I recently started playing DayZ, a video game based on surviving a zombie apocalypse somewhere in Russia, and it’s the best game I’ve played in years.
In DayZ, your primary objective is simply to survive. To do so, you need to roam around the massive map dotted with villages and cities, and to find the best gear and weapons in a multiplayer environment where other real, live players are also playing.
The better your weapons and gear, the higher the chance of survival. That, of course, also depends on your skill.
If someone were to watch me play DayZ, it would actually look very boring. There’s lots of walking, running, creeping around searching for loot, and being super, ultra cautious all the time.
But I, the player, am constantly in a heightened state of exhilarating alert and suspense. There’s always the fear that a player who picked up a sniper rifle has me down his or her scope.
In most similar games like “Fallout 4” and “Tom Clancy’s: The Division,” getting “killed” isn’t such a big deal. You’d normally respawn to the last checkpoint of your progress with all your weapons and gear, and you could go on your merry way. But in DayZ, getting killed has (relatively) dire consequences.
When you die in the game, you lose all your precious, hard-earned weapons and loot. That could be a huge downer if you’ve managed to keep your player alive for days, or even weeks, and you’ve pick up some great loot. The longer you play, the higher the stakes.
The fear of being caught out and potentially killed by another player in DayZ is as real as it gets because finding good weapons and gear isn’t easy. The map is so large that it takes a long time to travel between towns and cities where you’ll usually find the best loot. And even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll find good loot if another player before you has already pillaged a village.
What are the rules? There are no rules. It’s exactly what you’d imagine it would be like if you were stuck in the middle of a zombie apocalypse where society, law, order, and humanity has broken down. As a result, it turns out that the biggest threat to your survival is not zombies, but the other players.
There’s also no script or storyline to follow. In DayZ, you can make your own story.
To illustrate that, check out the following five-minute experience in DayZ that sold me on the game:
I spawned on a road in Chernarus, a made-up corner of Russia where DayZ takes place. It was still, silent, and I had nothing with which to defend myself.
I took a few steps along the road in the hopes I’d stumble on a few buildings or a village where I could find anything that could be used as a weapon. Finding a weapon was my top priority. Only then could I look for food, water, and something to wear that was warmer than my t-shirt.
That’s when I heard footsteps that weren’t mine. It was another player, and I was relieved to see that he was also unarmed, as it meant he didn’t pose a threat to me.
We walked and talked for about a minute over voice-chat, trying to figure out where we were and where we’d find some gear. We agreed to team up. Then the shouting began.
“GET ON THE GROUND NOW!”
Four heavily-armed players surrounded us, pointing high-power rifles where one shot would kill. It was so fast and I was so surprised that I jerked my mouse and flinched, making my character look like he was having a seizure. It must have looked ridiculous to our attackers.
In DayZ, there’s actually a button for raising your hands to surrender. With no other option other than death, I pressed it and knelt. We were at the total and complete mercy of our attackers. We were hostages.
As I knelt, I saw the lifeless body of another player on my right. She was surely an earlier victim of the attackers. An old double-barreled shotgun laid next to her, and my mind started racing with ideas to distract the bandits so I could pick it up.
Almost as soon as the ambush began, a zombie crept up behind one of the armed players and started attacking him. All four bandits turned around to kill it. There it was. The opportunity.
I picked up the shotgun and the shells from the dead player’s body, aimed the barrel towards the attackers, and pulled the trigger. Nothing. The shotgun’s previous owner must have spent the shells already in the shotgun.
The bandits were too busy with the zombie to realise I had just picked up the shotgun. But I couldn’t reload then and there. The bandits were finishing up with the zombie and I wouldn’t finish reloading in time. I had to find cover.
“Now,” I told myself. I got up and started sprinting to get behind a ruined wall nearby. It was my only chance to get to cover to reload.
I ran without looking back, but I heard the bandits cease fire as the zombie was killed. “I’ve got this one, you get the guy running,” I heard one say. I was just about to press the button that would vault me over the wall for cover when I heard three shots. And then darkness.
The next thing I saw were three words in white against a black background. “You are dead.”
I didn’t come out on top, and that particular game wasn’t a success, but that five-minute stint of DayZ was one of the most thrilling and suspenseful five minutes of gaming I’ve ever played.
At the moment, the game is only available on PC from the Steam platform. It’s in the Alpha stage, which means it’s still unfinished, so if you decided to buy you should understand that it can be buggy here and there.
And lastly, let me know in the comments if you do decide to buy DayZ or you’ve already been playing it, as I need a buddy to track down the b——s that held me up and killed me for some cold, hard revenge.