Turns out Rock, Paper, Shotgun and PC Gamer (And Gamebreaker.tv and TotalBiscuit and every other internet denizen it seems) were right. The ARMA II mod Day Z is crazy intense. Definitely the closest we’ve gotten to a realistic zombie game so far. After hours of mod set up, ARMA downloading from my recent Amazon purchase, failure to get the mod to load, tutorial reading, and 60 kb/s manual patch downloading from the dev’s site, I was in. So far I’ve lived 3 short, miserable lives. Here’s the recount:
My first thought: Great. My Textures are bugged. Everything was black. I looked around, and more black. I must have forgotten to install something somewhere, dammit. Then I see the chat (Immersion breaking, but useful!) mention night time. I have a hunch, and I left click. BANG! My Russian Makarov pistol fires, and I get a muzzleflash. In that quarter-second, I see the outline of my gun, arms, and a blade or 8 of grass in front of me. My textures are fine, my expectations are what were broken. So, it’s dark. Impossibly dark. Unrealistically dark, but whatever, it’s a horror game. To be fair, I check the night sky and find no Moon. At least there’s no blaring full moon yet I can’t see my own hand in front of my face, makes sense. Walking around in the almost complete darkness I notice my footsteps are changing distinctly from gravel… to rock… to dirt. I’m going somewhere. I fiddle with the controls in the menu a bit, ARMA is NOT an intuitive game, and notice swap weapons isn’t scroll wheel but is the F key. I hit it, and see that I have 10 flares. Perfect. I left click and toss a bright red flare… right at my feet, with the wimpiest throw in history. At least I can see, although the creepy red glow on the foliage around me is a bit disconcerting. Determined to make my Dad proud I wind up another flare and pitch! It goes quite a bit farther this time. I run over to where it lands and see… more grass and trees. Alrigh-WAIT! Is that… Railroad Tracks?! If there’s one thing I learned from Bear Grills it’s that peeing on your shirt and wearing it as a turban is only a good idea in the desert. If there’s another thing I learned, it’s that roads, even the rail variety, lead to… stuff. Human stuff. So I take a quick look to my left and right and see no discernible difference; I head left, following the tracks. I throw a flare as hard as I can every couple yards when the last one’s light no longs helps guide me. I try traveling in the dark too, but I cannot see the rails for shit, as they say. I throw my 4th or so flare and it lights up… a house.
Or maybe a homestead. I see the house obscuring the skyline and forest silhouettes, some kind of shed across the yard, and maybe even a wrecked something or other… maybe a train or car. I check it out for a moment, but all at once I realize something and shit gets real. I see movement. Then I notice LOTS of movement. Shambling gait, cocked head, crouch-y bend… Yep. I found Zombies. I count at least 4, all around the house. Undoubtedly there’s more in the shadows of night as well. I assess the situation, only turning around and jumping at groan noises 2 or 3 times, and come up with a plan. I throw a flair with my patent-pending Wimpy Throw technique about 3 feet in front of me. I check my pistol ammo (I have about 4 reloads, 8 bullets per clip) and I line up my sights. Pop… Pop… Pop… Dropped one. Not bad. Pop. Got another with a headshot, they aren’t that tough. Pop. HOLY JESUS IS HE SPRINTING AT ME?! The answer was yes. A few more bullets and he dropped too, although I may have been a little psychologically scarred. That runner only fell a few feet from my flare. I better watch out. I take the clip out of my gun and put another one in. I look up and see about 20 zombies all sprinting my way. Oh Joy. My first life in Day Z is punctuated by a period of hasty bullet spam then my innards being passed around like a peacepipe between a horde of zombies. The game informs me “YOU ARE DEAD”.
I’m a little inland of a beach, in some shrubs. Still dark. (The game has a 24 hour timecycle based on the timezone the server selects.) I have a Makarov, and 10 flares. Right. I look around… and hey, a flare! And I see a house, this must be where I died! I crept up on it wary of the horde but I crossed a road and slipped through a fence. This wasn’t the homestead at all, but a lonely house at a crossroads. I walk up to the flare and discover I can pick them up. With my new buddy Torchy I walk slowly around the house, trying to figure out if it’s occupied, or even penetrable. The fence has a few gaps, this thing is no bastion. I make it 340 or so degrees around when I find the door, which is closed and I can find no way to open it. Clambering onto the wooden log outside I try to peek in the window. Nothing. Lame. This house is just a big useless block, as far as the game is concerned. I decide to drop the torch (It was fading) and see if I can find another destination to travel to. Right as I get to a gap in the fence, something comes sprinting around the corner of the house I just walked around… then it stops. “Oh hello buddy” I think, as I see his human stance and face. But wait… I heard of the bandits (Playerkillers) in this game. They get a special skin, and, uhh, crap. What did it look like? Was it this facial wrap, pee content undetermined, that this guy was wearing? I now know the answer to be yes, as he shot me 4 times in my gut, and maybe once in the face. I think I hit him once with my panicked trigger pulls, I like to think it hit his bowels. YOU ARE DEAD. Yes, game, I know.
Life 3, this one’s a doozy!
Spawned. I know what’s up this time. I quickly find some tracks and follow them. I come across what appears to be a refinery, perhaps? Either way it looks like something out of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. And rightfully so since both games are set in Russia: land of the apocalypse, apparently. I find out how to open doors (Scroll wheel -__-) and check out a small shed. Inside are boxes… and not much else. I also notice the lighting engine isn’t the greatest and my flare outside in the courtyard is illuminating this shed even with all doors closed. Hrrm. I sit in there thinking “I’ll wait the night out here” until I remember it’s a 24 hours cycle. I adjust my plan to “I’ll go outside and leave one door open so I can retreat if I need to”. I check out the large factory, and discover the huge warehouse doors can be opened. Cool, they even have 2 sections. Inside I see some rubbish piles. I loot them and am now the proud owner of 3 empty whisky bottles and 4 empty tin cans. I also find a “Wire Fence Kit”, aka barbed wire, but am told in chat I need an engineering backpack. I keep it in my inventory for good luck. There’s also a car tire but it’s too big for me to carry. Vehicles maybe? Sounds promising. As I’m going about my plundering I realize there is definitely moans and groans right outside. And quite a few. I plan to wait it out then remember the timeframe again. I toss a few empty bottles to pass the time, and I guess zombies love glass. Outraged at my glass assault, they come into the factory. Quite rudely, they are ignoring the concept of doors. They just walk, err, shamble right in. Luckily, they seem stemmed and I get 4 of them down with a bullet or 2 each. I loot them and find almost nothing, but I did find some morphine! Sweet, sweet drugs. Another zombie wanders in and I take aim… and get hit. What?! I spin around and there’s no closer zombie and no bandits sharing my 1 room abode. Hit again, then I realize they are getting me through the wall. No one told me they were trans-dimensional zombies. First ignoring door physics and now reaching through walls. I cap the bugger that wandered in and move away from the wall. My character seems to be having an asthma attack and I realize it’s because he’s now bleeding. I figure out how to wrap up my wound just in time to kill the last 3 zombies who wander in, one of which seemed to only want to crawl along the ground on all fours.
Hmm, what now? I leave the warehouse and look around. Yep, blackness. I decide to doublecheck that shed for stuff since there were alot of boxes and I only recently worked out how to loot and the inventory system. (Again, ARMA is not user friendly) A quick bypass was wise, as I find a few unspent shotgun rounds laying around. Now I just need the shotgun… I have a goal. My focus is cut short when I again find myself surrounded by groans outside. I open the door and welcome the guy that was hanging out right on the other side with a few rounds, and his 2 buddies with some too. Click Hmm, gotta reload. Hope this last guy doesn’t rush me… I get the mag in, but it’s my last. I finish the remaining zed with a headshot. This isn’t looking good, I need to find supplies. I spy one unlooted building in this industrial park and get over there and open the door. A trend is developing, as I hear more zombies. I’m low on gun food and would rather avoid them. I see a cool catwalk lining this room and jaunt up the iron stairs right as more door-ignoring zombies wander in. I get a few good headshots off but it’s increasingly apparent there are more of them than rounds in my gun. I enter emergency loot mode and sprint down the catwalk away from them. I find a small management office, but it’s worthless. I go around to the very end of the catwalk as zombies are rounding the last corner as well. I’m screwed.
I never worked out the jump button, so I ask in chat how to mantle really quickly. No response, doomed! Then a guardian angel ays “V”. I press it and hope over the bars, only fracturing my femur a little. At least one undead followed me as I see him out of the corner of my screen and I just take off. I sprint to the other door, open it, and flee. I have no bullets, no knife, and just a few cans of beans. I sprint into the darkness. I run and run and realize I hear other footsteps, then a groan. It’s a right proper chase scene! I run and run some more. The zeds don’t slow down. I don’t even know if I do, since it’s too dark to gauge anything. I’m running through bushes, roads, sand, and anything else that will hopefully but distance between my back and the hungry teeth of my pursuers. I slow down to turn around but make out clumsy running against the skybox. NOPE. I could just keep typing how much I run, but let me summarize by saying: A lot. At a certain point, I don’t care if I live but I had had enough of running through darkness. I try to flare, hoping I can move at the same time. I can’t, but I do get it thrown down the street with only a few bite marks on my shoulder. Houses! I sprint to them, my hungry friends only feet behind me, moaning the whole time. I count about 3 based on the moans, I think. I’m not sure if I have a stamina meter or what, but I have to lose them. I wheel around a gate right next to where my flare landed, and cut a corner around a large house short to try to trip them up. It works, but barely. They’re still in pursuit. I hope over a small picket fence then run a bit more, but I notice the footsteps behind me stopped. Ha! Lost them! Wait… no, they got over it somehow. What followed was a Benny Hill like sequence where we ran from gate to gate, with a slightly larger gap between us each time. After 3 times around, I decided to try to run out to the dock nearby and see what they do. Turned out to be a pretty good plan! I ran to the end, and they lingered at the beach, confused. This gave me enough time to chuck another flare on the dock and one into the forest. As I finished that up, I noticed they were adapting, and I quickly had 3 zombies breast-stroking through the ocean to the dock stairs next to me. Uh-oh. I sprinted off towards my new flair, filled with hubris and hope. Surely they were lost. I slowed to walk to get my breath back and munched on some canned beans. Victory Beans. The celebration was premature though. Either those zombies were Olympic swimmers or I attracted more, I’ll never know, but the next thing I saw was arms flailing about me and my screen turning red. I was quite injured from my epic chase, so they dropped me quickly. Intestines all around, lads, you earned it.
Day Z is most assuredly exceptional. It’s got some engine issues, and I’m still not sure if the door bit is working as intended or a glitch or a placeholder until they work out barricades, but it’s worth your time. And with Amazon currently selling ARMA II and the Expansion needed to run the mod for just $15, there’s a good chance it’s worth your dollars too. I think I speak for everyone who’s played when I say we’re just waiting for the announcement that they’ve been picked up by Valve, or Paradox, or Tripwire or *shudder* EA to make a real game, and I hope that happens! Red Orchestra and Portal all started as small indie games/mods and went on to do great things, I hope Day Z follows that path. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some innards that are just begging to be ripped out.
Amazon.com’s ARMA sale Get it while it’s hot!
Easy Installer Incredibly necessary, the install was a huge pain to figure out until I found that. Make sure you follow the instructions. Also you’ll have to patch your game if you get it from Amazon, at least I did.
[Screenshots Incoming, hopefully, now that I have the game linked to Steam.]