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.
- Most realistic zombie survival simulator to date
- Instils genuine fear of death in the game world
- Decisions made have meaningful impact
- 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
Reviewed: July 2012