Impressions from The War Z: Pay your way to victory in this boring, soul-less apocalypse

The War Z

By on November 15, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Six months later and the threat of Chernarus still lingers, forcing survivors to lift fingers from their mice to mash out a hurried greeting. They type it because there is still something to fear, even when the response is likely to be a bullet in their direction or a bandit with a temporary smile.

But wait, these aren’t the inhabitants of Chernarus you’re questioning now. There’s no ocean here, announcing your death and praising your new life. No towns to be avoided or ones that creep up on you through a break in the trees. No wide expanse of wild-west inspired freedom and swift justice. Glance at a road-sign and you won’t see Russian, but rather familiar English.

“Welcome to Colorado”.

We’re not in Cherno any more

Over the European seas and the zombie apocalypse has hit the US, yet even in name Colorado is devoid of the foreign intrigue that ensured Chernarus captured the mind as well as the heart. Look a little closer and its locale is much the same, leaving behind the authentic quirks of Chernarus — in setting if not inspiration — trading a world sapped of life, rusted and rotting, for one saturated in colour. Even upon arrival there’s a staleness here, where the apocalypse has already been run through an Instagram filter of Hollywood tropes: flooded city streets and ambulances overhang once tall standing highways, amidst a mess of deserted towns and crashed cars. This is an apocalypse seen rather than lived.

The setting would impress in more experienced hands, but here sprawling cities leave a small footprint amongst the many hills and repeating pine tree forests that cut Colorado into corridors, calling out for some breathing room. It’s a far flashier place than Chernarus, and in turn ARMA II, but it’s the flashiness of style over substance: never more clear than in the character creation screen, where wannabe male heroes stand with half-tucked shirts and the women are relegated to barely-there tops: it’s a plastic, vulgar filter.

Just try and spot something out there, amidst the crush of over saturation and a constant flickering of distant shadows, and you begin to appreciate DayZ’s utilitarian approach to presentation. In a game of survival someone looks to the vista for an oncoming threat, but here they only find a muddy well of jagged edges playing tricks with the eye. Was that a player? Who knows!

Still, you trek on, guiding your character with a Nathan Drake swagger and DayZ smarts but with none of the accompanying challenge, towards something, somewhere, and here at least the ideals are shared: search for food, for water, and a weapon to protect yourself in this persistent world of do-gooders and back-stabbers.

But to what end? There are no player-imposed challenges or plans to enact as Chernarus so deftly employs. No nuance to movement. No subtlety to your presence. None of that learned skill born from walking the path of the hundred lives that have come before.

Once you’re geared up — a rare occurrence in this world where loot spawns without any certainty — the only thing left to do is flee to a mountaintop and hope no one can spot you from a distance. Or, perhaps, you could enact the familiar lifestyle of a DayZ bandit or hero, but that’s when The War Z’s true DNA shines through: tense firefights are nothing more than deathmatch shootouts. Though even on that level they’re devoid of the gratification of pulling the trigger, and you’re left to deal with the frustration of a cheap death, where unseen players and hackers have their fun.

Empty Your Pockets

Despite its initial cost, The War Z still peddles its micro-transactions like a snake oil salesman, where anything from appearance customisation options through to bandages, ammunition and even weapons are flaunted

Frustrated, then? Perhaps some retail therapy will calm your nerves. Despite its initial cost, The War Z still peddles its micro-transactions like a snake oil salesman, where anything from appearance customisation options through to bandages, ammunition and even weapons are flaunted for wads of in-game cash or the princely sum of real world dollars. Regardless of claims to the contrary, The War Z is — unabashedly — pay to win, where backhand deals are made with nebulous money men who, in the end, always come out on top: what’s the use of all that gear when the roll of your dice has decided you’ll be dead within five minutes.

Which is what makes its harsher, and in any other circumstances commendable: consequences for death all the more frustrating.

Fall to Colorado’s unfair ways and your character is locked out for an hour — lucky then that you can have up to five — with all of your inventory (whether paid for or not) splayed across city streets for the bandit vultures to pick at. Ramp up the difficulty and you can also bid goodbye to your experience points or skills you’ve unlocked – more throwaway than they might first sound, ultimately providing nothing more than minor bonuses.

…and on the horizon

Surviving in The War Z, then, is more luck than skill — here inaccessible mountains keep at least two of your angles safe at all times, ensuring there’s never any need to call out “scan 360” as an experienced DayZ squad might. The DayZ comparisons would be unfair if they weren’t openly invited: The War Z knows what it’s competing with. At its heart, The War Z has been crafted in a strange paradox where DayZ is both its inspiration and a game it’s never heard of. Yes, its form may change as it progresses towards release, but its updates are mere bandages on a larger wound, doing little to hide its true heritage: a free to play shooter with its heart firmly set on the glory of guns and deathmatch pacing.

But The War Z is not DayZ.

Instead, it is a game lacking an identity. It is the button masher of greater fighting giants. The sub-par shooter of FPS veterans. The cheap imitation of a newly born zombie survival horror genre, to be poked and prodded and met with a shrug to the reason for its existence. Though War Z’s reasons for existing are clear: it lives to furrow cash from survivors desperate enough for a change in the Chernarus scenery.

Its apocalypse is all the more real and horrifying: it is a sparse husk, parched, devoid of ideas. There is no evolution, revolution or clone here. Instead The War Z feels doomed to linger in a shadow of its own making, but more damning still is the sensation that the game is happy to just stay there. A War Z survivor, then, types “friendly” with a lingering sense of deja vu and a growing sense of indifference.

But don’t be fooled: War Z itself is a bandit with a temporary smile and a gun behind its back.

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43 comments (Leave your own)

Oooooh, that doesn’t sound good.

 

I am sorry you had to suffer through this miserable example of a game on our behalf, I truly, truly am. My commiserations, and thanks, that you suffered in our stead, and returned, battered and wiser, to tell us of your tribulations and sorrows.

No way in hell am I buying this game.

 

“The War Z is — unabashedly — pay to win”
I’m sorry what ?
like how you can’t buy(for real world dosh) ANY firearms the only weapons you can buy are baseball bats that can be acquired in game .

The 2 types of ammo you can buy for real world dosh 1 is ammo for the SVD which is one of the rarest guns in game after about 2 days /played I have yet to see one.

You can buy DX bandages and some food/drink they said from before release you would be able to how that makes it pay to win I do not understand tho I have yet to spend anything on the game and have lived for like 10 in game days

” a free to play shooter”
What you cannot play the game without buying it for $29.99 at release you still need to BUY the game if you do not own it you cannot play it it’s free to play in the same way ARMA 2 is as in no SUB fee is the only way it could be considered F2P

how is this trash a news article the writer clearly has not spent anytime on this.

I like the game I have yet to pay for it yet I enjoy it then again I don’t look at it as a completed project I treat it like I treated minecraft when minecraft was brand new.
It is still growing evolving new things being added over time the fun comes from what I and my friends make it.

 

spooler: ” a free to play shooter”
What you cannot play the game without buying it for $29.99 at release you still need to BUY the game if you do not own it you cannot play it it’s free to play in the same way ARMA 2 is as in no SUB fee is the only way it could be considered F2P

Dude, read the whole sentence:

“doing little to hide its true heritage: a free to play shooter”

 

Tim Colwill: Dude, read the whole sentence:

“doing little to hide its true heritage: a free to play shooter”

Your point that’s like saying Day Z can never progress from it’s heritage as a military Sim, or CS can’t hide it’s heritage as a half-life mod.
Admittedly I am somewhat intoxicated but seriously this is one of the worst articles I have read in awhile showing clear ignorance on the subject matter.

 

This is pretty piss-poor ‘review’ IMO.

1. basically every complaint here can also be had in DayZ
2. The game isn’t released yet, they say its in a testing phase. [supposedly last week they got their new anti-cheat ban system working, at least to a degree]
3. The biggest problem the game-play has is that there is no point to anything, like DayZ the world is static, its not an MMO, and nothing you do matters.
4. pay your way to victory? get a grip. The crap on the market-place currently will in no way help you win as opposed to someone who spawns in and goes to the nearest town and picks up the exact same array of items plus a whole lot of others.

this is worth special mention;

“here inaccessible mountains keep at least two of your angles safe at all times, ensuring there’s never any need to call out “scan 360” as an experienced DayZ squad might”

wth? DayZ map has 4 edges too, would you rather they put the warZ inside a large golf course like cherna?

There is so much to complain about in the WarZ but it either isn’t in this review or its the same problems dayz has anyway.

A better review would be along the lines of “its a less buggy but better looking DayZ, its still being hacked [but not as badly], its still missing any feature that might provide a point, or end game, it needs a ton of tweaks and balancing for items and their spawns and its still an FPS rather then MMOFPSRPG, but its still in heavy developments so there is still a slim chance for improvement”.

On that note, why not a single mention that the game is still very much a work in progress and that everyone playing is part of an Alpha test, not a full release?
its why there is a general discussion forum on their website that is specifically labelled as not for alpha test discussions, because there is dedicated forum areas for that.

 

I’d edit to reiterate that I’m not really a big fan of the game but that I am a fan of accurate reviews, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to edit, unlike the old forum system.

 

trb: 1. basically every complaint here can also be had in DayZ

So, what can I buy in DayZ?

 

This isn’t going to be a case of ‘stop hating the things I like!’ is it?

A game review is based on personal experience. Clearly, Jamie had an awful one with this game. Some others enjoyed it. That doesn’t change the fact that Jamie did NOT have fun. He disagreed with the mechanics, the gameplay, the setting, the style, and thats all personal choice, and personal opinion. A review isn’t supposed to be impartial, its based on personal experience.

But not all hope is lost. If you had a different experience, have a go at writing your own review, and submit it for the soapbox if you feel its good enough to be worth a look. You might sway people over to your side. But I’d do it sober, for those above who’ve had a few today.

 

Guys, this is not a review. It’s an impressions piece! It even says so in the title.

We’ll do a formal review when the game comes out.

 

You could have at least mentioned that this is your impression of an ALPHA game. I haven’t really read anything about this game, but the review made it seem like its a poor release.

Also GON should release an article stating what they believe is pay to win, because it is clearly at odds with what alot of other people believe it is. IMO it is when you can buy something that has more power than any item obtainable without paying.

 

The most powerful thing you can buy for real money [as opposed to money earned ingame] is a hammer.
an item readily found in-game.

 

Tim Colwill:
Guys, this is not a review. It’s an impressions piece! It even says so in the title.

We’ll do a formal review when the game comes out.

Call it what you want I still take massive issue with the phrase “pay to win” when the only things you can get do not give you an in-game advantage.

The article writer is hugely ignorant on what he is writing (typing) about unless masks are a gigantic imbalance of game-play giving you an unfair advantage.

 
Jamie Dalzell

@Spooler: I appreciate where you’re coming from there – The WarZ, just like Minecraft and DayZ before it, is a definite work in progress. The major difference here is those games felt, even at those early stages, like less fleshed out ideas of what they’d one day be. If this is to be true of The WarZ as well, as I mention in the article, then whatever feature set they expand upon, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be taking a hatchet to the bulk of the way the game feels when being played.

My comment also relates to the fact that The WarZ is heavily based on a F2P shooter known as WarInc – even down to player models, scenery and weapons. And it shows. It might be a persistent world now, filled with zombies, but the basic acts of engaging with other players in fire-fights and even the stilted movement of your character all point to this still having its roots firmly planted in the style of a death match shooter.

Which feels entirely out of place in a survival game where all someone has to do is place their cross-hair over you and hold down the left mouse button. It cheapens survival and never allows for a smart survivor to apply their skills. It’s a very one-sided game, where DayZ allows for a multitude of viable play styles.

@trb I agree with you on many of those points – that DayZ, too, suffers from similar complaints to The WarZ – but in DayZ’s case those complaints are spread a lot thinner, and come after some six months of playing rather than a week or two.

Where DayZ encourages players to set their own goals or challenges – taking Cherno for a day, raiding an airfield, hunting for vehicles – The WarZ’s small scope and stilted play style means all you’re really left with is a constant race of “Get to the guns and…then what?”
Its environment is so devoid of interesting locations or any meaningful spaces that it’s a constant rinse-repeat. And, as I mention above, with combat being such a stock standard shooter affair, there isn’t really much point to going player hunting either, as the penalties for death just aren’t worth the trade off.

Also, on the subject of in-game purchases: no, you cannot buy high-powered weaponry. But yes, you can still purchase bandages and melee weapons that make those starting hours (as WarZ is much more hesitant with handing out weapons) that much easier. Where unarmed players spend a few hours roaming around you already have some form of defence, and there’s nothing stopping gleeful bandits from murdering every unarmed player they find. It tips the balance just slightly enough to make it uncomfortable.

Though, that point was largely made for those reasons: that death comes so quickly, and easily, that you feel you’re being robbed if you DO spend money on in game items. As the article says, only one group walks away with a win from that situation, the developers. And if easy deaths means more players spending up before they re-spawn, I can’t see them having any reason to change it.

Also, a final note on the “edges of the map”: yes, again, DayZ has edges – technically – but if you’re travelling the eastern portions of Chernarus those cosy, inaccessible mountains are at the very least over an hour travel-time away.

Chernarus – even the community-ported maps such as Lingor or Namalsk – are locations full of varied terrain which lead to different encounter possibilities. The open fields on the way to NW airfield, or the close forests encasing Elektro. The WarZ’s Colorado is nothing more than a cramped expanse of mostly pathway corridors – where there’s inaccessible terrain usually covering at least one of your angles. As I mention, Colorado is much more of an arena – and a boring, repetitive one at that – which just strengthens its heritage as a death match shooter.

As always, I’m open to comments people might have. If you enjoy it, great! I REALLY wanted to enjoy it too. DayZ has reignited, in a way, a love of the kinds of experiences zombies can foster, and I am eager to see other developers take up the challenge of creating something unique – or at least as good in this space – now that someone’s finally taken the “risk” that held back any progress here. The WarZ, at least for me – for now – just isn’t the game to do it.

 

Its seems pay to win to me buying bandages and food? sure you can find them in game, it still gives you an advantage so there for pay to win.

I dont like the whole waiting to use your character again its makes it so there is no attachment to your character. “meh ill just use my ‘main’ in 30mins”

The maps are pathetically small, it has poor animations.

But to me DayZ shits all over this game. My friend bought me it to play with him, we played 2hrs and got bored. The game should be free 2 play like the review may suggest, its that bad.

 

impression/s or not, once hacks are out, and they most certainly will be, the point of playing becomes lost on most.

 

Jamie Dalzell,

Have you even played the game ?

“Which feels entirely out of place in a survival game where all someone has to do is place their cross-hair over you and hold down the left mouse button.”

There are no cross-hairs in war z at the moment NONE at all, next patch there will be third person cross-hairs. Comments like that are what annoyed me this is based purely in ignorance of what you are writing the article on.

Yes it uses the same engine and some (alot) of the same resources as war inc.
But so does Day Z of ARMA.

“But yes, you can still purchase bandages and melee weapons that make those starting hours (as WarZ is much more hesitant with handing out weapons) that much easier.”

Hours ? every time I have started a new character I have found a hammer or bat within 10-15 minutes of play Bandages are lying around everywhere seriously my “main” has a stack of 50+ bandages

“The WarZ’s Colorado is nothing more than a cramped expanse of mostly pathway corridors – where there’s inaccessible terrain usually covering at least one of your angles.”

Almost word for word what Pcgamer said, since the second part of the map opened up alot of places are more accessible the airfield for 1 location has alot of different angles of approach some open, some bottlenecks.

“Colorado is much more of an arena – and a boring, repetitive one at that – which just strengthens its heritage as a death match shooter.”

an arena that Myself and a group of friends went a 6~ hour straight play duration without finding a single bandit player on on another occasion the only player we found we traded a weapon for food.

 
Jamie Dalzell

@Spooler: Yep, my bad there – by “cross hair” I meant the actual act of simply aiming at a player and unloading. A slip-up in my wording there. I’m used to using that phrase in that manner – aiming a gun at – so I get you there. Though I don’t see that that hampers my ability to judge the game – I’ve been playing it almost non-stop for the last few weeks now. And, as I’ve said, you’re free to enjoy it :)

 

Jamie Dalzell,

so you mean “sights” or “iron-sights”

your opinion does not bother me, your ignorance on the subject matter of your opinion being a news worthy article bothers me :P

thank you for your permission to enjoy it tho !

 

Nemesis_22,

An awful experience, or going in there with a favouritism over DayZ. I like both games, but some of the things he said about WarZ are not there, like the pay to win for example

 
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