The War Z, from Hammerpoint Interactive, aims to give the world a Buy-to-Play zombie survival MMO in much the same way DayZ has as a mod for ARMA II. Only, death in TWZ isn’t permanent unless you want it to be. There will also be private servers and player created “Stronghold” maps to add to the game’s content. There will be clans, character progression, even missions, player created content and much more that bring The War Z closer to the MMORPG genre than its forebear. I’ve been in the Alpha and now Beta for some time, and while it hasn’t been without its fair share of issues, crippling bugs, and just plain old goofy antics, I find myself logging into the game quite often. What does that mean? Well, I expect it means that the core principals the game is built on (survival in a world where zombies and players are all enemies) is a solid one. It’s improved quite a bit over the past few weeks, and while many features are still only promised and not included, The War Z is definitely a game to watch.
Life as you know it…
There’s no intro to The War Z. You create you character (male or female and a few preset looks) and you are dumped into the world (a version of Colorado) with a flashlight, a back-pack and some very basic supplies. From there it’s up to you to go it alone, find allies you can trust, and fight off the zombie hordes as you scavenge for essential food and water to supply. The game uses standard FPS controls, and can be played from first or third-person views. You can crouch, go prone, shift to run, and so forth. Running depletes a “run meter” which recharges slowly as long as you’re not holding shift. You also have a hunger and a thirst meter that drain over time. If you don’t eat or drink, you will eventually die.
You will find bandages and other medical supplies throughout the world, or you can buy some from the game’s Cash Shop using the in-game currency or real world money. Health doesn’t recharge unless you use medical supplies, so you’ll want to keep some on you as you rove from town to town. There are stronghold cities, otherwise known as safe zones, scattered across the landscape and you won’t be able to deliver goods from the cash shop to your character unless they’re a.) dead or b.) at a stronghold. It’s Hammerpoint’s way of making sure you’re not stockpiling stuff by logging in and out and transferring goods between the vault and your characters.
When you create your character you choose normal or hardcore mode. Normal means that when you die, that character is knocked out and can’t be revived for at least an hour (unless you use purchasable revive packs from the cash shop). If you choose hardcore, when you die that character is gone forever. When either type of character dies, it means you drop all loot you had on you when you kicked the bucket. Food, drinks, bandages, hats, armor, weapons… all gone to whoever finds your corpse first.
The game is split into several dozen servers that can each old a few dozen folks right now in beta. By launch the team hopes to have the servers holding a couple hundred people at any given time. Plus you’ll be able to host your own servers, and make “stronghold” maps that are of your own design. Want to make a Thunderdome sort of map where zombies and survivors duke it out? You will be able to. Right now though the map is limited in size (though still very large) compared to its final release and the stronghold system isn’t in place yet.
The notes players leave behind (mind the darkness).
Pretty fun, but pretty bugged…
That’s kind of the status of the beta in general. It’s truly a “beta” and folks who pony up to get in now will really be spending their time fighting not only zombies, but a plethora of bugs. On top of that, you won’t even have access to most of the promised features, including the character progression, clans (though these are coming very soon as of this writing), strongholds, and so forth. All that said: The War Z has really come a long way since I first got into the alpha, and it’s proving to be quite a blast to play despite its lacking points. This is largely in part to the thrill of surviving and not knowing what lies around the corner: a zombie or a maniacal fellow player?
Shooting works well, as well it should from the developers of War Inc. But melee is kind of ridiculous at this point, as the animations are stiff and goofy from the third-person perspective. Zombies are starting to at least recoil now when you hit them, though the animations are stilted and you’d think that hitting even an undead with a spiked bat once in the head would kill the thing. I’d also like to see knock-back put in place if they’re going to give us weapons like bats as our first taste of defense (before finding the rare guns scattered throughout the map). If you’re an established veteran of something like Left 4 Dead or its sequel, the action in the War Z will leave you hanging right now. It’s stilted, but functional, and definitely something that needs work.
Other things that annoy are having trouble connecting to a server using the auto-join feature, zombies that fall out of sync with the server and can attack you from yards away, plus the inability to resurrect your fallen characters. These are just to name a few. Like I said, it’s beta (even if you’re paying for it).
Sometimes players are actually funny, and not murderous.
And yet, I keep surviving…
Still, even with its multitude of plain old jagged edges, I can’t stop playing The War Z. Like the DayZ mod before it (and DayZ the game after it), there’s compelling gameplay in purely surviving in a world where no one can be trusted and resources are scarce. If Hammerpoint can bring home all its promised features, add in things like vehicles, constructible barriers for players to built safe-houses, and let’s not forget to fix melee combat… well, then I can foresee myself playing the War Z a lot over the next year. You can buy your way into the beta right now for as low as $24.99 and as high as $54.99 with some serious perks. But know that the game’s still a work in progress despite the unrestricted access. The War Z may not be quite ready for primetime yet, but a solid core is there. Now it just needs the tender love and care… and zombies.