There has been a great deal of talk regarding The War Z in the past couple of days surrounding the release of the game on Steam. For those who don’t know, The War Z is a zombie survival game that sets players in the Zombie-infested wilderness of Colorado. While some players focus on the zombie slaying, others can interrupt the experience by being bandits ganking their fellow survivors. The most important lesson to learn in The War Z: don’t trust anyone!
Hammerpoint Interactive has truly created the most unforgiving game I have ever played in my entire life with The War Z. This game, which is only available for PC, delves into an alternate reality in which Colorado has been overtaken by Zombies. Play is set in the Colorado countryside and players must scramble to find the supplies necessary for their survival of the zombie apocalypse. Not only do players have to worry about fighting off zombies (in many cases without even a weapon), but they also have to fight off other players (in many cases, also, without even weapon). There’s a third part of surviving in the game and that is ensuring that your player doesn’t starve or go thirsty. But, good luck staying alive long enough for these things to be actual concerns.
The War Z does many things great and does many things not so great. The first thing it does great is by really creating a feeling of being alone in a zombie world. You first spawn with nothing but a flashlight, granola bar, can of soda and bandages. That’s it. No sub-machine guns, no handguns, no 2×4’s; no weapons to speak of. You are forced to use your flashlight to fend off any zombies or players who come along and it is truly a hard-to-accomplish task. At first, it took me nearly 15 hits with my flashlight to kill a zombie, but that was before I learned to aim for the head, which only takes 6 or 7 swings for the kill. After playing for a few hours, you’ll quickly learn that those with guns are the predators who survive by feasting on unsuspecting and unarmed players. This creates the necessity and desire to make it into a town as quickly as possible to find supplies, specifically a gun of any kind.
It’s not that easy, though. For one, guns are few and far between. You’ll rarely find a gun laying around and you will have to really search for one. Secondly, once you do find a gun, you’ll have to find a supply of ammo, which is even more difficult given that you have to find the right ammo for the gun. Also, some guns, such as shotguns, appear to be out of bullets every time you pick one up. And, picking it up alone might get you killed, as other players can see your gun sticking out of your backpack even if you aren’t holding it. Lovely…
The War Z can be played in the first person or in the third person, but third person works best. It is much easier to aim your gun in first person, however, you’re far more likely to be trying to kill with a melee weapon such as a bat, flashlight or hammer, which is easier in third person.
The War Z is the most unyielding game I’ve ever played. Once you die, you lose all of your inventory, guns that you worked so hard to find included. But you know, you’re dead after all. Not only do you lose all of your guns, but you now have to wait four hours before playing that same character again. However, you are able to have a total of five characters created at a time, and can delete unwanted characters if you desire. You’ll definitely find yourself playing more than one character, as the smallest mistakes in the game will leave you surrounded by enemies of some sort. Running in the game makes more noise, which attracts zombies. Turning on your flashlight also attracts more zombies and makes it easier for bandit players to see you. I sincerely recommend not using the flashlight unless it is your absolutely only weapon available and certainly do not have it lit at night unless and until it is absolutely necessary.
You will constantly find yourself playing in darkness, as the game cycles between night and day. When playing at night, The War Z is an absolutely formidable experience. The night is the darkest night I’ve ever played in a video game and you’ll find yourself with your face 2 inches from your screen to see if you see something. It’s awesomely creepy and greatly adds to the fear of a zombie or bandit sneaking up on you for the kill.
The game also highlights the animalistic and unforgiving nature of the gaming community. After playing The War Z for over a month, I’ve come across, in total, only four other players who were helpful and about 400 who killed me for my loot. It’s understandable, as that is part of the fun of a survival video game. You know you are alone in the world and unless you play with your real life friends, do not expect any good guys and don’t trust anyone!
There are many different types of towns, buildings and vehicles that you will find yourself looting in the game. The War Z starts you in the middle of the wilderness, sure, but press “M” to bring up the map and you’ll see just how big your surrounding world is. There is a campus town, a sheriff’s office, numerous small towns (including a town named Smallville), a military base, tall buildings and an upscale resort all for players to explore for loot. There are even numerous supermarkets in towns in which you can relive your favorite Zombieland experience. The idea is great, but the actual styles of the buildings could use some greater variation and creativity. Many of the buildings look the same inside and this is just a minor aspect that can be easily fixed with an update.
The game economy in The War Z also needs work. Firstly, money is rare and hard to come by, as you only receive it for killing one out of about every 100 zombies you kill. Secondly, the marketplace in game has a pay-to-win model, regardless of what the game claims. Since weapons are hard to find, users can spend a little extra cash and buy what the game calls “GC” to purchase weapons, giving them an obvious advantage. How Hammerpoint Interactive can claim on their website that it isn’t a pay-to-win model is beyond me.
The most disappointing aspect of The War Z is the lack of character customization. For one, your character has to be male and has to have the same build as everyone else in the game. Secondly, your options for face and clothing are extremely limited. Even though there is a marketplace to pay for customization, items are limited. I would like the ability to create a character that doesn’t look like everyone else in the game and hopefully this will be added in the future.
Graphically, The War Z looks pretty good for an MMO, if you exclude the textures of the grass/trees. Character models look good, but I suppose that is easy when they all look similar to one another. The towns look good also, but nothing to rave about.
Sound design in The War Z is also good. I would like to hear a little variation in the zombie noises, but other than that the audio is pleasing. Gun sounds pop and echo like they should and make it easier to pinpoint the location of a nearby gunman. Ambient noise is limited, but you’ll definitely notice crickets at night and birds during the day.
Overall, the game is one of the most enjoyable experiences of the year by being one of the most unforgiving titles hardcore gamers can enjoy. Already, The War Z is a game I cannot put down and it has so much more potential. The War Z is a conceptually sound game.
Den of Geek Rating:
Overall Den of Geek Rating: 8.5/10