A Painfully Executed Parody of a Survival Game
EDITOR’S INTRO: I was originally going to review The War Z myself. After all, I’ve been playing the game on and off since its alpha access for press began. I saw a lot of promise in the title, but then saw little improvement as time went on, and my view of the game was sullied with the whole Steam and Foundation launch brouhaha. Eventually, it became clear to me that at the game’s launch I had a pretty significant bias against the title. I’d seen its rough spots, reported on its controversy… I didn’t think it best for me to review the game as I wasn’t sure I could give it a fair shake.
Enter Blake Morse of The Week in Geek. Blake’s been a solid contributor to the site, RTSGuru and FPSGuru for months now. And he had also never played The War Z until I gave him access to my account. He’d only heard a very little bit about the controversy, and had passing familiarity with DayZ. In short, he was perfectly suited to approach the game from an unbiased standpoint as a gamer new to the title. I may have been more forgiving, even, given my time with the title’s early days. Without further ado, here’s Blake’s view on Hammerpoint’s The War Z.
Over the last few decades zombies have spread like a plague through pop culture and with them have come a slew of games looking to cash in on the craze. The War Z is a post-apocalyptic survival simulator that looks to get on board the money train of the current trend by putting you smack-dab in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Players must learn to adapt and survive by foraging for nourishment and weaponry to fend off the undead hordes and other survivors.
Unfortunately, The War Z offers up nothing more than a painfully executed parody of what a survival game should be. It attempts to ride the waves of success that popular ArmA II mod, DayZ has had but instead seems to take its shortcomings and amplify them into an experience that is dull at its best and frustrating at its worst.
If you enjoy breathtaking landscapes of grass and trees that bend in the wind as if they have nothing attaching them to the ground below, then this is your game. If you’re like everyone else, you’ll find yourself disappointed in the lackluster environments. In a game world filled mostly with outdoor environments, War Z fails to create anything remarkable and nothing original. Houses all seem to share the same gray motif and more often than not suffer from clipping issues.
Character designs are blocky and there’s not much variation amongst the seemingly pointless character classes. Animations are extremely limited and in some cases choppy. Still, every once and awhile you may be reminded of Rick and the other survivors traversing through the world of The Walking Dead as you try to survive, but you’ll find these brief glimpses few and short lived as you’re more than likely to be shot in the head while taking in the landscapes.
Getting shot in the head is something you’ll do a lot in The War Z. The servers are still plagued with hackers and players tend to shoot first and ask questions later as well. Since you have to forage for guns, more often than not you’ll find yourself mowed down before you even get a chance to really start playing. And the best part? You lose all your stuff when you die. There’s nothing more satisfying than spending a bunch of cash on supplies only to have them stripped permanently from you within minutes. Unless you’re playing in hardcore mode, your characters can be revived, but since you only have five character slots and lose all your junk when you die, it’s very hard to feel any attachment or investment in your virtual person.
And while you can only purchase ammo for guns and not the guns themselves in the game’s store, you can grab some melee weapons. Unfortunately melee weapons are practically useless in game and their hit rates against the undead seem random or mediocre at best. In fact, there does not appear to be any actual stats for weaponry or protective gear at all.
Occasionally you will run into other players who don’t turn you into zombie food immediately, and these interactions make up the more intense moments of War Z. Negotiating for survival, trusting a stranger with your life. Do you betray their trust? Do they betray you? Do you both get overrun by undead hordes while scavenging in abandoned cities? It’s all very dramatic. Of course, War Z still finds a way to break such moments. The lack of a voice communication features means more often than not you’ll find yourself defenseless against any nearby threats when trying to beg for your life. It can really suck you out of a moment and there was more than one time I found myself dead while typing out a “I’m friendly!”
The War Z is the gaming equivalent of a knock-off Spider-Man toy from Japan in a box that says “Batman” on it and has a picture of the Power Rangers. It is a poor carbon copy of the titles it tries to emulate and makes the flaws of the genre shine brighter than they ever have. There’s nothing new here to speak of. In fact, the game doesn’t offer many of the features it claims to have, such as useable vehicles. It’s purely a rehashed version of Hammerpoint’s military shooterWar Inc., and it’s a poor knock-off of a much better zombie survival game.
Random crashes, long load times, lots of clipping in the outdoors environments and hackers that have modded the game to their whims are just some of the issues The War Z presents you with. The simple act of clicking from the leaderboards to clan menus takes longer than it should.
Audio effects are some of the poorest you will ever hear. Walking over rocks produces a metallic thump like you’re walking on top of a storm drain. There are only a handful of songs to be heard, and a few other audio cues. And again, the game doesn’t have half the things the devs said it would. (See the above-mentioned article from Victor for more info.)
I would be surprised with anyone that was still playing this game a few months from now. It just doesn’t have what it takes to survive and the context surrounding its release make it seem like a quick cash grab from a company looking to make a buck off a trend at its peak. However, if War Z actually delivers on anything it says it’s going to things could change, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Not only is the game ripe with hackers just waiting to mow you down for kicks, but you’re stuck trying to communicate through a chat room. A survival title like this should have voice chat mandatory. If you’re lucky enough to find a strange who doesn’t want to murder you, you’ll still have serious issues working as a team, especially in firefights as pausing to type is not an option. The in-game community functions are limited to checking the leaderboards and perusing or applying for membership in the list of clans and even then you’ll experience serious lag when switching between the two menus.
The War Z has about as much value as its crappy in-game melee weaponry and that’s not much at all. At least it doesn’t cost anything to play after you buy it, and the cash shop items are fair enough, so you won’t see people running around with machine guns just because they spent money.
If you’re going to give your money to a zombie-survival game, grab ArmA II and a copy of the DayZ mod, or wait for the full retail version of DayZ to arrive on digital store shelves and check that out. Do not buy into The War Z.