Came to on the beach. The near deafening surf drowning out the nearby walkers. Check my pack: no weapons and only a few assorted items of any use. Most notably, I have no food or water. Cautiously I make my way up to some cover to survey my path away from the shoreline. There aren’t too many dead around here so I can probably make a safe beeline for the forest and make plans from there. I rise to my feet and a shot rings out. Damn it.
Yeah, it goes that way sometimes. Day Z. If you haven’t heard of it don’t worry, until recently I hadn’t either and I’ve been a zombie fanatic since I was about 12. Recently my brother-in-law raved to me about it at a family get-together. Since he’s pretty in tune to the gaming world and is working on breaking into game development himself, I took notice. Then Rotten Cotton’s own Chuck Bird gave his ringing endorsement and I’ve been hooked ever since. Thanks for the new addiction Chuck.
Day Z is the extremely popular mod for the video game Arma 2 (Available via Steam and the mod is free) which places the player right in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. With only that introduction you probably would react to it the same why I did at first. That is to say, you would neither be impressed or particularly interested. However this game takes a completely different direction on the whole experience. Survival is the name of the game here. You spawn with next to nothing. Most significantly you have no map and no way to protect yourself. The entire game is yours to plot out but to stay alive you need food, water, medical supplies and weaponry. The other thing to note is that, like in a real zombie apocalypse, you really don’t want to engage the zombies if you don’t have to. They outnumber you and, without the proper supplies, one scratch could kill you.
There’s a lot more that can happen and the game is only in it’s alpha stage. You can break your leg and be forced to crawl until someone helps you or you find the proper supplies, you can fix cars and helicopters to get around, you can hunt but you have to find supplies to cook whatever meat you find and I have heard rumors that you can fall ill as well. On top of all these challenges that force the player to be cautious, move slowly and to distrust most other players for the simple fact that they are perfectly willing to shoot you for your supplies, once you’re dead you’re dead. It’s pretty much one shot-one kill and you respawn at some random point on the shoreline with no supplies and you start all over again.
The map that all this takes place on is called Chernarus and it is massive. It’s approximately 225 square Kilometers. So, finding your friends in-game isn’t always easy. I haven’t been playing that long and many of my games have played out like the first paragraph of this post. Spawn, walk, shot, dead. That or I get chased, bit, bleed out. So it helps if you have people to play with. I spent the past week of my in-game time trying to find Chuck and his posse. Repeatedly got lost in the forest and turned around due to the lack of an in-game navigation system or easily accessible map. (This website is essential because of that.) Sometimes I got shot by other players, who are often dicks if you ask me. Sometimes I just got chased and killed by zombies. Like I said, the map is huge so you can walk and walk and never find your friends without making a concerted effort to do so. Somehow, it’s fun though.
Okay, now we have to talk about bugs:
What the effin-fuck is that? Why do I resemble Earthworm Jim on safari? You might also note that my connection has timed out somehow. This game is in alpha, so we can forgive most of this stuff but if you’re going to play Day Z, you need to prepare yourself for some mind-melting temper tantrum inducing bugs. I haven’t experienced them all, and it seems like a lot of people have different experiences but I can relate at least a few. The above picture is in one of my games. Somehow my head stretched out into some kind of worm thing and was just crawling in place. Another time I was being chased by zombies, got cornered between a building and a wall and in trying to turn around, I popped through the wall and came out on the other side with a broken leg. I’ve heard of people losing weapons when they put them in their bag with a certain amount of available slots. Just last night, prior to my finding of the Holy Grail Aka Chuck and his band of merry men, one of his crew died by, uh, mysterious circumstances (Chuck, cough cough…) and respawned on top of his old body with all of his gear, while his dead body lay beneath him with a duplicate of all of his gear. I guess not all bugs are bad. I’m just saying, you should be prepared for that.
Still, the game is a blast and for those survival horror fans out there, it will definitely keep you coming back. There’s just so much that can happen that I can’t possibly tell you. Just spend some time on youtube looking up Day Z videos and I can promise you’ll be coughing up the 30 bucks for Arma 2 so you can play this thing.
One final thought about this game. The vast majority of videogames out there set out to empower the player. You are given superhuman powers, guidelines for progress, easy access to needed resources and the story of the game revolves around you. I think that’s what makes this one so appealing to horror fans. (Although with over 0ne million players it clearly has crossover appeal.) This game strips every bit of that away from you and places you in a world that neither wants you or needs you. You have to fight tooth and nail just to stay alive with absolutely no guidelines or hand-holding. I think this is some of what makes a horror film effective as well. A good horror film pits the viewer against primal or societal fears and anxieties without regard for sensitivities or social mores. More often than not, a horror film will pose to the viewer that yours is an unfriendly world, to be feared and perhaps revered. It does not need you and may simply swallow you up without a trace.
So give Day Z a try. Get on the train now before it comes out as a standalone game and costs a whole lot more than it does now. If by this point it sounds good to you, you’ll be glad you did.