The Zombie Game You’ve Always Wanted has Arrived

If you are reading this right now, it means you didn’t get Diablo 3, or you’re simply taking a break from it. I really would like that game, but I just don’t have the money right now. In any case, I want to tell you about a zombie game, well actually it’s a MOD. But it’s the zombie game you’ve always wanted, but never got because we either never had the technology to support it or no one had attempted it. Fair warning: this is a pretty long post with no TLDR.

I know what you’re thinking, the perfect zombie survival horror game would be a huge open world, perhaps an MMO with millions of players from around the world, simply moving from city to city just trying to survive, either by finding food and drink to eat, and a place to stay. Or looting from passers by to get weapons and ammo to put a bullet or crossbow arrow through the brain of a few undead. Unfortunately even though we’ve pretty much had the technology (for the past two years) to pull off something like this, it’s never been done… Until now.

I present to you, Day Z! Yes, I already told you it’s a MOD for Arma II. It requires you have the game and the expansion pack Operation Arrowhead. This means, if you were to buy it on Steam, you’d be paying $30… For a MOD that it’s in alpha stage. On top of that it’s built on top of a game that already has a pretty clunky interface and control system. Installing the MOD isn’t that hard, but it’s a bit more clunky than it needs to be. But that’s all the bad stuff out the way for now, let me tell you about this sweet MOD!

It’s set on the 25km x 25km island that comes with Arma II. Yes, it’s huge. It supports up to 60 players online and from what I’ve seen, it’s surprisingly not that laggy. Although it does take a while to join servers because it looks like it has to connect to one master server to retrieve your data. What data? The persistent data about where you left off from last time. That’s right, it’s a persistent world – you can join any server and it will save your health, ammo, what weapons you had, location etc. However, you may want to choose your server carefully. I decided to try out this MOD at close to midnight and the servers have a 1:1 time ratio. This means that it was midnight in the game too and in Arma II, that means pitch black. Which quite frankly was one of the scariest moments I’ve had in a FPS recently.

You start off along the south cost of the island. I couldn’t see anything until I threw a flare down, the bright red glow helped me find my way to a main road. So far all I had to get a sense of direction was the stars and the moon. Armed with this knowledge – I was absolutely useless, because I have no idea how to find the North star -_-

So I just headed down a road, occasionally throwing another flare. Eventually I learned you could pick them up, which I thought was a much better idea, since I only had 10 flares to start with and who knows where I might find some more. Although, since it was pitch black it would mean if anyone, or anything was near me I would be the only thing they saw. That might not be a good thing, because you know, zombies, but also if certain players kill other players too much, they become bandits and their player model changes appropriately. I really didn’t want to be seen, but at the same time, I needed light, so I decided to risk it until I could get to the nearest town or something. What happened next, would be the consequences of my decision…

The whole time I was actually on Skype talking to friends. I was trying to explain that I was just following a road and some railroad tracks to see where they’d lead, but all of a sudden I just stopped talking. I heard a noise, like a moan. The next thing I know, out of the pitch black dark a zombie comes running towards me! I panicked and it made me jump! I really felt a mix of fear and excitement as my adrenaline kicked in. The clunky control system didn’t help either but I managed to pull my starting pistol out and put a few rounds in him! Then, before I could calm down, more moaning! More of them! I had very little ammo so I decided to run. But where to? I headed in the opposite direction on the road that I was on. I also decided to drop the flare, as that would probably bring more, but unfortunately this meant running into the dark into who knows what!

So I kept running and running and they were still chasing me! I think I ended up around some docks and decided to try to find somewhere to hide. I tried to throw a flare far away from me and I’d hoped that it would draw them away and I could escape. Unfortunately, you make a lot of sound when you run too and the zombies heard me. I was surrounded and then the inevitable happened – they ate me! Munch!

Game over – meant I had to start again, respawn with 10 flares and about 2 Makarov pistol clips. This time I managed to avoid more zombies and found a barn. I got really lucky with this barn, there was a shotgun, a sniper and a crossbow. I could only hold one weapon, in addition to my pistol. I went with the shotgun – the other players had told me that there is more ammo for the shotgun, the only drawback is that it makes noise. The crossbow is silent, but you don’t get a lot of ammo and you have to reload after each shot – not a good thing when ten zombies are running towards you. The sniper seemed cool, but I don’t think it would have been a good idea because I’d be screwed if any zombies got close. I also found food and water in this barn, which was good for obvious reasons. You need to eat and drink. Drink comes in the form of pepsi cans and you can visit a river or ocean to fill up your water bottle. Food comes in cans, but I also heard you can kill animals and cook them.

If I were to increase my chances of survival I thought it would be best to meet up with my friend. Fast forward to him installing and finally getting in game we decided we’d find a place to meet. This was a bit difficult for us as we had no map. To use the map in game you actually have to find one first. We cheated a little and used a map online as well as road signs and landmarks to figure out where we are. We never met in game, because I got tired a left (2am), but getting to another city isn’t that easy when you’re avoiding zombies. It doesn’t help that if you actually wanted to drive there, you’d need to be able to get the tools to fix up a vehicle first, not to mention refueling it. Moving slowly and watching the zombie’s path is the key to avoiding them. They seem to have about a 30 degree field of vision so sometimes you could feel like you’re a real Sam Fisher (side note – Sam Fisher > Snake).

Overall I think this MOD has the groundwork for something potentially amazing. It’s unfortunate that it’s built upon a game that sometimes feels really clunky, but hey I don’t care, because it’s enabling something awesome to happen. Maybe the clunkyness is a good thing, after all, just look at the success of Resident Evil! If you ever needed a reason as to why PC gaming is better than console gaming, Day Z is your answer. It may be in alpha stage, but from what I’ve seen, it’s better than than any CoD clone to date and it’s all made by gamers who enjoy games, not want money. I think it would be years before something like this ever comes out on a console. I really hope development for this MOD continues, especially now that it’s getting more publicity. Looking forward to the apocalypse!

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