The War Z vs DayZ
Every once in a while a game comes along that makes you raise an eyebrow. If you’re lucky it’ll be because you’re playing something so mind-blowingly brilliant that you can’t help but physically show your appreciation.
If you’re unlucky, it’ll be because you realise you’ve just wasted your money. Alternatively, that eyebrow is crooked because you sense you’ve played this all before. You’ve got déjà vu. Often, déjà vu is difficult to intellectualise; you know you’ve experienced this (or something very like it) before, but you just can’t put your finger on when or where.
In The War Z’s case the feeling of déjà vu is so strong that it’s immediately obvious where you’ve seen all of this before. Imitation is the finest form of flattery, they say. If that’s true, DayZ’s cheeks should be rosier than a monkey’s backside right about now.
To borrow a sentiment from Quentin Tarantino; if you borrow from a single source it’s plagiarism, if you borrow from many it’s research. It’s a stretch to say that The War Z is a wholesale copy of DayZ, but it’s certainly closer to the former part of Tarantino’s defence than it is the latter.
The Rules Of War (Z)
Hammerpoint’s The War Z is a zombie-apocalypse game set in a largely rural world punctuated with urban settlements of various sizes and types.
Rules are few and far between; no story is thrust upon you, checkpoints and mission objectives are non-existent. The basic idea is to survive for as long as you can while avoiding the threat of zombies, your fellow survivors and starvation. Plots, relationships and ongoing narratives evolve organically as you explore, meet other players and do your best to improve your situation.
Where Dean Hall’s DayZ thrives is on its ability to create a sense of claustrophobic isolation. Every time you come across a fellow player you’re faced with an extremely difficult decision; do you go out and try to make friends at the risk of getting your head blown off and your items stolen, or do you hide until they pass and continue the difficult slog of going solo?
Because of the size of DayZ’s environment, many players find themselves alone for so long at the start of their survival journey that a sense of cabin fever is created and contact with another living sole becomes something that they fear. That fear is so often the trigger to the game’s most emotive and memorable moments. Moments that are unique to each and every one of its players.
It’s a sensation that is almost completely missing from The War Z, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a whole lot more accessible; resulting in feeling ‘videogame-y’ where DayZ feels like a social experiment. In The War Z you start with a map that is able to track your location, meaning you know exactly how where you are and where you’re going at all times. You’re never lost, starving and desperate in the wilderness.
Because everyone knows where each town is, action is never far away. At present, each of The War Z’s servers is limited to a maximum of 40 players but the frequency at which you came across other people is a far cry from the deserted wastelands of DayZ’s Chernarus island.
This leads to incredibly aggressive individuals making up the bulk of the player base, safe in the knowledge that they don’t need to work together to survive. Simply camp out at a major arterial road leading into an urban area, wait for others to come looking for resources, kill them and steal their items. Repeat ad nauseam.
No need to work together to scavenge zombie-infested locations. Someone will come along the same bit of road in a minute carrying the goodies everyone is looking for.
The aggressive playing is made even more common thanks to the lack of perma-death, one of the features that makes DayZ such a heart racing, stressful experience. Dying in The War Z means you lose your items and are hit with a cool down period of an hour before you’re able to play as that character again.
Perma-death is planned for the game’s ‘Hardcore’ mode, however, which should force players to think twice before pulling the trigger on their fellow man and generally encourage a more tactical and thoughtful approach to gameplay.
Buying Your Way Out Of Trouble
Where The War Z and DayZ completely differ is in their approaches to extra content and the ability to purchase addition items. In DayZ’s case, no such thing is allowed as it would destroy the delicate balance of the world and the core concept that everyone is equal within its harsh and uncompromising confines.
The War Z on the other hand, features a decently sized marketplace from which you can purchase resources with which to make your life that bit easier. It’s perhaps the biggest indication that Hammerpoint is trying to offer what DayZ provides, only in a more accessible format.
If you’re finding the going too tough, for example, it takes only a moment to exit your game and buy yourself a few medi-kits, clips of ammo and a new combat knife. To even suggest such a thing in DayZ would be seen as blasphemy to its deeply passionate player base.
To be fair, though, the marketplace in its current form isn’t able to offer players willing to spend their cash an advantage to the point that it is game-breaking. Melee weapons can be purchased, but firearms cannot, and most of the items for sale are cosmetic additions such as masks and hats.
Still, it does remove a lot of the tension when you know that your injured survivor can be healed by simply popping out of the game and buying a set of bandages. In DayZ, if you were out of healing items, you’d have to risk hobbling into a warehouse doing your best to avoid the zombies hovering around outside. Either that or die a slow death in the forest waiting for some kind soul to magically stumble upon you and help you out.
It may not be as absorbing, but there are times when you wish DayZ was a bit more like The War Z. For starters, the visuals and the stability of the game are significantly better – although that’s hardly a surprise given the fact that one is a mod made by a tiny team and the other is a standalone game.
Control-wise The War Z is superior, too. Dying at the hands of a zombie here is usually your own fault, not because the menus are so convoluted that you can’t work out how to equip your sidearm.
The War Z vs DayZ – Which Is Better?
Still, The War Z comes across as a DayZ copycat seeking to appeal to the first-person shooter crowd. Most of DayZ’s elements are present and correct – including thirst and hunger indicators, a threadbare HUD and limited backpack space – but the way they’ve been implemented greatly increases the game’s accessibility in a way that decreases the tension and the quality of the overall experience.
It’s like a child imitating its parent; the kid can go through the motions, but it doesn’t understand the meaning. If DayZ is a zombie-apocalypse survival simulator, then The War Z is a zombie-apocalypse survival shooter. Simply put, in their respective states, there’s no reason to own and play them both.
With the standalone edition of DayZ on the horizon, Hammerpoint still has a long way to go in convincing us that its creation is a worthy competitor.