How do you make a great game even better? Throw some zombies into the formula, apparently. It worked for Red Dead Redemption. And Yakuza. And Call of Duty’s been doing it for years.
Like a lot of successful games, DayZ takes ArmA 2, a zombie-free military simulator, and adds zombies. If you haven’t gotten into this open-world, “realistic”, Zom-Poc survival mod yet, stay hiding under your rock. It’s probably the only safe place left.
The Internet is flooded with player stories about their adventures in the world of Chernarus, and I decided the last thing I wanted to do was throw more into the mix.
Then I decided: no, actually I do.
I’m standing waist deep in water. In front of me is lush green grass, a road, and then the landscape slopes upward to a steep hilltop. I have no idea where I am.
I look to my right. There’s a town off in the distance, but I barely notice. My eye is drawn to a crazed figure quickly lurching towards me. Oh God, it begins. Already.
I freak out, and bolt towards the hill. The zombie gives chase at a surprising speed, considering his obvious physical deficiencies. As I start my ascent, I briefly slow down, and the zombie gets one damaging swipe in, before he also slows to climb. I soon manage to lose him, but the damage is done: I’m bleeding profusely.
I struggle to open my backpack, find a bandage, and apply it. Seriously, it takes me a few minutes to work out what it is, where it is, and how to use it. The UI is pretty damn terrible, but in a weird way, it simulates the confusion I’d probably experience in a similar real-life situation.
Finally, I stop the bleeding, just short of it killing me. The massive blood loss has left me very dizzy, and I realize I’m in the forest, I can’t see, I have no understanding of where I should go, and no health supplies. I stumble around the forest mostly blind for more than an hour (real-time), until I spot a building between the trees. Finally!
I make my way down to the town: little more than a cluster of houses around a road, really. I approach cautiously, hoping for supplies or other people. I’d heard that other players were to be avoided, but right now, I didn’t care. I’d either get some allies or die, and both sounded like reasonable options, given the state I was in.
I catch a glimpse of someone moving around and briefly rejoice – until I notice the lurching manner of his walk. Yep, the village is brimming with zombies. I wander through anyway, slowly and carefully, desperate for something to get my vision back. I can’t enter most of the buildings, and there doesn’t seem to be anything lying around. My hope was fading, until I hear a distant rumble. The sound grows, and I recognize it as the whirring of a helicopter.
I look up, and see the whirlybird approach over the horizon, straight towards me. As it passes overhead, I try to call out, hoping for a reply, a lift, some food, anything.
All they give me is a warning shot. That, or they missed. I take the hint after a second shot, and flee to the cover of a shed, as the chopper lands in the street. Still cautiously optimistic (read: naive), I approach slowly, to show I was unarmed (read: pathetic). Someone yells something, but I can’t hear them over the dying whirs of the rotor blades. Apparently they realize I’m not a threat, so one guy runs inside a building I’d somehow missed during my failed looting spree, while the other stands guard at the chopper. I stood next to him, frantically trying to find the chat key to ask for help.
It wasn’t long before the first guy returns, and without a word to me, they both climb back into the helicopter and take off, leaving me to die, alone, in the street. For you see, the noise of the whole ordeal had attracted the horde. I finally figure out the chat button and begin calling out for them to come back, but I don’t blame them for not: by then the wall of zombies surrounding me was pretty impenetrable, and I’m sure, hilarious.