The War Z Review – 10 Weeks After Launch
Disclaimer: The War Z was originally launched on December 17th 2012 but suffered all sorts of problems on released – we’ve got a full breakdown of what went wrong. Rather than review it then, we’ve waited to see if the developer’s promises to fix the problems have come to fruition so 10 weeks after its initial release, this is our The War Z review.
Suddenly, I awake in a forest. Where exactly is unknown. All I know is it’s somewhere in Colorado, and that I’m completely alone. This is how my survival adventure starts, an adventure into the War Z.
After creating a character from a wide array of six options, I took my mustachioed hick into the War Z. In my bag I find a torch, some bandages, a can of drink, a cereal bar and a map of the game world. I’m near a safe zone apparently, and eager to get my bearings (and maybe find other players), so I head off in that direction. Mustache McHick walks almost vertically up a cliff face as a mysterious musical cue suddenly plays to break the absolute silence. Spooky.
After receiving some damage from the act of walking down a hill, a big message flashes on the screen that helpfully points out HEY GUNS DON’T WORK HERE. The message just sort of hangs there as I walk into a completely deserted stronghold. It looks the task, with what are probably pointless watchtowers and strengthened bunkers and such. Aside from these hollow buildings, there is nothing here.
According to hunger and thirst metres, Freddie Mercury is getting both hungry and thirsty, and frankly I’m bored of wandering around Blandsville. There’s a big city on the map near this safe zone, and being aware of how these ultra-sim games work, I head off in that direction for supplies.
The city walls appear through a clearing in the trees, and there’s an honest to God zombie there! I’ve been playing for about twenty minutes and it’s the fir-OK that was a gunshot. And another, but that sounded closer, go prone. Don’t move. Wait, what if they shoot in the same location?
The sight and sound metres suddenly shoot up as I jankily slide-shuffle along the ground. I decide to change direction and move towards denser, shadowy undergrowth, but that doesn’t change them. I zig-zag around a bit before stopping completely. A few minutes go by, and I take the risk of getting into a crouch. Nothing happens. Satisfied with a successful evasion, I continue onto the city, only to see a group of zombies standing in front of the nearest entrance. Hanging by the trees, I crawl around to find another opening, but at each one there’s more zombies.
After five minutes, a road into the city signals a clear path, with plenty of buildings just inside to explore. Side-crawling like a crab with stumpy legs, I avoid a zombie on the other side of the road and enter the first building. It’s completely empty, with bare walls and two rooms. I get up and head towards a second exit, and suddenly my footsteps are making huge clunking sounds, which completely disappear the moment I leave the building. Alright.
No time to process that though, as a loud groaning sound fills the air, seemingly extremely close. Spinning around to see where it comes from contorts My Name is Earl’s body with a certain grace that only the finest ragdoll physics can deliver. There’s nothing there, but it’s getting dark, and I haven’t found anything of value. Time to pick an easier target, just as soon as these legs catch up with the rest of the body.
I forgot about the zombie on the other side of the road as I leave the town though. His scream as I wander into him attracts a horde of the undead, so I peg it. Luckily it seems you run faster than the zombies, and the stamina bar lasts for ages. They gave up chase just as I run out of steam, so I pull up my map and head towards a farm.
There are zombies all over the place, but I think I see items beyond the fence. It seems to be the dead of night, but it’s light enough that I wonder if the torch serves any purpose other than the straight arm karate-chop ol’ Ron Swanson can do with it. Dancing the worm expertly, three zombies fail to see me go by, and I marvel at how close I got to one of them with my wicked sick breaking.
My exuberance is abruptly halted when I bump into a zombie hidden in the grass, who then stands up. Shocked at the turn of events, I fumble with the keyboard, and he gets one good strike in before I can run. I want those bloody items though, I’ve been playing almost an hour, so I run straight past him to my prize. A metre fills up while I stand over a hammer, and every zombie on the farm is now after me. I torch-chop the lead and he stumbles back, giving me the chance to run away, unfortunately without my loot. However, my stamina hasn’t refilled, so I don’t get very far. Mustache-man goes down batting zombies away with a torch.
There’s an hour wait until I can respawn.
I spawn right outside the farm where I died. I have no items. I’m beginning to wonder what was even the point of waiting to play again then. I had decided to read up on the game wiki between play sessions, and found out a couple of things.
Firstly, there are usually items around when you spawn. I can’t find any. Secondly, the musical cue I heard on my way to the safe zone yesterday meant a player character was near. Apparently, it’s a miracle I didn’t get shot the moment I spawned, a problem the developers have been trying to fix for a while. Perhaps they did then, although they were also supposed to have fixed damage while walking down a steep incline. Either way, it probably also means the shooting near the city may have just been background noises.
In broad daylight, I make my way back to the farm. There are fewer zombies this time, and I find a bottle of water and a gun. A pistol, Jericho 9mm. I’m fairly sure a Jericho 941 doesn’t take 9mm rounds, but I didn’t choose the thug life.
It turns out the farm was across the road from some houses, so I walk past a few zombies that don’t seem to really care about me, and find some food and a bigger back pack. This is going well so far, even if the houses are boring, and the textures are absolutely terrible. In fact this entire game looks pretty terrible, the zombies jankily walk about with a handful of animation frames, and my Tom Selleck dude seems to use the basic model from one of those budget 3D animation programs.
I hear the slasher flick suspense musical cue, and decide it’s time to get to a safe zone and deposit some of this stuff in my universal chest. Apparently that is a thing that exists, I guess I didn’t explore every bland, featureless building from the other safe zone. After a ten-minute hike around the lake, because swimming hasn’t been added to the game yet and there’s an invisible wall around water, I see another person. This is the first time I’ve seen another player in the game. I follow him slowly and draw my piece, because I ain’t playing. He disappears through some trees in the direction of the city, and I go in the opposite direction.
Suddenly I’m being injured and a guy has hit me a couple of times with a hammer and I’m dead. Not the guy I had been tailing, and there had been no creepy music cue for about twenty minutes. That’s a pretty pointless mechanic then.
I delete my character and start again. It doesn’t take very long to make the mustache hick, and this time I go to choose a server. There are some options I can filter by, such as map type and game type. Currently, there is only one map and one game type right now. Reluctantly, I decide on a server, one with plenty of players. That should make it more fun.
I spawn and get immediately shot.
Day 3 Part 2
I delete my character and start again. I then choose a server with fewer people in it, and spawning does not result in instant death. I’m near the farm bit again, and the map labels a point of interest as Rifle Ridge or something. Thinking I can get a better gun from there, I head in that direction. A zombie, dressed like a British Policeman in the American heartland, runs up to me. I proceed to beat him to death over the course of five minutes with my torch-chop. I get five experience for my efforts, a surprise as I hadn’t even seen an experience bar. Another zombie runs up to me, and I kill him much faster with a handful of chops. Another five experience. Did the other zombie have body armour?
I check the pause menu in an attempt to investigate the experience points, and notice there’s a Mission tab. I’d been over half the map, and not once had I seen anything that gave a quest, but for a brief glimmering moment I wondered if there was actually something to do in this vile game.
While I was paused though, a patrolling robot zombie bumped into me, and apparently ten experience is not enough to take on two zombies at once with my incredible murdering torch.
The ten experience I got yesterday means nothing. You can unlock costumes with experience, but it costs in the region of 150,000 experience just for the first one. There’s also the option to buy items with real money or in game money, the latter I did not even know existed.
You can spend a few pounds to get some weapons and loads of ammo, but what you would do with this though is puzzling – gathering supplies seems to be the only activity in this game as the quest tab in the options menu is for a function that doesn’t exist yet. The idea is that eventually players can make quests in the useless safe zone areas, giving bounties for killing characters that probably were paying to win in the first place. This sounds like a great source of the in game currency, good thing it’s so integral to the game play then.
I run around a bit at a loss with what to do. Every building is boring. The farm no longer has a gun, so I can’t shoot my way into the city to see how that would work. There’s only one thing left to do then: go to Norad.
Norad is labeled on the map, this solitary map of Colorado. For those that don’t know, Norad tracks satellites and spanners and missiles in space, and they operate from a goddamn hollowed out mountain in Colorado. An underground, evil genius mountain lair. The home of the Stargate. Maybe, just maybe, the War Z can redeem itself with a charmingly janky recreation of the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.
The War Z did not redeem itself.
Some aircraft hangers stood along some concrete inside a fence, with a couple of empty buildings with fake ventilation piping and a satellite dish next to them. There’s a scope for a gun hovering slightly off the floor in one of the buildings, and another bottle of water on a roof.
Disappointed, I walk into a hanger to see a predator drone with some scaffolding around it. A zombie attacks so I kill it with my torch. I stare as the low-res body falls to the floor, a floor textured like an N64 game. I am disgusted for having played this game so long, and welcome death as a curious zombie screams at me.
Maybe this is sharp critique on the brutal nature of survival, and how small glimmers of hope from finding something useful will inevitably lead way to you just giving up and welcoming death. Or, it’s a quick cash-in rushed to market with the minimum possible quality control and little intention on delivering the product they promised.