• Day Z Review - PC

    The gaming world isn't short of Zombie games. From arcade zombie shooters like the House of The Dead series, through to Valve's successful multiplayer co-op oriented Left 4 Dead games up to the recent adventure game The Walking Dead based on the comics TV series of the same name. There's something for everyone. Well, not quite everyone. Bohemia Interactive's Dean Hall (AKA Rocket) wanted a proper zombie apocalypse simulator. So he wrote one.

    Day Z is a multiplayer game. The first time you play it you will have to choose a server to connect to. There are servers scattered around the globe with more arriving all the time. After choosing a server your character will spawn and you'll be on a beach. You might not know you're on a beach because it might be night time so you might not be able to see anything. If it is night time then you can use a torch see where you are and what's around you. Be aware though that torches attract zombies and alert other players to your presence; other players who may want to help you, or may decide to put a bullet in your head to steal your beans. If all that sounds a bit harsh, well, it is. It's not designed to be fair. There won't always be a way out of a situation. Assuming you aren't killed instantly by zombies or another player you'll want to check your gear. You start off with a bandage (for when you start bleeding), pain killers and a torch. No weapon (starting weapon and ammo was removed in one of the updates). Day Z doesn't hold your hand at all. You aren't told what to do but as this is a survival simulator the initial goal is to survive. Icons down the right hand side of the screen show how warm/cold, hungry and thirsty you are so obviously you are going to need food and drink. Head for a town and scavenge? Or into the woods to hunt for your food? Both options are available to you.

    Generally speaking, zombies should be avoided. At the start of the game you have no way to defend yourself from a zombie attack. If you spot one or more zombies, then it's advisable to try and walk around them. Move slowly, keep quiet by crouching or even going prone and crawling and you should be OK. As and when you find a weapon and ammo you'll have the opportunity to shoot them. You'll quickly discover though that the noise attracts more of them. Each weapon makes a certain amount of noise. For example the Lee Enfield makes much more noise than a pistol and as such will attract zombies from a much greater distance. Conversely the crossbow is essentially silent and will allow you to clear a path to your objective rather than having to walk around a zombie pack. Melee combat has been patched into the game, so once you find something suitable for zombie bashing such as a hatchet or a Gordon Freeman style crowbar you can take out walkers close up.

    Once they spot you (or hear you) the zombies in Day Z can run fast. Exactly as fast as you can in fact. Incidental music and other audio alerts you to the presence of zombies nearby and if you can hear their grunts and groans then you know they close enough to pose an immediate danger. Trying to outrun zombies in a town is possible if you can cause the zombie(s) to lose line of sight with you. If they can still hear you though then they can very quickly relocate you. Find some stairs, or head up a hill into the woods (both of which slow them down enough for you to gain some ground) if losing line of sight isn't an option.

    Zombies aren't the only danger though. This is a multiplayer game and other people are also on the island. The servers typically hold 50 to 75 players and are almost always close to full. The island is 225 square kilometres so it's possible to wander around for some time without seeing anyone. When you do see someone you have a few choices:

    • Hope they haven't seen you and try to ignore them
    • Hope they are friendly and attempt to team up with them
    • Shoot them in the head and loot their body for gear

    These choices are the same for everyone in the game. Players that want to be friendly will often indicate as much by lowering their weapon and or chatting to you in the local chat window. Of course there's a chance that they're only doing that in order to lure you into the line of sight of their friend stationed in a building with his sniper rifle trained on you. Even players who aren't out to kill you can pose a lethal threat; tip-toeing around the town being careful not to attract the interest of any local walking corpses won't keep you safe if another team of players have drawn the attention of a herd of walkers and happen to run past you as they attempt to escape. Once again you have a decision to make: Do you help the players being pursued by taking down the zombies? Or shoot the players to slow them down and thus improve your own chances of escape? Danger is truly everywhere in Day Z.

    The only way to be sure you have a trustworthy companion is to play with a friend. This is tricky though because you don't get to choose where you spawn, although you are briefly told your location for a few seconds as you enter the game world. There's also (initially anyway) no map or GPS so aside from when you spawn you can't tell where you are except through landmarks, and these take a while to learn. Printing off a map of the island can help in working out where you are - an old school trick and one worth doing in a game with so little hand holding. On a map this large it can be hard to team up with a buddy but it is possible and is something you should endevour to do. This is one game that is definitely better as a co-op experience.

    Surviving is important. You'll need to make sure you have the means to get enough food and drink to stay alive but surviving is just the start. You'll want to progress and than means getting better gear. Larger backpacks, pistols, rifles, crossbows, hunting knives, map, compass, GPS, toolboxes and blood packs are all available to find. You can kill rabbits, pigs and cows, butcher them and cook them (after gathering wood and starting a fire with matches) to make tasty steaks that will restore much more lost blood than a tin of beans. You'll stumble across car windscreens, scrap metal, Jerry cans and spare wheels, all of which seem a bit pointless. Pointless until you find a broken car or quad bike, just waiting to be repaired, given a toolbox and the right missing parts. You can also find a replacement helicopter rotor assembly. I wonder what that's for?

    Once you've got your bug-out bag nicely equipped the goals in the game become your own. Perhaps you want to form up with a group of other survivors and just try your best to survive off the land. Or maybe you want to become a bandit and steal the loot from other players. Walking around is fine but the island is big so getting some better transport might be your next option. Spotting a lone survivor trapped on the top of a building with a herd of raging zombies below you can't help but think how cool it would be if you could get a helicopter up to him and airlift him out. This mod is what you make it.

    Day Z is constantly evolving. For example, one change has meant that players now need to be aware of their body temperature. Wandering around at night in the rain is going to make you ill if you don't regularly manage to warm yourself by a fire. Day Z is not without its problems. You should expect to experience a number of bugs, such is the nature of this type of game mod. Some of the zombie animations could be improved and the inventory management system brings problems of its own. But, for those who want to test their survival skills in the impending zombie apocalypse Day Z offers a unique experience. Free from the shackles of what a big game publisher decides constitutes a game, Dean Hall has made something that he always wanted to play. The result is a mod which pushed Arma II to the top of the steam sales list. For those prepared to put up with the complications inherent in a constantly evolving, experimental simulation mod, Day Z comes highly recommended.

    Score: 9/10

    • Most realistic zombie survival simulator to date
    • Instils genuine fear of death in the game world
    • Decisions made have meaningful impact

    • Bugs
    • Some poor animations
    • System requirements are fairly high

    A fairly powerful PC
    A copy of Arma II and the expansion Operation Arrowhead
    Arma II : Combined Ops (essentially Arma II and Operation Arrowhead in a bundle)
    The DayZ mod - available from http://dayzmod.com

    System: Windows PC
    Genre: Survival Horror
    Developer: Dean Hall / Bohemia Interactive
    Players: Many
    Version: Global
    Reviewed: July 2012
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Supergoal's Avatar
      Supergoal -
      Is no one playing this?
    1. Brad's Avatar
      Brad -
      Me and Herbalizer are. Think Cavalcade has just started too (from posts over at rllmuk)
    1. hudson's Avatar
      hudson -
      Thanks for the review. It sounds great. I'm off to check it out.
    1. Supergoal's Avatar
      Supergoal -
      Cool. I love the atmosphere in this game, though as everyone says, finding a bunch of mates to team up with is epic.
    1. hudson's Avatar
      hudson -
      Well, I've been on for a couple of hours. 98% of the time I'm travelling on my belly.

      The game is survival horror. I'm on top of some tall chimney and I can see zombies everywhere. I can hear a gun shot og off every now and again, so someone is hunting nearby too. Extra eerie.

      Any tips? Is belly travel the norm?
    1. Brad's Avatar
      Brad -
      Yes :-) Not everywhere but if there's a Z within about 40 foot of me then it's usually belly time.

      Tips are to keep playing. Try to find (in this order):

      A few bandages - If you get hit and start bleeding then no bandages means imminent death
      Morphine - if you get hit and break a leg then no morphine = crawling everywhere really slowly
      Drink - if you get too thirsty you die and I always get thirsty before I get hungry
      Tins of food - Get too hungry you die
      Blood bags - available in hospitals - Restore tons of lost blood - need a co op buddy to perform the transfusion though
      Then you can start thinking about shooting stuff:

      A weapon + ammo
      A hunting knife - For gutting animals that you kill. But you can;t eat raw meat so...
      A hatchet - for chopping wood to build a fire using...
      Matches - so you can turn the raw meat into cooked steaks that give back 800 blood at a time. 10x more than a tin of beans
      Water bottle - so you can fill it with water from wells

      With that lot you are self sufficient and can go live up in the hills if you want.

      After that it's up to you. Herb and I are looking for vehicles, better weapons.

      The game changes completely when you get a reliable co-op buddy. You can watch each other's backs etc.

      Working out what direction to travel can be difficult but the position of the sun is accurate so late afternoon/evening you can follow your shadow more or less to travel east. Finding a compass is better of course.
    1. hudson's Avatar
      hudson -
      Cheers. I have a hatchet! I can't use this to chop a Z up?
    1. Brad's Avatar
      Brad -
      You can. Right click it an remove from belt. Then hit r to reload. No really. Arma has no melee weapons so the hatchet actually implemented as a really short range gun lol.
    1. hudson's Avatar
      hudson -
      ah brilliant. I'm now stuck up that high chimney after being chased by a zombie. It is waiting for me at the bottom of the ladder

      "FSW....ssshhckkkt. Come in, FSW....chhkkct....over.......and out."
    1. Brad's Avatar
      Brad -
      Lol. OK, not strictly playing by the rules but if you quit out and join a different server you will be where you left off but that zombie will be gone because he's living on the other server.

      I haven't been on for a while but hope to get back on soon, maybe tonight. I'm sure Herb and I can make room for one more. Do you know where you are at the moment? There's a decent map here:


      We're currently in Gorka, which is toward the north east.

      When you join a server it briefly gives your location in the bottom right. Herb and I use Mumble to communicate so get the mumble client installed, PM me your skype or MSN id and i'll give you a shout next time we're on and let you know the Day Z server, mumble server and password.
    1. hudson's Avatar
      hudson -
      Yeah, I just logged back on and found my road was clear. Just found a few army medical tents. Could repair my blood less, however my hunger gauge is going red.

      I've found a rifle that looks a bit like a AK47 and just around the corner I saw a chicken or turkey running around and I was so tempted to kill it for food, but I really don't fancy firing and agro'ing zombies or survivors.
    1. hudson's Avatar
      hudson -
      Damn, just been flung to my death from the top of a building. Thanks to a bug when attempting to climb down a ladder. Damn.
    1. Brad's Avatar
      Brad -
      Ouch. That's not happened for a while. Bad luck. Latest patch has introduced a nasty graphic corruption bug. I had to quit last night it was so bad in Berezhino
    1. Brad's Avatar
      Brad -
      And so our 20 days of survival came to an abrupt halt during a firefight outside the Cherno supermarket. Oh well, back to the beach!
    1. Brad's Avatar
      Brad -
      Now being developed as a standalone game! Dean Hall at the helm, developed and published by Bohemia Interactive. Minecraft development model i.e. fast iterations of releases, reduced price for early alpha buyers. Development of mod will continue in parallel.
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