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A DayZ Review From Someone Who Hates ArmA
For the past 20 gameplay hours I’ve been sucked into a world that makes me feel terror, anxiety, a sense of self-preservation, and a need for survival. No game has made me feel like this. Not like this. DayZ may be just a mod for an existing game, but it has evolved into its own beast. There is a reason why ArmA 2 is, and has been, number 1 on Steam in terms of sales and it isn’t because of the game itself.
Note: If you don’t want to hear me go off about ArmA, skip to the DayZ section below. 🙂
The ArmA Factor
I’ll start off by telling you that I absolutely hate ArmA. I have a friend that is near obsessed with it and has tried to have my LAN group and I play it since the first game. I can’t stand. Those in my group that feel the same call it the “Hiking Simulator”. The engine is more glitchy than a Bethesda game on launch day. It stays like that, too. No matter how many patches are put out there, the ArmA engine is just god awful. Things will pop through doors, you can fall through the world, you can break a bone (DayZ feature) just by crawling normally. I can go on and on about my experience with this game. I can’t stand ArmA. It just isn’t a fun experience. It should be, though!
ArmA is very realistic and it does what it does very damn well. You have be into that, though. Some of us in my LAN group, me included, hate when we travel so long in an ArmA map just to have a sniper a mile away shoot us dead. Then we have to do the same thing over again. Want to fly a helicopter? Good luck. If you get in one of those things, it isn’t the flying that is the biggest problem. It’s safely landing that will haunt your dreams. Sure, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more realistic military shooting game but you need to want that. I understand that it is my own preferences that make me hate ArmA but to be fair, I also listed some gripes about the glitches and controls above.
The controls for ArmA are featured just the same in DayZ. They are terrible! The keys are all over the place, someone thought the “/” key was a great place to put chat, middle mouse button is “action” and that doesn’t even work half the time. This has to be the worst control set-up for a PC game. It also doesn’t help that movements and positioning in ArmA is very hit and miss. Every turn, twist, or step is no where near smooth which brings the wonky camera into effect. A great example of this is watching a zombie in DayZ come up to you to attack. They run in one direction, then zig-zag to another, and then do a semi-circle around you all just to wait about 1-3 seconds to actually attack. You could try to get used to this but the AI is so stupid that you never know what is going to happen. I once had about 12 zombies running after me. Technically, I was a dead man. I went into a house that had a lit flare inside of it. Out of desperation for my character’s survival, I ran in there and ducked behind a box. Now, there were two zombies watching me do this. All 12 of them stood there dumbfounded and walking in circles until they left and went back to their shuffling outside. Wow.
Lastly, I want to complain about the server issues because they tie over to DayZ. Finding, connecting, playing, and staying connected to a server in ArmA is like hoping you find that lucky four-leaf clover in the field. There are a ton of different patches people use and each server shows you which patch and version you need to have. You need to find servers that match your patch and version then try and connect. Once you do you fill in your squad place and then go into character creation (a DayZ thing). This connects to a MySQL database to store your character, his position, his stats, and his belongings. This is where your character is created and you then log in and begin playing. This part can take anywhere from 1 minute to over 10 or never even complete at all. If you are using the recommended Six Updater to enter servers, you have to Alt+Tab out and end the process if it doesn’t load correctly. Most servers for DayZ include really poor MySQL databases and it clogs up the log in process. You could be sitting there watching the “Waiting for character creation” and “Loading” screens for a really long time. It is severely annoying.
Honestly, ArmA’s issues with glitches, servers, and controls take out all excitement I could have had with the normal game. It is a tedious experience, which doesn’t change just because of DayZ, that feels more like a chore than a game until you finally load in and begin playing. At that point, like I said earlier, you need to want a game as realistic and punishing as this.
The DayZ Mod
Remember that 12 zombie pile-up in the room with the box and flare I was talking about? I didn’t really notice the poor AI at that point and time. At that point, I was sitting there with my hand over my mouth and my eyes wide. I kept bringing up my Gear menu and seeing that I had a crossbow and a Makarov handgun, both out of ammo. I was laying there prone behind his box in a room lit up like a Christmas tree thanks to the flare. I kept saying, with my hand over my mouth, “please go away, please go away.”
You see I had just found the crossbow after 20 minutes of scavenging and quietly moving across a field. I was very excited to find this weapon even though it only came with two steel bolts. I used the bolts on two zombies blocking the entrance to a house. I struck the one down but missed the other. I cursed myself for missing a crucial shot like that and I rushed up to run for shelter. Problem was that my original shelter point had about four zombies shambling across the front. Those tagged onto me, as well. As I ran for dear life, more zombies came running after me. At this point, I said “screw it” to crouching for sound deafening and went into a full sprint. That is when I had the total of 12 zombies chasing me into this house. It was the only house I had passed with an open door and I couldn’t pass that opportunity up.
AI clumsiness aside, I was freaked out. This was my first life in DayZ and I almost died. You’d think that with an average life expectency of 49 minutes (as stated on DayZ’s website) that being my first time playing I would die quickly. I didn’t want to. I wanted to pass that 49 minutes. I wanted to go hours, days! After my first brush with a zombie I felt the kind of intense and horrific situation my character was in and I wanted him to survive. It was also like I was really in the zombie apocalypse.
Now, not all of my lives were like that but some of them were. You can get really sucked into playing DayZ. You will stop yourself and think about how to approach the barn up ahead. You will ensure that you are carrying enough medicine and essentials. If anything, DayZ succeeds in making you think about how you are playing and what you need to do to be better. That’s exactly what a survivor of a zombie apocalypse would do. They would see other’s mistakes, their own mistakes, and their own stupid thoughts and push them out to learn and do better. After all, in a world like that, everyone has a lot of learning to do.
DayZ is a very scary game. It doesn’t try to be, though. It isn’t Slender or FEAR. It is a zombie survival game that preys on your self-preservation. What would you do to make it to the next town? What would you do for that gun? Would you kill for the last can of sardines? Would you kill your best friend? If he was nearly dead with broken limbs and bleeding out with no medical supplies between the two of you, would you end his misery? Especially if he was drawing attention with his screams? These are all things you need to ask yourself in DayZ. Noise, eyesight, drinking, eating, and stamina are all things you need to monitor.
The aspect of being dumped on the shore of a new and unknown land where you have to scavenge, sacrifice, and survive is a nightmare scenario that DayZ does right. You are not a superhero. You don’t regenerate health over time. You can’t go days without eating something. You can’t jump off a two-story building and not break something. This is a realistic zombie mod over the most realistic military shooter. This is what you should expect when heading into DayZ.
That is also a testament to how good this mod really is. DayZ made me completely forget that I was playing ArmA. Instead, I focused on one thing: playing the game. If you don’t pay attention you will either get eaten, bleed out, starve to death, become dehydrated, get shot by a bandit (human player killer), or something even worse. Thanks to the limited inventory space and how you go about creating a supply point or safe house, you will think twice about where you go and how you do things. You can’t plan for every outcome. You just have to do the best with whatever happens.
I’ve heard stories of epic servers where there are bandit clans who thrive and survive off of the helpless or unaffiliated. I’ve seen videos of hostile players going to war with each other over ammo and food. You’d think this sounds like a crazy movie or book. That is what makes DayZ so damn good. It is the best mod I’ve ever played. It is one of the best game experiences that I’ve ever been through. Oh, and the best part? That was just the first two days. I expect I’ll be finding plenty of new stuff along the way in DayZ.
My only big gripe about the game is nighttime. I can’t really get into it. I know it is there to represent how dangerous the darkness can be in a situation like this and how much harder it gets to survive. However, it can get really boring. Time flows almost in real time in DayZ. That means nighttime can last hours. Doing anything during the night is insanely hard to do. You can barely see. If you pull out a flare, chemlight, or flashlight you will attract attention. There is just too much that is recommended not to do during the night. It’s a really cool challenge but after a bit, it gets boring and you wish for daytime again. There are actually servers that don’t feature nighttime at all.
If this wasn’t built over ArmA and featured all of its issues, you can bet anything that I would have gave this a 10 out of 10 score, even with my nighttime gripe. I’d be hard pressed to find a game that makes me think about survival and the sacrifices that come along with it like DayZ. It is gruesome, dangerous, and terrifying. We have a game here that shows just how animalistic us humans can be when faced with a tragedy like this.