Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The War Z Review

Okay, it looks like this week is going to be dedicated to Steam games for the time being. Unless I get a chance to play some PS3 or Wii, and/or fix my Xbox 360 this week, I will need to use the most handy game console I have at the moment; my PC.

Thus, lets look at a recently "released" game called 

This game has sprung some rather surprising controversy with the release of it's Alpha on steam only because the Dev team promised a lot for its release and initially given very little. While still undergoing some major patching, people all across Reddit are complaining that it had only one level, which was only 72 km, no hardcore mode, and no private servers.

 A lot of this is bunk, only because the game is obviously in Alpha stages, and even so has a hardcore mode in which you die and never recover. Plus, even in normal mode it takes up to several hours for you to be able to "revive" a dead character. The only thing the people behind War Z really did wrong is fail to communicate to their consumer base. Beware the wrath of fanboys; they want what you have promised! War Z is still a pretty decent game despite the uproar, fortunately. There are a lot of things War Z is not, however.

 Foremost, War Z is not a Left 4 Dead game. 

Why? Here is an explanation as to why, and what you can expect from the game, what it means to you the player, and weather or not you should probably spend $15+ on this title. 


Are you the kind of person who enjoys long hikes in the wilderness with no company except the chirping of birds and the swaying of the wind? If yes, then this might be your game.

Do you like feeling atmospheric suspense in desolate urban environments while reliving the most epic scenes in your favorite horror movie? If yes, then this might be your game.

Does the idea of not only fighting the undead, but starvation, thirst, the elements, and your fellow man make you want to press start? If yes, then this might be your game.

Will you only buy a game if it helps you live out your fantasy of being a one man zombie-killing machine? If yes, then this might be something you want to avoid.

War Z follows in the tradition of the ARMA II mod DayZ (not by the same guys, mind you) as a game that uses the mechanics of a shooter style action game and uses it to create an open world modeled after the zombie apocolypse. Think a Halo/Gears of War style game with a World of Worldcraft server in the setting of Walking Dead, and you got a good description of War Z. This is about survival and exploration, not violence and devastation. The game gives you a huge wilderness that you can spend hours if not literal days just walking your character through. The only thing keeping you from wandering aimlessly through lush graphics and beautiful nature sounds is the fact that your character has a hunger and a thirst bar. The only way to quench your virtual thirst and satisfy your avatar's hunger is to collect supplies from the nearby abandoned settlements. And they are usually teeming with the zombie horde. The only way you can kill the zombies (in game, mind you) is to shoot/stab/bludgeon their heads until they die. You get experience for each kill, but sadly the game has no leveling system as of yet. Once you learn to point the cursor up and spam the zombie with attacks, however, the threat of the zombie horde becomes, shall we say.... stagnant. The zombies become a lot less terrifying when all you have to do is lead one away from its brethren and smash it with a bat until its dead. Rinse and repeat, and you might as well be playing Left 4 Dead. 

The real threat, of course, isn't the people who are dead, but those who are playing just like you. If you kill enough of your fellow players (which is very easy to do, since it only takes a few hits to die in this game), you will be branded a "bandit" and will be able to kill players for their supplies. This makes it almost too easy for someone with a shotgun/rifle/crossbow/take-your-pick to simply troll the entire map until no one is left. Also, it makes it possible to be betrayed even by those who deem themselves trustworthy. I actually teamed up with someone who wound up hitting me with a bat when I wasn't looking. Had to make a new character yet again. This gets rather tiresome when you are exploring the game for the very first time, as a lot of players can never shake that "killer instinct" that has served them so well in every other multi-player game, from WoW to COD to L4D. I'd hate to say it, but sometimes games can make you over-competitive. Not school shooters or psychopaths, but definitely over-competitive. 

The game is still balanced rather well, despite its unusual harboring of trolls. I was ready to rip this game a new one for giving out micro transactions in the huge qualities my screenshot displays below, but I actually looked at the market, and while they do sell ammo and melee weapons, no firearms or projectile weapons are sold in the game's marketplace. Good thing too; Bandits are powerful enough as it, and need some serious nerfing in the Beta version. 

 How it Compares

Beyond the obvious comparison to DayZ, the only games that come close to this kind of experience are Minecraft survival mode and an old MMO called Anarchy. I mention Anarchy due to the hauntingly captivating music score and jarring sound effects, and Minecraft to the idea of changing daylight hours and of course needing to eat food and avoid zombies. Both make game like War Z an experience you won't soon forget. Even if you remember playing DayZ and the like.
The music gives you that much needed feel of tension and anxiety that seems almost inappropriate during the day. Even so, it only triggers when you are near an abandoned settlement or a place occupied by the living dead. Until then, it's blue jays singing and wood peckers pecking. One minute your singing zippity do-da to yourself, the next you realize you are alone in an abandoned trailer park with thirteen shambling ghouls. The fact that it mixes industrial music sound effects with a slow and steady ominousness would make both Hitchcock and Reznor proud. 

Also, the game tends to treat zombies not just as easy targets, but what they were always meant to be used as; a threat to your sense of security. As suggested by the Zombie Survival Guide, you must only aim for the head, never waltz in a town without a backup plan, and try to make as little noise as possible. If you shoot one zombie in the head, ten more will hear the shot and come in after you. These things aren't George Romero's shambling shufflers either; they run like the wind until one of you is dead. If you don't kill them before likewise and/or enlist some help, you will need to either wait a good few hours or make a brand new character. both of which makes dying in this game strongly discouraged. 

If it wasn't for the fact that killing your fellow man gave you Bandit status and resources, I would say that this game gives the tribute to human life that most games severely lack. But then again I got shot twice before I even had a chance to find food. so some players will need to adjust. Expect a lot of them to tell you how much this games suck, and then prepare yourself to look past their biased BS. This is not a shooting gallery game with zombies; it is an apocalyptic simulation with the walking dead. I am shocked and appalled at the number of chats I read by people who couldn't wrap their heads around it to save their lives. We really need to grow up in this industry. 


Judging by the things I can't click on yet alone, it is obvious this game is far from finished. It would have been very nice of the developers to alert their potential buyers of this upon releasing it on steam. If they do not put in the features they promised in the upcoming patches, there is going to be some serious backlash from the community they took so much time to build. Don't make promises you can't keep! Take it from someone who had to learn the hard way...

Seven Word Synopsis

Amazing Concept

Features Vacant

Buy when finished

Until Next time....

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