DayZ Review – A Serviceable, Sometimes Great, Zombie-pocalypse Title

DayZ
Bohemia Interactive

There are so many genres that have risen and fallen within the gaming world. For instance, fighting games became formulaic and stopped evolving a long time ago. Whereas classic real-time strategy games (the ones with actual base building) tapered off and then disappeared altogether.

Survival games are another matter entirely. Although we’re in the midst of a survival game frenzy—where almost every developer out there has one—they’ve both stopped evolving and have given way to the whole battle royale craze (which in turn is getting stale).

As mentioned, there are so many survival games out there right now, especially post-apocalyptic themed ones; games like Rust, Miscreated, Dying Light, and Scum, just to name a few. But many point to DayZ as one of the original titles that touch off the genre.

Originally an Arma 2 mod created by Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall, he was eventually hired by Bohemia interactive in order to create a completely standalone title. That was back in 2012. Six years later, in December of 2018, this new version of DayZ finally launched—that’s six years of development.

Gamers who purchased the standalone DayZ early on have complained about the rather sluggish development schedule. To the developer’s credit, DayZ has gone through some pretty big changes, such as switching to a totally new graphics engine as well as adding in such things as dynamic weather systems. These aren’t easy things to implement. However, six years is a pretty long time.

Personally, I haven’t touched the never DayZ (only the old modded version) so I came at it with a fresh perspective. When I first loaded the game up, I immediately noticed visual improvements over the Arma 2 version. But how did it play?

Like many survival games out there right now, DayZ eschews any type of overarching storyline in favor of completely player-driven experiences. In other words, it’s an open-world, sandbox style affair where the players themselves create emergent narratives.

Set in a post-apocalyptic Russian landscape (wow, so original!), you’ll immediately become familiar with all of the usual trappings of the well-worn genre; scavenge for resources; keep an eye on your hunger and thirst; build a base, etc.

The AI threats are in the form of shambling zombies, called “infected” in this title. Early on, if you encounter one of these lumbering flesh-eaters and it starts running after you, they can be a real problem to deal with. Not so much because of the danger they offer as individuals but mainly due to DayZ’s clunky melee system. It’s hard to tell if your hits register at all and you’ll often get scratched or bitten without noticing it until later, when you check your character’s vitals.

As far as scavenging goes, DayZ can also be a pretty frustrating experience. The first places many players will head to are the metropolitan centers, in order to find better loot. Unfortunately, loot is very hard to come by. You’ll frequently find yourself rifling through dresser drawers and peering behind beds in an effort to find anything of value, but usually what you’ll come up with are some same-y articles of clothing (tracksuits abound in this game).

In my first five games, I spawned in, traveled quickly to a city, and began looking for food and water. Since those resources are so scarce, I died not from flesh-eaters but by thirst. Strangely, your character’s hydration levels drop very quickly in DayZ.

I’m not sure why, but for some reason with post-apocalyptic survival games, zombies (with the exception of 7 Days to Die) can never be found within structures such as houses or offices. The same bizarre immersion-breaking deal is present in DayZ. Although zombies can chase you into buildings (and sometimes glitch right through doors), they’re only encountered while shambling around in the streets.

In games such as Scum, zombies can be a really frightening sight, since not only do they look really gruesome, but they chase after you in a manner that reminds one of the 2002 film, 28 Days Later. They’ll make really creepy noises and sprint after you, realistically following you through hallways, up and down stairways, and the like. In DayZ, not so much.

Here, you’ll see pretty generic looking zombies that growl and hoot a little bit and then come after you with a rather bizarre side-stepping style of locomotion. It’s as if the devs couldn’t decide on how they wanted their undead AI to move.

In all, DayZ is a game where it seems that the devs rely on their player-base to supply most of their own fun. There is no grand plot afoot, such as trying to find out what caused the zombie outbreak, nor does the game’s environment supply any sort of narrative clues that give you a sense of what was before. While DayZ is a serviceable zombie-pocalypse title that some people will enjoy, most of the game’s offspring have already left it behind. We’ll see just how its future development goes.

SCORE: 75%

DayZ features some pretty nice looking graphics that make its zombie-pocalypse gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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