak into an area plagued with zombies and find a weapon, ammo for that weapon, food, drink and anything else you may find useful. Like a map and compass.

Day Z 3

Oh, did I forget to mention that? When you spawn (arrive) your location appears on the screen (in a blink and you miss it kind of way). But unless you know the map (or brought the right copy of Arma II that has a paper map with it [like me... smug grin]) you are kinda lost. Unless you find one, there is no in game map. And even then, it doesn’t show you where you are on it. I know! It’s almost like it were real life!

Assuming that you survive your foraging, and find everything you need, your problems are not over. You get through your provisions and ammo supplies at a reasonable rate. So you need to find more. Also, there are other people in the same situation as you. And not all of them are friendly. You are as likely to be shot by another survivor coveting your precious supplies as be eaten by zombies.

On my first play, the tension was palpable. Creeping around a town, skirting zombie infested areas, trying to find something to eat, drink and defend myself with. But the real cause of actual fear was when I encountered another player! The zeds are a given. They see or hear you, they are going to try and eat your face. They notice you and you’re for it, or have a fight on your hands. But other people??!! Are they hostile? Are they going to play nice and then shoot me in the back of the head? It seriously adds a new level of tension to an already tense game!!! You’ve seen The Road, right?

Day Z 8

Day Z is an Alpha mod. This is one that is in the earliest stages of development. So don’t expect huge amounts of content. Don’t get me wrong; what has already been done is absolutely superb. But what I have mentioned is pretty much all you get. Wander around and try to stay alive. Ok, there are vehicles and a huge map to explore. But it is essentially all ‘sneak about, find stuff, hide and/or run screaming!’

This is by far the best that I have ever encountered at what it tries to do. But this is all you are going to get, for now. Bohemia Interactive (the guys that released Arma II) have spotted potential here. Maybe due to the fact that there are roughly a million people playing it worldwide at present. They are going to release the mod as part of the next official Arma II release. But I have also heard a whisper (which, as yet I haven’t been able to confirm. But it sounds legit) that it is currently being developed as a stand alone release.

The Good

It is HUGELY atmospheric. Hugely! Creeping around, hearing the moans and shuffling of the undead is really unnerving. Not having a huge supply of ammo is a refreshing pain in the arse. And it is the most convincing horror survival simulator that I have ever come across. Oh, and it’s dead pretty too.

The Bad

It’s bloody hard. The official site shows the average life expectancy. Currently (at time of typing) an hour and a half!!!! It is way easier if you get together with a bunch of buds and watch each other’s backs. Solo is a nightmare. Teaming up with strangers can be rewarding, but is dead risky.

Day Z 5

Also, it is of limited appeal. Once you get bored of trying to survive, or mercilessly picking on other players, there is nothing more to do. But like I said, it’s an Alpha mod and it’s free. This may be a bit of a harsh call, but like Mr. Haverhill says… If you put it out there, we will compare it to everything else that is out there. That said… It’s an Alpha and it’s free!!

Oh, and there are melee weapons available (I’ve had a crowbar and a fire axe in my time). But you cannot use them for melee attacks. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I could not use them for melee attacks. I’m told that you can. But, to be honest, I kind of lost my bottle and ran screaming. Getting hit, hurts (duh!). Incidentally, the running screaming is a tactic I have used to good affect many, many times. Even after some nice guys kitted me out with a couple of nice guns and some camo (yes, the bald guy in the above pic is me).

The Ugly

There are two points that really bug me about this game… um… mod. And another that is merely an irritation.

Firstly, and this is nothing to do with the Mod, the interface is a bloody nightmare. It is the worst FPS (first person shooter) interface that I have ever encountered. But this is down to Bohemia, as it is all part of Arma II… not Day Z. But if you play Day Z, you use the interface. Half the keys don’t seem to do what they suggest they should. Hell, you can’t even lean to look round a corner unless you are holding a gun.

Secondly, connecting to a server is a complete pain. I have had several occasions of sitting there for getting on for 15 mins while it slowly loads, only to be dropped and have to start again. Some other servers I have been straight in. There does not seem to be any reason to it. Hell, I have sat in front of my computer for nearly two hours trying to get onto a server!

I have to keep repeating to myself, it is only an Alpha, it is only an Alpha!

Finally, the irritating one, installing it is a bit of a bitch. There are many variations of Arma II and Op Arrowhead available. This is a good thing. It gives you flexibility. But took me a while to work out what I needed to buy to play Day Z (yes, I bought it just for the mod). And once you have done this, you need to make sure that the right updates, patches and mods are installed. And with the various options available, this is tricky. That said there are some great guides on the web. And once it is done, it’s pretty easy to keep on top of.

Day Z 2

All in all, this is an exceptionally good mod. There are huge irritations involved, but it is not a commercial release. If it were, I would be shitting on it from a great height. But for what it is, what you get is far and away above what I would expect, or have encountered in the past.

[NOTE: If I were comparing this to commercial releases, I would only give it a 5.5/6. But it's not. So it gets a...]

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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