Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DayZ: The Zombie Game You Damn Kids Keep Asking For

It's not often that I would set out to write about an amazing game, only to find myself drawn to talking about a very new, very unpolished mod for it, but that's the situation I find myself in today. For all of the folks who talk about “that zombie game”, the multiplayer game with dozens of players, where you need to scavenge for supplies in an open world, avoiding zombies and potentially murderous survivors alike. The zombie game where you need to eat, and drink, and find some way just to exist in a broken, shattered world. Folks, I'm happy to say this game is a reality, and if you own a copy of ArmA 2: Combined Ops, you could be playing it right now. Welcome to DayZ.

Based in the game of ArmA 2 (which in itself is a stellar game that deserves your attention if you have even a passing interest in military simulation games), you'll find yourself in the fictional country of Chernarus, a nation torn asunder by civil war and outside influence (and now an epidemic of everyone's favorite movie monster), you travel around a 225 square kilometer nation, scraping together what supplies you can in hopes of something, anything, that might help you survive just a little longer.

In the current iteration (it's still in alpha, with updates and fixes rolling out every single day since it's public inception), the player will always spawn on the coast. You're usually with a six-shot revolver and 42 rounds of ammunition, total, two cans of baked beans, a water canteen, a backpack, a box of 10 road flares, two syringes of morphine, one bandage and a single bottle of painkillers. You will not have a map,and you will not have a compass, unless you manage to find them. This makes depending on memory, landmarks, and roadsigns especially important. I hope you can read Russian, however. The game also features a real time Day/Night cycle. If you log in at night on a US server, it will be night and the opposite is true as well. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. At night, it is much easier to sneak about, but it's also pitch black. Without using a light source, you won't be able to see the building 10 feet in front of you, but using one will draw attention to yourself, and it is usually not positive.
You'll need this. Fortunately, it's great.

A single shot to the torso will usually down a zombie, and a human is not much more resilient. If you choose to engage every undead you come in contact with, you'll quickly find yourself without any ammunition and surrounded by pain and suffering. Hopefully the next poor sap to come by where you were gets a fat can of baked beans for your efforts. Zombie aggression is determined by both visibility and sound. They give a shrill wail, should they spot you, and will quickly gang up on you and do their best to devour you.

The player has three main resources to manage, ignoring inventory. Hunger, Thirst, and Blood. Hunger and Thirst are relatively simple concepts. Scavenge for food, or find a hunting knife and harvest some local fauna. From there, you can make a campfire and cook the food. Canteens can be refilled in any water source (including the ocean, at the time), as well as fountains scattered around the map, and you can find cans of oddly branded beverages to also quench your thirst. Going hungry or thirsty will slow your movement, increase your fatigue, throw off your aim and, eventually, kill you. Blood, however, is a slightly more complex system. Blood is a sort of representation both of your actual amount of blood, but also of your overall vitality. Getting injured will cause you to lose some, and you may even open up a seeping wound. If this goes on un-bandaged, you will bleed out over a short period of time. Gunshots will always inflict a bleeding status. Blood can be recovered by finding blood packs (which are, of course, very rare), or eating meals (the higher quality, the better). If you lose too much blood, you will lose consciousness. Without outside intervention, you will die.

There is also an injury system where you can sprain or even break bones in your body. At this stage in the mod's development, these are simply cured via painkillers and morphine, respectively.

Meters! Thirst, Blood, and Hunger, respectively.

Weaponry you may find will more often be civilian issue. While you may come across some sort of assault rifle, you're much more likely to find a simple hunting rifle or shotgun. This makes players who have found advanced weaponry formidable, but fortunately, a bullet is a bullet at the end of the day, and your ammunition is more plentiful than theirs. If you were to get the drop on someone with automatic weapon, a couple shots from your revolver would make everything he had yours.

I'll close this article with an event that occurred just last night to give you an idea of the world DayZ is.

I logged in last night around 8pm, and found myself standing just where I had left. After a quick meal and a refilling of my canteen, I review my inventory. I have 1 flare, no food, some water, and 5 rounds of ammunition. No medical supplies, and only this revolver in my hand. I am in dire straits.

Ahead, perhaps a kilometer, I hear gunshots, and see the telltale glow of a flare. I head in that direction, following the coast so I don't become lost or accidentally walk into the former denizens of this Slavic nation. It takes me 10 minutes or so to get there, hunched over and coming up slower to make less as little noise as possible. I find myself outside the walls of a compound, and hear the voices on the other side (this tanks to ArmA's directional in-game voice). It is two men discussing something. It quickly comes to my intention that these men are not scavengers – they're Hunters, and they're not hunting the dead. Some other poor bastard had been less cautious than I, and they had gunned him down. I crawl to a hole in the wall and see them kneeling over his body.

I make the decision. These are not good men, and they have things I need. They are, so far, unaware of my presence. I take aim. The seconds tick by like hours. I hold my breath. I steady my shot. I fire.

The first Hunter drops dead and his partner immediately begins to turn toward the sound. I roll out of sight and the flare on the other side is extinguished. We sit in darkness, listening for the other. I crouch and walk around the outside of the compound, knowing I have only four rounds to finish this dark business. I have reached an open gate when a flare is thrown over the wall I shot his friend from. I come into the compound and see his back to me. In a moment of revelry, I take the time to say “Gotcha.”. He tries to turn, but it's too late. He lies dead.

In a hurry I loot the three bodies before me. Instead of being out of food and medical supplies, I now am a walking dispensary. My backpack is full of my spoils. On one of the Hunters I find a hunting rifle, a single round spent. I take it, and all the ammunition I can carry, extinguishing the flare behind me and continuing on to the town of Chernogorsk, one of the largest in the country. I know it is only a few kilometers away, and my future is there.

Anyone looking to play DayZ need only a copy of ArmA 2: Combined Ops (That is, both ArmA 2 and the expansion Operation: Arrowhead, but you would want the PMC DLC if you don't want all of the players to be low-resolution versions).

You can find it on Steam here and on Amazon here. Both versions are the same, although you need to manually patch Amazon's.

You also need the modfile, found on mediafire here. Download all of them and extract them to Arma 2 Operation Arrowhead/@DayZ/@AddOns. Put all of your .pbo and .bisign files in there. Now just right click on your Combined Ops shortcut, edit the launch string to include “ -nosplash -mod=@DayZ” and when you launch the game, you'll be able to join any of the DayZ servers.


Good luck, you'll need it.

Dan is a milsim zombie survivor, as well as a casual Spaceman. You can follow him on twitter here.


  1. Every last one of you needs to be playing this game. When folks discuss emergent gameplay, they really just mean THIS game.

  2. Damn I wish I had a pc capable of even playing a game made 5 years ago

  3. Accurate review - this mod is superb. Youtube "DayZ" and you'll find plenty of videos. Atmospheric, really challenging and genuinely good fun.

    If you aren't playing this game, you're missing out.

  4. Jesus christ this sounds amazing