The War Zzzzzz

November 2, 2012 by Tim

So I’ve played a bit of The War Z over the last few days… they lifted the NDA, so I can freely talk about it. It’s obviously direct competition to Day Z, and they’re both technically in “pre-release” testing, so I think it’s fair to compare the two.

I mentioned earlier this week that I thought War Z had more potential as an overall experience. There are a few reasons for that. First of all, the graphics are better. Not leaps and bounds better, but a lot of the textures are nicer, and while the animations aren’t great, they’re still better than Day Z’s jilty, spastic animations.

War Z feels closer to a finished product. The menus, the character pages, the inventory system… it’s all nearly complete, and functional.

Both games propose the same thing: That you survive as long as possible in a zombie apocalypse. The War Z looks like it has some structures in place to eventually give you objectives, like quests, but it doesn’t seem like any of that is in the game now.

So both games are attempting the same thing, and War Z feels a lot more polished, but… I still like Day Z better at this moment in time.

First of all, as of the time of this writing, zombies are a joke in War Z. Within the first day I played, there were two patches. One increased difficulty of the zombies, made them more aggressive and hit harder. The second patch reduced their range (previously 6ft reach… what?) and damage. They went from being a dangerous threat, to an easy game of whack-a-mole.

My first few games I steered way clear of zombies. I had no gun, no melee weapon other than my flashlight. Zombies were a death sentence. In the game I played last night, I didn’t even sneak. I walked around bludgeoning zombies to death one by one with the flashlight. I didn’t get hit once. They had become an annoyance, not a game feature.

A side effect of this is that the players get bored… and all become complete assholes. Day Z had its share of bandits… jerks who solely wanted to ruin the experience for others… but it was hit or miss. And it added tension to the game.

War Z has them too. All of them, apparently. When the zombies are no longer threatening, the players have to turn on eachother to stay entertained. Everyone shoots on sight. And in a game where guns are super rare, and spawns are not nearly random enough, it makes for a rather unpleasant starting experience.

This is all stuff that can be tweaked and remedied… it is the testing phase after all, and they altered zombies so drastically in a matter of hours, I’m sure they’ll continue working on it. However there’s a deeper fundamental difference between the two games at play that I don’t expect to change, and the more I played the more noticeable it became.

Day Z feels like a game that’s setting out to be a simulation… as realistic and immersive as possible. No detail unobserved (as rough as the current packaging may be). War Z feels like someone made a video game.

They’re both after the same thing, but they’re taking different paths to get there. And for my free time, I think I prefer the Day Z side of things. Or rather, I will.

Day Z is working on a standalone release, in the new ARMA engine. If they can knock out their many, many graphical problems while retaining all of the core gameplay elements of the mod, then I think they’ll have War Z beat.

However War Z could still surprise me, and add in things like broken limbs, cars that you can repair, trampling grass, zombies that matter, etc, and still come out ahead with a good zombie survival sim.

Because either way, if I wanted a “video-gamey” zombie survival game, I’d just wait for State of Decay.

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