Pitch-black night slowly crept in as you struggled to find sanctuary. The undead horde encroached on from the darkness, and the cold certainty of death became more of an absolute. Without a prayer for survival you fell, utterly defeated, as your shambling killers came to claim and later devour you. But you jumped right back on the server, because those zombies weren’t going to headshot themselves. Except this time, you were a little more careful, and a little more cautious, because all that was waiting for you otherwise was a swift and unmerciful death. That’s DayZ in a nutshell, the most realistic exercise in zombie apocalypse preparation you’ll ever take, save from actually living through one.
This free-to-play mod was made possible by Kiwi developer Dean “Rocket” Hall, and while it’s still in its alpha stage, it could pass for one of the most impressive survival horror efforts we’ve ever seen.
The groundwork is ArmA 2: Combined Operations, the successor to the austere Operation Flashpoint series. DayZ, which could be considered one of the most difficult zombie games of all time, hurls players into a desolate world of infection, the undead, and hordes of human “companions”.
You’d be surprised at how often you’ll be gunning down your fellow man rather than the zombies you should be facing up against.
However, exhibit even the most fleeting moment of weakness, and those that extended their hand to you in friendship a moment ago might well introduce your face to the butt of their sawn-off shotgun.
If it sounds hardcore, that’s because it it is.
DayZ transplants you right into the middle of the fictional post-Soviet state Chernarus and leaves you there to die. That’s no exaggeration. At its core, it’s all about human limitation and realism in the midst of a disaster so horrifying it’s nearly impossible to imagine what actions one would even be able to take should it occur in real life.
There are no tired conventions like respawns, catch-all health gauges, or real tutorials to speak of. Just like the leads of any famous zombie flick, you’re completely and utterly alone with only the wildlife left roaming the countryside, the droves of the infected, and the numerous human players who may as well be as dangerous as the zombies themselves.
It’s entirely up to you to gather supplies like food, water, medicine, and ammunition in order to sustain even the humblest of lifestyles. As you scavenge the ravaged Chernarus, it quickly becomes evident just how often you should be looking over your shoulder – everyone’s out to obtain the same things you are.
Precious rations of food and water are scarce, and if you hope to play with any sort of semblance of self-sufficience, you’ll learn to play the wicked mind games other players have become so frighteningly ace at.
Your body will be the first to betray you, as you succumb to shock, life- threatening injuries, and even low blood pressure. What begins as a simple broken bone can quickly escalate to a permanent death, resulting as a failure to treat the blood seeping out of your battered body.
Don’t let the lush greenery fool you – this is not a friendly land.
You need to eat. You need to ensure even the most minor of incapacitations are cared for. Most of all, you need to take care of yourself, because no one is going to do it for you.
In this, DayZ introduces a punishing level of difficulty that never seems to let up. You will only continually die until you learn that your own survival trumps all else.
But survival is fleeting. While your first instinct to improve your chances in the vast wasteland (an immense in-game area of 225 km²) would be teaming upo with others, it’s usually in your best interest to turn and run in the other direction.
It’s best to treat other human players as dangerous opposition, perhaps even more so than the scripted zombies themselves, leaving some disconcerting questions for players to ponder.
Are humans really this innately selfish, or is that the nature of beings squirreling out a meager existence in the midst of a crisis?
We’re not going to sugarcoat it: DayZ is quite possibly the most frustrating game you will ever pick up. It does not lend itself to convenience, entertainment, or even multiplayer as well as it could.
It’s riddled with glitches and bugs that likely won’t be worked out for quite some time, if ever. And it certainly is not going to hold your hand. But it will provide cutthroat competition between other human players that mimics quite eerily the way the real world works.
Partnerships can form, but it’s doubtful that you’ll ever trust someone.
You will want to give up, several times over. But when you don’t, you’re left with the most amazing sense of accomplishment you may have ever felt within a persistent world.
If you’re not too frightened to see what happens, then strap on some adult pants, step right up, and immerse yourself in the weird and terrifying world of DayZ.