The War Z – A Comparison to The DayZ
By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor), OnRPG Resident Zombie Apocalypse Survivor
No this is not a preview for the upcoming movie World War Z featuring Brad Pitt that, on a side note, looks really promising. But this is a look at the second or arguably the first real Zombie Survival MMORPG on the market. The War Z is the first real standalone title in their genre, I will compare it a lot with its big competitor on the market, DayZ. With The War Z still in its beta phase and only open to the public that purchased the game or managed to get a beta key for only a couple of days, this preview might be totally different when the game reaches launch since the game gets daily updates and tweaks.
The War Z is the second zombie survival game on the market that takes a somewhat different approach than DayZ. While DayZ leans somewhat more in the realistic direction because of its engine formed for the military simulation of ArmA 2, The War Z takes a more arcade approach if I may say so myself. What this means is that The War Z loses some of its realism and as a result, some of its suspense. Many people had their doubts before the Alpha phase of the game was public to the community; there was only a handful of background information on the net that had been found on the company behind The War Z and many feared this was only some sort of scam to be harking in money for the concept that was, to be fair, originally taken from DayZ. As a big fan of DayZ myself and seeing this shady game with no background information pop up all of a sudden, I was not impressed. In the secret pits of the OnRPG crew discussion boards I was voicing my opinion and Dizzy agreed to have me look into it as soon as possible to see if it could hold up as a decent title.
Since it uses the engine of their other game I’m already acquainted with, The War Inc, I had somewhat of an idea how the game would feel. From launch the game had the typical look and feel of an arcade style fps trying to cater to the general large audience for the genre. I constantly questioned my fellow players to see what type of community they were building and interestingly enough most casual fps players that had no knowledge or only vaguely knew about DayZ prior to talking to me.
After creating your character from one of the default playable models you will spawn somewhere on the map randomly with only a flashlight. This flashlight is really useful when playing in the dark but also really useful as your first real weapon to defend yourself against all the hordes of zombies. One of the first gameplay decisions The War Z differed from DayZ on was the choice to include 2 day cycles within the real time 24 hour cycle. This meant 2 midnights if you were to sit down for a 24 hour play session and plenty of darkness for zombies (and other players) to sneak up on their prey in.
Since you only spawn with a flashlight, your first real objective is to find a proper weapon along with some food and water to survive your first journey in the first War Z map, Colorado! I myself spawned near what looked like quite a big village with a couple hundred residents next to a huge lake (one of the greatest natural defenses against zombies it turns out). Equipped with my Flashlight in the night with the moon high in the sky I decided to venture into town in hopes of finding something useful as defense against the hordes of zombies that are lurking around the big cities and towns hoping to find some fresh meat to chew on.
I quickly found out that the flash light isn’t a big solution for getting rid of the zombies since its damage is really low. Something of note is that the Zombies in The War Z only die when received damage to their heads. So if you find a gun, don’t bother wasting bullets unless you’re busting out headshots. And when your only weapon is a flashlight and you lack the element of surprise, you might as well just focus on stealth and try to find shelter till morning. Not to say a zombie is challenging to kill with only a flashlight, just that it’s not easy to kill one at a time when a whole group is chasing you through a dark alley.
Since I already had the sneaking experience from DayZ I knew staying low on the ground and avoiding any objects that might make sound was my best bet of survival. After scrounging through a few homes and only finding one bottle of water, I decided to try my luck in the commercial district. The first diner I came across welcomed me with open arms and a hungry but not so friendly cook. I managed to get his attention and took my chances as the diner seemed relatively isolated and empty. I used my Flash Light with perfect form and successfully fought off my first encounter with a zombie in the game.
But just like in DayZ, there is a bigger fear roaming the streets than just zombies. The bar I was in seemed a little more disheveled than the previous houses… almost as if it was just plundered by other survivors. I did however find myself a hat, yes that’s right, besides scavenging around for the necessary items you are also able to find clothing like hats. Basically The War Z is a mixture of DayZ blended with Team Fortress 2 because there are a billion of hats. By the end of my first successful day of surviving I had collected enough hats to open a specialty store. Anyhow, I just had found my first piece of clothing and was curious if I could use it to barter with another survivor for necessities.
I stepped out of the diner in search for something more useful to defend myself with. Next to the diner is what looked like a small supermarket that would surely be me one stop survival shop for tools and food. The zombies seemed to think so as well, greeting me at the door as a hungry swarm of at least a dozen piled up in a tight group. I quickly looked around me to find some place to hide, and darted towards a barricade in the middle of an intersection that seemed to be the only option. While running over to the barricade, I heard gun shots that sounded like a pistol just passing me killing the zombies one by one. As a DayZ fanatic who had been double-crossed and betrayed countless times I just couldn’t believe what was happening; was a total stranger just happening to help me fend of the zombies in my first actual journey in Colorado? When I neared the Barricade I saw what looked like a friendly person facing me with a pistol, I was hoping he really was friendly and when I quickly tried to message him through the chat I heard another bullet and saw myself laying on the ground.
Unfortunately the game hasn’t got any voice chat at all and thus everything is done through the text chatbox. There are two channels, one is the Proximity Channel where everyone close around you is able to read your messages and the other one is the Global Chat, which everyone on the map is able to see. Unfortunately another thing in The War Z is, just like the people in DayZ, no one is friendly at all. As expected, the game was turning out into a Deathmatch survival game instead of defending the hordes of zombies with others, scrounging and scavenging around for your own survival alone or in a group. And with a great arsenal of weaponry that can be found along with the useful attachments for the guns, it makes the game a lot more arcade than a realistic survival game. Unfortunately, this is partly because of the many static spawns The War Z has. But the game shop also shares some responsibility in this mess.
Yes that’s right the The War Z also has a cash shop where items can be bought. Luckily, these are not game breaking items that have been confirmed multiple times by the developers, but the necessary items like food, bandages or attachments for your guns. There’s also a collection of weapons that can be bought that also can be found in game, so these are not overpowered or game changing at all and in fact just a waste of money when you think of it. Since you explode like a big piñata when you die, everything that is on you including the items bought with real money will be dropped. So if you did buy a gun or some useful items that could’ve been helping you out and you died you lose them. Luckily you are able to save these items and weaponry in your global inventory when you are at a safe zone, and when you have too many items you can store the extras for later use.
The War Z has a total different look when compared with DayZ, obviously besides the fact the whole user interface is different the game in general carries a completely unique mood. Since DayZ has a background of the ArmA Engine, The War Z engine is completely tweaked to its use and feels more like a Left 4 Dead meets DayZ kind of feel. The War Z isn’t really top notch beautiful or bad looking but its graphics are functional. The environmental functions work as intended and can be spotted easily enough. If I had to give a complaint it’s that the world feels a little too orderly given the 5 year zombie apocalypse backstory. As compared to the random chaos of DayZ’ weapon placement, guns and loot in The War Z will be waiting for you right where you would expect to find them. I guess people stocked food in the grocery shelves and kept guns nicely prepared on tabletops straight up to the zombie breakout and after 5 years the zombies have carefully tiptoed around them to not disturb their placement.
There isn’t really that much information in the regard of what kind of computer specifications that you need, but as explained on their website your computer needs at least 2 GB of RAM and a video card that supports Shader Model 3.0. If you have both then you won’t have issues which should be the case for any PC purchased or built in the last four years.
Even though I had my doubts before I tried The War Z, my doubts were misplaced as it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Unfortunately after playing a week non-stop just as I do with many games I get hyped for, I burned out. Even though it’s been in ‘open’ beta for a couple weeks, I haven’t touched it. The game feels really repetitive after a while, and since there is basically nothing new to do, it loses that survival suspense satisfaction. Some other gamers I met seem to disagree with me but I believe it’s just due to how much time I had already spent in DayZ and how similar (read lack of innovation) The War Z brings beyond it. So why do I still occasionally log into DayZ instead? I think the biggest reason is because the game in general feels a lot more like an arcade where DayZ brings the visceral realism zombie tales are built on. Still if you haven’t tried either and want your taste of zombie survival life, The War Z won’t disappoint. Just get ready to lose your items constantly and face an unforgiving community that at times feels less human than the zombies themselves.