You know that feeling when you can’t wait to play something you’ve been so excited about, but you fast discover that it should have been left alone? I’ve just had that with DayZ on Xbox One.
DayZ almost started life as an urban myth, yet the reputation just grew and grew through viral clips and stories of encounters in a strange new world. Beginning as a mod, it wasn’t long before the whole thing exploded. And since that time I’ve watched tense face offs, unsure whether those taking part are going to shoot or help hordes of zombies chasing a man across the world like a Benny Hill sketch. DayZ contains a world I couldn’t wait to play and now after a long wait, I get to do just that on Xbox One. But how does it fare?
DayZ comes with a strange video tutorial that gives you a sort of idea of what to expect in the game. However this is the closest you’re going to get to a story, as the narratives instead come from your own experiences and encounters. It doesn’t unfortunately give you a robust tutorial for the complex control system either, just hinting at what you might need to do, before thrusting you into a server.
Starting life with DayZ sees you waking up on the coastline of an island, in the middle of nowhere. You have a few items on you; a flare, a can of fizzy pop and maybe an apple. Apart from that it’s up to you to go exploring, meeting the world and trying to understand what it may offer up. The problem is, you’re left to your own devices and the first time I set foot in DayZ it was night time and I couldn’t see anything. Because I had no idea of the control system I didn’t realise I could use a flare until an hour in. It wasn’t a great start.
And then, the second time saw me wandering around in the woods – thankfully in bright sunshine. It was here where I drank from a stream and found a cement works. A sweet old lady even came up to me, but she was foaming at the mouth and growling. I punched her and then ran away into the cement building, accidentally falling off the roof and breaking my legs in the process. Death occurred shortly after. It didn’t get much better after that I’m afraid.
The main problem with DayZ is that it’s a tough old start, and you will constantly be a bit unsure about how the control system works. And when you do work it out, it’s a system that is so clunky and a fair bit broken. For example swapping what you have in your hands requires you to drop an item, to then equip a weapon, and as inventory management is key here, keeping yourself alive is tough. You’ll of course get food, drink and bandages to help you, but it’s the boredom that might kill you first.
You see it’s harsh in the Day Z world because the landscape is populated by zombies. Now, these aren’t even a little bit terrifying and after you’ve killed your first few dozen, they really lose appeal and just become a bit of a nuisance. In fact, it wasn’t long before I started ignoring them completely and attempted life in DayZ with real world gamers, if only to see how the dice might fall. But getting involved with others takes time, and it has only been after multiple attempts have I managed to come across a group of three players. As is the way with the online world, they watched me approach them with an apple in one hand and a car door in the other. And it was there and then where they made their decision. A second later and I died in a hail of gunfire.
It’s not just gameplay issues that hit DayZ and while the visuals are okay with some nice countryside locations and settlements buildings to explore, it doesn’t feel like a game that has graphically come out of today, instead with visuals you would expect to find from a good few years back. The buildings all blur into one another after a while, except for the odd bit of storytelling like a blood splatter that hints of a world gone mad. There are a mass of graphical bugs too, and at one point I encountered my left arm growing to a huge Hulk-like size without any of the Hulk-like benefits. The sound is fine and work well though, where every noise or crackle is a potential danger. This audio design does really bring that scare factor alive.
This is certainly a game made for playing with friends, rather than being a sole survivalist. On your own, it’s very hard to get the nerve to go back into the wild after being mown down by zombies or gangs. What’s the point? What’s the incentive? What’s the end-game? But in co-op or with a group of like-minded individuals there is however a bit more appeal and longevity. Building a community, recruiting members and defending it with your own rules and guidelines are the things that allow DayZ to have an enticing The Walking Dead vibe.
If you’re a fan of guided storylines and quick fire gameplay then DayZ is definitely not for you and your kind. It’s a game about the long haul, about survival, about foraging and about making the right call in a tense situation. It is however too hard to navigate and the controls are hugely clunky and not at all user-friendly. The night time cycle goes on for what seems like an age, the lack of guidance is annoying and at times you’ll find yourself just wandering around for ages without anything happening. That said, when you do come across a gang, or begin to focus on others in the distance, the tension, the excitement and the ‘what is going to happen next?” vibe all ramps up; it is here where DayZ excels.
If you do decide to give it a go, then make sure you bring along a friend… because it gets very lonely out in the world of DayZ.