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DayZ Early Access Review

Survival of the patient.

by

GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

DayZ claims to be a zombie game, and it's true that you can occasionally find the undead scuttling about like drunken ravers looking for double high fives. If you have a weapon, you can slice them up like so much sushi, or you can try to outrun them in a high-stakes match of cross-country racing. (That's usually the smarter approach.) But they're about as common as smiles in Dark Souls right now, and oddly enough, this works in DayZ's favor. In fact, DayZ's emptiness renders it about as close to a video game version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road as there's ever been, because the current emphasis is on interactions with people rather than with putrefied riffraff, though sometimes I think I wouldn't mind if the former were taken out altogether.

In this frightening, desolate landscape, your goal is simply to stay alive by scavenging for food and weapons, finding proper shelter, and fending off anyone who threatens your survival. There's no easy way to orient yourself if you've forgotten Arma II's fiddly control scheme; mMere seconds after my first spawn into the world, I found my poorly customizable avatar being slapped around by a zombie, and he died an undistinguished death around 30 seconds later while I dug around in the escape menu reacquainting myself with generally nonstandard button maps for pulling out weapons and hitting things with them. DayZ lets you use a controller if you wish, but it's even more cumbersome and not worth the effort.

Later spawns dumped me in the middle of broad fields near the coast that led to crimson barns, towering construction cranes, and deserted buildings. The colors and textures for the post-Soviet nation of Chernarus are far richer here than they were in the original Arma II mod, and the derelict beauty serves as a nice contrast to the dangers it conceals. New, too, is the ability to enter almost every building and rummage for weapons, food, and the occasional antibiotics. No music distracts you from the desolation, and the sound design manages to evoke the fear that every creek of sheet metal might be death on the way. Chancing upon a town can be terrifying; for all the promise in those once-cozy homes and their picketed yards, there's a chance they'll deliver deaths that you never see coming.

DayZ works so well as a survival sim because it puts few barriers between you and the world around you. Gone are the tidy health and stamina bars that sneak into the corners of similar first-person games; instead, DayZ gnaws at your confidence with little nags like "My stomach grumbles" or "I feel like having a drink." And then there are the messages you never want to see, such as "I feel nauseous" or "I can feel warm blood on my clothes." There's a system behind all this--get shot, and you slowly lose blood unless you bandage it--but the numbers stay hidden.

DayZ wisely reserves its menus for essentials like its inventory, which now sports a drag-and-drop option in an improvement over the mod. The inventory itself expands greatly once you discover items with pockets like knapsacks and hoodies, thus delivering some of the satisfaction the discovery of these items would likely yield in real life. Bohemia Interactive knows it has made a game that's chiefly about foraging, and it usually gets the experience right.

Zombies number so few that it's possible to go half an hour without seeing one, and when you do, there's a good chance you'll see it running through doors or even vanishing under the terrain. The low population lends an air of reality to DayZ; many games feature zombie populations more suited to New York City than to cozy rural villages. The sparse undead populace is just as well, given that dealing with them is rarely a rewarding endeavor. Zombies tend to rush you from hundreds of yards away the moment you enter their line of sight, and shooting at them with the laughably few guns available only attracts more.

But it's not really the zombies you have to worry about. They're stupid things, usually killable with a hefty axe blow if you happen to have an axe on you. (Provided, that is, that the axe doesn't bug out and fail to make contact.) It's the other players who instill the most fear. Sometimes you come across a nice one, and a sense of camaraderie emerges as you scrounge through buildings and take out the undead together. Most of the time, however, they're out to kill you. Some play nice at first, and then lead you into ambushes where unseen snipers shoot you down. Still others may trick you into coming near, and then try to bury an axe in your face because they like the look of your hoodie and want it for themselves. Attempting to hide from and survive against humans with actual intelligence elevates DayZ to new heights of tension and unpredictability.

I suspect most of those players are bored. DayZ presents some memorable moments in its current state, and when you do find people who are willing to work and survive with you, you could create bonds so deep that your friendship might carry over into the real world. But DayZ loses its edge many hours in. You learn the tricks of finding new gear and weapons, and you learn which towns to avoid and which to ransack. Each respawn leaves you more experienced and thus stronger, and that confidence seems to encourage a desire to harass the newer players and loot their pitiful belongings. By the time you've put in around 20 hours, you know the secrets to crafting and making bandages out of old T-shirts. You're a survivor.

You're a survivor, that is, with no job but to survive. That's the appeal of the alpha; since there are no objectives--and thus no hope--your only option is to keep surviving until death inevitably overtakes you. It's bleak, yes, but in many ways, it delivers a sense of realism you don't get in many zombie games (or open worlds in general, for that matter). Given time, there's a truly great and memorable experience waiting to be explored, one that will come into its own with new and better weapons and more interactive elements such as vehicles. But as Bohemia makes so clear from the moment you boot up DayZ, this is an alpha. It's incomplete, and it shows. Yet Chernarus is well on its way to growing into the clothes that the developer has stitched for it, and if you feel you've got the steely will necessary to survive, DayZ is ready to test it.

What's There?

A vast, explorable (but seriously unfinished) Eastern European map that captures the experience of living in a postapocalyptic zombieland.

What's to Come?

More zombies, animals for hunting, greater variety of gathering opportunities, cooking, better server architecture.

What Does it Cost?

DayZ costs $29.99 on Steam, although the developers discourage paying for it unless you are "prepared to handle with serious issues and possible interruptions of game functioning." And, yes, these things exist.

When Will it Be Finished?

There's currently no concrete release date, and Bohemia Interactive has repeatedly spoken of DayZ as a work in progress.

What's the Verdict?

DayZ oozes with potential, though some elements are either bugged, unfinished, or unimplemented. That said, it delivers uncommonly appealing survival experiences and risky player interactions that lend credibility to its pretty environments. It'll probably be great, but for the time being, it requires uncommon patience.

Discussion

191 comments
hammoud
hammoud

Either they released the alpha too early, or they are seriously slow at development. Either way, by the time this game is officially "released" people would have moved on to the next fad.


The release of this Alpha (in its current state) was nothing more than a cash grab making use of the hype of the mod. Problem is the SA doesn't look at all better than the mod so why pay $30 for it when you could just play the more established mod for free (assuming you have Arma 2)?


The fact that someone can make a hilariously unfinished game and make millions from it is just mind boggling, especially when that someone has jumped ship claiming his own game is "fundamentally flawed". PC gaming at it's finest. I don't even want to know what the gaming community would do if this was EA. I guarantee the final release of DayZ will not run better than BF4.


I actually really do hope this game does turn out to be good, by some miracle, come release because it really is an interesting game with lots of potential, but I doubt it.

DamnILoveGames
DamnILoveGames

Where is the point in reviewing an Alpha? Given how they constantly receive updates by the time someone discovers this it could already be completely invalidated due to fixes and changes.

domisbatman
domisbatman

How long has this thing been in Alpha seriously, I think it's stupid to charge people for a game that's not even finished 

mondi20
mondi20

I actualy enjoyed the mod a lot... until i found Arma 3 Breaking Point that is. I still have faith that DayZ SA will be finished and vehicles/tents/structures will become available within the next year.

leikeylosh
leikeylosh

This scam should not be reviewed.

maybock3000
maybock3000

Looks fun. I think it will be great when it's finished


Gizmetti
Gizmetti

Did gamespot really just review an alpha game? Signing out.

theprismhead
theprismhead

If you want a serious survival game, Stalker SoP with Misery mod is still the only choice. If they made the enviroment more dangerous, like a thousand times more dangerous, then that might change.

lilflipp
lilflipp

It's like a more serious Rust version, for those who played Rust. Without the building and all the silly crazy fun. DayZ looks a lot better than Rust, and the level(map) and just the world is better in DayZ, but I like Rust better.

Both games have the same thing in common, it's survival game, only the strongest survive is not quite accurate, it's more, the biggest assholes survive.

Both games are in alphas so both games have A LOT of stuff to fix. Look at these games in terms of potential. Where those games are heading and not where they are at the moment.

It's much less serious. It's like imagine an island with a huge mental insane asylum, where everybody escapes, and now you're just in that island and stuck and have to survive with all these psychos running around naked trying to bash your head in with a rock. That feeling when you're trying to quietly hide inside a weak ass wooden shack listening to the foot steps right outside your door and praying that he just keeps walking, and then you see someone trying to peak between the wooden planks of your shitty ass shack, and the terrifying moment when he sees you and starts banging on your door to destroy it while creeping you out on the mic.


The thing that stays the same is the people. People will betray you, they are liars, they are nasty. They aren't as psychotic in DayZ as they are in Rust.

gajbutler
gajbutler

The mod is so much better than SA, don't get how they took over a year to just go backwards in so many ways. 

madmatt2013
madmatt2013

I think it's kind of unfair to complain about problems when this game is in early alpha.... It's going to be a very long time before is done if it ever even is done since dean hall is leaving. It's a fun game for where it is right now in my opinion.

Psilyocybin
Psilyocybin

30 dollars for the alpha, beta and Finished game...Sounds good to me, I've have it since it got released into Alpha.  There have been tremendous changes in the game and I've yet to have a bad time playing this game. Sure there are minor hick ups, but it's in Alpha and with that being said it's to be expected.  If you like survival games I'd highly recommend this game.

biggest_loser
biggest_loser

$30 for something that isn't even finished... 

lee3701
lee3701

Dayz Mod shits on the SA. I have my predictions set and I think alot of people are going to be very disappointed with the end product. At least till SA supports user mods and is in a position to prove me wrong.

TERMINATOR-SSD
TERMINATOR-SSD

i just wish i can join my friends and spawn next to them and same with them. I do get annoyed having to trek the whole map trying to find them over and over. I would enjoy the game more if this option would come into the game soon. 

eze_sl89
eze_sl89

the idea that the other players are actually the enemies or the friends, is quite original. But if this game is as complicated as it sounds just to craft a fucking bandage. then put your shitty game in your orifice.

The article says that after 20 hours of gameplay you will master survival techniques... are you kidding me?


Im not a soft gamer, ive beaten dark souls 2 times for that matter. The game was very challenging and frustrating at times but it was simple, controls were simple and the idea was simple. The skill was the stuff that matter.

Here in this game seems you just need skill to "move" your character, thats ridiculous.

Megamandrew
Megamandrew

"There's no easy way to orient yourself if you've forgotten Arma II's fiddly control scheme; mMere seconds after my first spawn into the world, I found my poorly customizable avatar being slapped around by a zombie, and he died an undistinguished death around 30 seconds later while I dug around in the escape menu reacquainting myself with generally nonstandard button maps for pulling out weapons and hitting things with them."


Whoa, whoa.  Just because this is a review for an alpha shouldn't mean that the review itself should be in alpha form.  Unless, of course, there's something in the game called an "mMere", which I highly doubt.  Additionally, I don't think "poorly customizable" is what Leif meant to say, either.  Also, that sentence is a run-on of monstrous proportions.


". . .because the current emphasis is on interactions with people rather than with putrefied riffraff, though sometimes I think I wouldn't mind if the former were taken out altogether."

I think he meant to say, "the latter" instead of "the former."  In this review he mentions that he likes the fact that there are barely any zombies and that the survival challenge comes from the people, so I don't see why he'd want the people to be taken out.

Lpedraja2002
Lpedraja2002

No one is complaining. You must not have much experience with early access in games. It is supposed to be this way, some people like to be involved with the game since its early stages and like to help evolve the game, the pay a reduced price to do it and get the game updated as a result. PC gaming at its finest? You're damn right! Only with PC's developers give the community a chance to help make the game and finance it from its early stages.

Skkyzz
Skkyzz

@hammoud  Before early access was released, lots of people were asking and crying for it. Now is released cause they wanted it. And in case u didnt read it, if you look at Dayz in Steam, it says : "We strongly advise you not to buy and play the game at this stage unless you clearly understand what Early Access means and are interested in participating in the ongoing development cycle.”

And you are comparing BF4 with DayZ ? What the hell ...

gufberg
gufberg

@DamnILoveGames  If companies can charge money for unfinished games then reviewers are justified in judging them on that basis.

Lpedraja2002
Lpedraja2002

People who buy the game at this stage are helping develop it supposing they're reporting bugs and recommending new game mechanics and balancing tweaks. Its a process, its not for everyone. Besides, those people who pay for it get the final version anyway once it released so if you're planning to buy it you best do it now since it's only $30.

Skkyzz
Skkyzz

@domisbatman  "We strongly advise you not to buy and play the game at this stage unless you clearly understand what Early Access means and are interested in participating in the ongoing development cycle.”

Lpedraja2002
Lpedraja2002

Scam? I think you mean that other zombie game which is still a disgrace, no worries I too was confused for a long time. They even changed its name due to its bad reputation, it is now called Infestation: survivor stories.

gufberg
gufberg

@Gizmetti  Yeah, as long as its in Alpha its unfair to judge it, right? /s

If they're charging money for it consumers deserve to know what they're getting into.

d-man
d-man

@kitmeep  Whine whine whine. Who cares about some arbitrary number. In case you missed the title, this is an "early access review" for a mod that has been in development for years. Crowdfunding is here to stay. Deal with it.

beancrock
beancrock

@gajbutler  The SA is still in early development, so of course it currently has less content than the finished mod you gibbering imbecile.

jellyman68
jellyman68

@gajbutler  That would be because you know absolutely nothing about game development.

beancrock
beancrock

@madmatt2013  The development team has plenty of talent to finish the game without Dean Hall. In fact, his presence was probably more of a hindrance than anything.

obsequies
obsequies

@madmatt2013  the mod was the same. Just as you have stated this isn't the final game..this isn't a final review. Pointing out flaws is important, helps us all and calls out the devs. 

beancrock
beancrock

@biggest_loser  But it will be finished. Think of as a pre-order that lets you test it as it's developed.

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

@biggest_loser ... and never will be finished since Dean 'Rocket' Hall, founder, creator and lead developer has called his game "fundamentally flawed"

beancrock
beancrock

@lee3701  Again, the SA is a work in progress, so it's asinine and idiotic to compare it to the mod version.

naz99
naz99

@eze_sl89  Wow just wow...if right clicking on a piece of clothing and selecting make rags to make bandages is complicated to you then i suggest you give up gaming...

And you have not played the game yet you know how it controls??

*facepalm*


I love the controls in this game and its damn easy too.

Skyeblade
Skyeblade

@Megamandrew  To be fair, the avatars ARE poorly customizable. There's literally only like 6 skins to choose from... The gear on the other hand is far from poorly customizable.

DamnILoveGames
DamnILoveGames

@gufberg I'm not saying they can't, I'm saying the concept of it is stupid. It's like someone being halfway through baking a cake and having someone judge it. It's subject to plenty of change, and everyone knows it is so why bother?

DamnILoveGames
DamnILoveGames

@d-man Scores are for the simplistic morons who can't be arsed to spend so much as 5 minutes reading the review. They should be removed completely.

shreddyz
shreddyz

@beancrock ah I can see the typical dayz fanboy insulting his way to a point. honestly, ive read insult after insult on the steam forums just like yours. Im going to guess that the average player of dayz is in their twenties and without higher education.

5SI-GonePostal
5SI-GonePostal

@jimmy_russell Should maybe read the whole thing and read between the lines...........................haters are gonna hate.............

Megamandrew
Megamandrew

@Skyeblade @MegamandrewI meant to say that "poorly customizable" is a grammatically incorrect way of saying what he meant to say.  He should have said that the avatars suffer from "poor customization" or "a lack of customization options."

Jah_Glow
Jah_Glow

@DamnILoveGames The cake analogy is flawed, though I get what you're saying. Don't see the reviews as a "Final call" on the game. It's obviously just checking the temperature of someone well on their way to hypothermia. :P

Lpedraja2002
Lpedraja2002

I agree that the score system should be eliminated as it only creates a pool of fanboy retards who judge a game based on a number. That's why I like Rock, paper, shotgun even more nowadays.