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Review

The War Z Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

Brutal player killing, bugs, missing features, and expensive micropayments are the true drawbacks of the impending zombie apocalypse.

So many massively multiplayer games are all about what you make them. A wide-open atmosphere can make online experiences incredibly rewarding, adding a sense of freedom and community that isn't possible when playing solo. In the case of The War Z, however, freedom and community have been allowed to run wild to such a point that the game is almost unplayable. Hammerpoint Interactive's look at life after the zombie apocalypse is a complete disaster. It's ridiculous that this game is being sold, with unfinished features, loads of bugs, wildly out-of-control player killing, and a system of micropayments that couldn't steal more money from players if you gave it a mask and a gun.

The concept behind The War Z is straightforward. It is also remarkably similar to Dean Hall's extremely impressive ARMA II: Combined Ops mod DayZ, a vastly superior and free take on the same themes seen here. If you've viewed any post-Romero fright flicks where the dead come back to life with a craving to gnaw on cerebellums, you know what to expect. The setting is the wilderness of a postapocalyptic Colorado, where you have been unceremoniously dumped with nothing more than a flashlight (one of those big Maglite things that does double duty as a club),a soft drink, a granola bar, and bandages. There are no goals, no quests, and no storyline of any sort. All you have for motivation is the imperative to stay alive, which you do by avoiding being brutally murdered by either the other players or the zombies, and by keeping enough food and drink in your system to avoid starving to death.

If you're one of the millions of people who have gotten hooked on the Walking Dead comic or TV show, let alone the countless zombie movies that have followed in the 45-year wake of Night of the Living Dead, you can't help but be intrigued by the concept. But that's all the game is--a concept; there is virtually nothing behind it. While The War Z sounds nifty, it is close to a blank slate, with an open sandbox world that is nigh impossible to enjoy. The absence of any structure and any viable reasons to go after the zombies has unbalanced the game, resulting in a frustrating free-for-all where you murder one another so often and so efficiently that the undead are no worry at all by comparison.

It's hard to imagine how any game could be more unforgiving than The War Z. You can't settle in long enough to figure out the gameplay basics before you find yourself the recipient of a shotgun blast to the face from some guy looking to loot a corpse. There are no breaks anywhere on the map. Three settlements are supposed to serve as no-weapon safe zones and places where you can access your global inventory, but they function better as ambush spots where bandits (generally with spectacularly inventive offensive names) camp out waiting to kill other players. Opportunists constantly haunt the roads into such sanctuaries, ready to gun down anyone trying to enter or leave.

It may look spooky, but it's actually kind of ooky. The War Z is an unfinished, buggy mess of a game.

A great addendum to all of this frenzied murder is the inability to spawn back in after being slain, and this is when playing on normal difficulty, not the hardcore setting where death is permanent. Get killed, and you have to wait a full hour to send your character back into the fray. You can go right back in by creating a new survivalist in one of the five available character slots or by replacing an existing character with new cannon fodder, but the delay is still absurdly punitive given how often you can get killed.

Oddly enough, zombies are an afterthought. It soon becomes clear why you are mainly killing each other: there isn't any point bothering with the undead. The biggest problem is that zombies are found mostly in and around the scarce towns and various points of interest on the map, which are thoroughly watched by player-killing campers. Playing as a zombie-murdering machine like The Walking Dead fan-fave Michonne is out of the question. Wander toward a town with a hankering to cut off zombie heads, and you set yourself up to be shot in the head by a human player waiting for newbies to wander into firing range.

Undead also offer more risk than reward. Zombie-populated towns are scattered with goodies like bottles of water and food and medical supplies, but little is worth risking life and limb over, especially given the need to run those gauntlets set up by other players. You can also be quickly overwhelmed by gangs of zombies who pop up out of nowhere and move more quickly than you might expect.

Here's a message you see a lot in The War Z.

Combat isn't particularly difficult; you can generally button-mash the undead goons to death. But it is dull, with each zombie taking a dozen or more whacks before going down. It's possible to take down a group of four or five zombies, but the process is so boring that you soon wish they would just eat you. Sneaking around them is more interesting: meters show how visible you are and how much noise you're making, so you can avoid combat much of the time.

Slain zombies can at least occasionally be looted for in-game money. Kill a zombie, and you might be able to go through his pockets for 80 to 100 dollars. Still, this is not a good deal. Sure, it saves you from having to rely on killing other players to obtain gear. It even saves you real-world cash, since the only other alternative to acquire gear is to purchase it via micropayments (more on this later).

The items that can be bought with in-game moola are sold on a separate tier from the goods that can be bought with real-world money, meaning that you're stuck using in-game funds solely for such things as $6,500 knives and $5,000 bottles of antibiotics. You have to slay an absurd number of zombies to earn enough cash to afford, well, anything. Zombies are also worth experience points, but these seem completely useless at present since the character skill tree system is nonfunctional and grayed out on the main menu. Well, you can use them to buy character skins. Theoretically. It costs 150,000 XP to buy a single ex-cage fighter skin, and you get 5 XP for killing a run-of-the-mill zombie. The math does not work out in your favor.

The pay-to-play structure is a huge problem with The War Z across the board. The game can be bought three different ways solely from the official website. (It was pulled from Steam in December after buyer complaints.) You can spend $15 for the base game, which includes not a single shekel of in-game marketplace gold credits (GC), or you can go for either a $25 or a $50 package that includes the base game plus in-game bucks. Virtually no half-decent items come with the default character loadout, and there isn't much worthwhile gear to be found on the map. Another game currency earned by looting dead zombies can be used only on the aforementioned menu of spectacularly expensive stuff, so you soon find yourself all but forced to buy weapons and survival gear with real money to stay even slightly competitive.

The overall pricing scheme doesn't look too bad at first and seems somewhat balanced, since you can't buy things like guns. Five bucks gets you 625 GC, which sounds reasonable since you can pick up basic gear like a spiked baseball bat for 142 GC and binoculars for 89 GC. Even skins that are as pricey as the Hope Diamond when bought with XP come down to an affordable 376 GC.

But this micropayment system will bleed you dry in the long run. You rarely get to keep what you buy. Getting killed almost always results in your corpse being looted. You can easily spend $10 in the store kitting out your player with a weapon, binoculars, food, and drink--and then lose it all mere seconds into the game after a hidden bandit headshots you and swipes everything. This makes player killing an even more attractive strategy for anyone who doesn't want to spend real money, which further feeds into the vicious circle that is The War Z.

Melee combat is just mindless button mashing. So even when you win, you lose.

Technical problems cause more frustration. Hacking remains so common that the in-game chat thread is always packed with warnings of cheaters occupying sections of the map. A number of promised features don't exist. Bugs regularly boot you from servers, which can cause you to lose gear that you've just scavenged. Technical problems have also caused the servers to go down for lengthy stretches.

Zombies often freeze in place during combat, causing a crash. Even when the undead are shambling around, they have a weird inability to hit you when you've ascended to even the shortest of platforms: climb onto a crate, and you're invincible. Odd graphical artifacts are common, like your hat remaining suspended in midair long after a zombie has eaten you. Day-night cycles plunge you into pitch darkness for long stretches with only a flashlight and a dim moon to light your way. This ramps up the overall difficulty, especially if you spawn in at night for your first experience with the game. Nothing is quite so frustrating as appearing in complete darkness, flipping on a flashlight, and getting clubbed to death by a camping player lurching out of the shadows.

The look of the game is as backward as the rest of the production. Most of the map consists of generic wilderness with jaggy trees and grass, fairly realistic water, and blocky buildings that you generally can't enter. Animations are choppy, flicker is common, and the frame rate constantly dips into the teens on computers that more than meet the recommended system requirements. Zombies come at you with a weird, shoulders-locked shuffle frighteningly reminiscent of how that kid in the orange shirt danced in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

You got that right.

There is a small variety of character faces and bodies, so the game is populated with about a half-dozen models that you meet over and over again, living and living dead alike. Sound effects are nonexistent aside from zombie growls, atmospheric noises in the woods, and combat thunks. Music is limited mostly to the title screen, but that tune is a creepy number with an ominous bass line and jarring techno effects. Unfortunately, this song is also a barefaced rip-off of the title track from American Horror Story, just slowed down a bit and very slightly altered to ward off lawyers.

This interesting idea of combining zombie-themed survival horror with a massively multiplayer online game sandbox has been left unfinished and unfocused. The whole thing is tied up in the neat bow of a punitive payment system that all but forces you to shell out real-world cash for equipment that will likely be looted from your corpse mere minutes after the cash register has rung. The only way to draw even the tiniest bit of entertainment from the game is by playing on nearly empty servers to avoid the player-killing cheaters and focus on the undead. Even then, you soon get fed up with the dreary zombie combat, or some hacker shows up and puts you out of your misery. Fighting zombie hordes in an apocalyptic wasteland has never been so depressing.

The Good
Tense atmosphere, since you never know when you could be killed
The Bad
Brutal player killing and cheating are spectacularly frustrating
Micropayment system is a tremendous rip-off
Broken zombie behavior
Huge, mostly empty map
Dated visuals and animations
2
Terrible
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Discussion

522 comments
Aekar
Aekar

Thank you for this review. I however disagree with it, and also with this score, so wanted to share my opinion.

Let's dive and see what happens in your reactions...

To begin, the game felt really good to me. It is available for free - no payment required, and already provided me many more feelings than the AAA titles.

It was the first FPS game where I had a chance at teaming - I mean really teaming - and us protecting each other. Teaming like, chatting, making plans, not knowing what to expect.

 I mean, come on. In other FPS games (cursed CoD, cursed BF, etc) people only get shots at people, possibly from the most hidden place etc. Other FPS games have always been far, so far from the early experiences I had in counterstrike beta stage, where I could have momentum, chat with enemies and allies alike, we even got to "know" each other. That was something I had hoped to find again, but no luck, other games only provided crap in that respect.

I was beginning to believe that the "FPS communities" just shifted to get all crappy and lacking respect.

 WarZ (Survivor Stories) was the first game to provide me again with a nice situation. Better than a MMORPG community situation, even, even more given that I was on a free server.

 

So, it was my first run, it was on a trial server (free version), so maybe it was... luck ? or maybe regular servers are more spawned. Also, I picked a low population server, on purpose.

I was on a free trial account, server was Colorado 2. I saw a quick live broadcast of a game, that interested me into it, so I knew I had to take care out there. But I still got the creeps at the very first minute. Having played a realistic FPS game before (World War 2 Online) I knew I had to use every kind of shadow and cover, but wow... zombies sure are scary. You hear them - at night, I located where to strike or the direction to face from the sounds, even ; it was a strong moment.

But let's get back ; so I was a total noob. As a "newb", I began to get in touch in global chat with a few other survivors. One of them immediately gave me a few advice ; turn my flashlight off ; yes, it can also be used as a weapon ; and get out of points of interest fast! Also, i got advised to avoid the town named Smallville. Player Killers are "bandits", and I indeed saw that one fifth of the current users were branded as outlaws; and these were rumored to be there.

After a while, I met my first zombies, near a downed chopper. I did not dare attack them. This game is really scary, so I was totally believing a flashlight wasn't a relevant weapon to attack four or more military zombies. But I was still thirsty, and without supplies.I continued my travel to another place, while still chatting a bit with other survivors.

After some more minutes, the players I was talking to were really friendly. They eventually invited me.

We were three. We drafted a plan to meet up ; I traveled south to the closest of them. Always I checked the map, the time of day, and my surroundings. At times I dug in shadow, at times I ran. Once we met in a house, he helped me freely with a soda - my character was thirsty to death already - and we discussed about how to meet with the last of our group, our most experienced player as it seemed, a true survivor named "Axe" something. The player helped me with a melee weapon, and we went off.

Just some minutes after, bang! our veteran player got killed, in Smallville, by PKs. He left us a few words, before being sent back. Means a super survivor down.

And by then, we were still far from the place.

Night was coming, we were low on food and water, we had no real weapon. Things were looking dim. 

I asked my teammate: "what's the plan now?" ;

He replied: "We turn south. At least there, we don't know what to expect."

That was damn right. Both players were smiling, and scared to death. We moved south.

There, we fought a number of zombies. Protected each other side by side. We found written notes too, in one of the houses.

After some time covering each other, fighting with clubs, exploring houses at night, what was due to happen, happened; as I was badly hurt, my friend tried to cover me more, and as he was walking backwards and holding three zombies, he hit a tree. He was in a so bad situation I risked myself again. I eventually died from this last zombie attack.

The 15 minutes cooldown - it is 15 minutes, not one hour! - reminded me that it was 1 AM here at home, so I logged out.


So, the true facts from the review:

- some technical bugs; I had three computer crashes (big ones), meaning one about every 20 minutes.I hope I'll be able to take these out by fine tuning the options.

- yes, there are player killing, and zombies too. Give me the creeps all the time!

 - web based games already had things like PKs taking loot from players, but also just as did Everquest MMO of old on PVP servers (yes, stinking fireball-shooting pvp gnomes... ;) )  ... this is a pve/pvp environment with looting allowed, just like many mmo pvp games of old. This does not surprise me, but people have to be warned. I just think the reviewer took it as a surprise whereas the open world here also includes the pvp aspect. I really think the review is off mark with such score and opinion about this.

A few facts look quite exagerated from the version we have now.

The game deserves a better score.

My experience was far better than what other FPS provided to me.

I hope players will still come to this title, and enjoy it.

And after all - it's free ;) - free account and servers. Only one character slot, but it's fine as it is, I would say.

randalmcdaniels
randalmcdaniels

This a completely different game from when it was released, i am a dayz fan and i used to laugh at the idea of playing warz, but then i tried it one day and ive never gone back.

mattydigs2
mattydigs2

Speaking of false advertising - This is not an ISS review. This is a War Z review from ALMOST A YEAR AGO. Way to mislead your members here. It is by no means accurate anymore, nor was it in the first place .

pin70
pin70

Tested trial, game is actually fun to play with friends... only a few zombies bug and some strange disconnecting mostly caused by punkbuster, and the 1 hour respawn... other than that it is actually kind of good...

ZombieVirolina
ZombieVirolina

Can we get an updated review?  Is it at least worth $15 now?

noandno
noandno

Can I score this game lower than 1.0?

Rertezjui
Rertezjui

Please note that all positive comments below were submitted by accounts created on the day the comments were made. Guess why... You've been warned before buying this crap!

Tidal_Abyss
Tidal_Abyss

That 'looks' terrible. Other more worthy games for my $.

theblackfrog
theblackfrog

the most problem is the devs give a f*** about their community/customers and it seems they dont know what they are doing. every 3-4 weeks a small patch and it get worse like last patch. they promise too much and cant implement it like stronghold or cars. its a full rip off and i feel sorry for the ppl who bought the legendary account....btw i got a warning saying this on the forum :P

on their homepage the pictures are all faked, i mean that say it all

Mattydigs1
Mattydigs1

Proof positive that metacritic or the blogosphere is by no means always reliable. All I can say is think for yourself. For me, it's the best 15 bucks I ever spent, hands down. Playing with a huge clan and no one can touch us. Hacker problem is being addressed and is better in general. Skill trees are in now. 100 man servers. Regular updates. It's only getting better. Don't believe the smear campaign is all I can say, I love this game. I play literally every day and so does everyone in my clan. 

Pretty sad that a bunch of people who never played the game or barely played just sit on the internet and cry and whine about it like little pansies.

zeta
zeta

Its funny how some people are hating the score (well deserved, btw..). It is crap. get over it.

gtandiono
gtandiono

played it in a friend's place, I just wanted to whack zombies with a flashlight, and the in-game world chat is HILARIOUS, and that's the only reason he got the game.

e1337prodigy
e1337prodigy

Thanks for the review, I just saw this on steam and was about to buy it because there was no demo. But the most stupid thing has to be the micro transactions, only to lose it 10secs into the game. I couldn't believe this at first so had to read a few more reviews. The only way this game could get any worse is if it was pay monthly too... or is it? 

KableCastle
KableCastle

Man, you crouch when you running for the Zombies, and you want not be killed ? Seriouly ? Man, stop making Review. Seriouly. STOP! You only speaks of the bad parts of the game. Talk about the Good things TOO. DayZ have no BUGS ? NO CHEATS ? Man, you are so dumb. Everything you said. It was a lie, I do a Review better than you.

JCurtS
JCurtS

Just the simple fact that he said "I'm glad Sony decided to go with 8gb RAM" proves that it will not be better then PCs for years to come. 8gb of ram is pretty standard on most PCs for the past year at least. They should have gone with 16gb at least since it's probably the cheapest thing to upgrade quickly (in a PC at least). That being said, I hope the PS4 is successful and sells tons o' units, since right now it seems like they're making all the wrong decisions down @ Microsoft with the whole "used game" fiasco and DRM crap. I hope none of that is true, or at least they change their minds about it before it launches.

-JMD-
-JMD-

Ohhh, dude.... Common.... The game deserves a 1.0... 2.0 is to mutch, the game wont live to those expectations if the players think this game is a 2.0...... common

Nympher
Nympher

This guy reviewing the game has some real brain issues. Never seen such a partial review.

Wonder how much money he got from the dayZ developers to do this shitty review. It shown nothing about the game. And he thinks he knows what the game is about but got no clue at all.

Brett Hope, do not ever make a review about a game again. Its kinda obvious you dont know a shit about gaming at all!

mydixiwrecked
mydixiwrecked

hey Brett, Do me a favor and ACTUALLY play the game how it is supposed to be played before you go down talking it. if you actually went around and found guns your would freaking survive. and another little tip is when getting chased by zombies dont run in a straight line noob. one more thing when u hit zombie in the freaking stomache then of course its gonna take 12 hits to kill the dang thing. hit in the head or find hammer that takes 3 hits to kill it. just because u suck at the game dosent mean its bad. go back to hello kitty island reviewing seems like thats what ur good at mate.

cowkiller321
cowkiller321

@Aekar Hey, ever heard of safe areas, newbie areas, etc? Even the most hardcore, open word pvp MMO with PK and everything has them. It's called "actually developing a game".

 There are dozens of online games, FPS, MMORPG, MOBA, etcetc, free to play and sub, micropayments and whatever, great, good, bad and average, you choose. Just don't make us think that this game is worth to play just because it won't give you cancer.

ewjiml
ewjiml

@pin70  

Yeah it's "kinda" good.  If you guys like mediocrity, then play this game now!! 

Aekar
Aekar

@ZombieVirolina Try it for free - the free version let you have one character slot, which is plenty enough, and the test server is like a regular one.

You may then decide on your own. I disagree with micheal, but to each his own.

GrayWolf448
GrayWolf448

@theblackfrog 

i feel sorry for my self too :/ i got that pack....

 but the good thing is that when i join private servers some people think im the admin because my user name is gold :3

Rifee_
Rifee_

@Mattydigs1 

How is it fun when noone can touch you? There is no fun if there's no suspense or challenge....

theblackfrog
theblackfrog

@Mattydigs1 bad things in beautiful words :P the game is somehow fun for 15 bucks but its a rip off game when u see the ingame shop, the pictures on their website which are all faked, the regular patches mostly suck coz it getting worse with them. it was it is and will ever be a scam to the ppl.

Alexk91
Alexk91

@Mattydigs1 Almost as sad as a pansy that tells people to think for themselves and then disregards the opinions that differ from his own.

mattydigs2
mattydigs2

@KableCastle You're totally right.  You'll find that most of the 'reviews' are just like that too. Which is why I made my comment about the entire blogosphere being full of crap.

Dickyslamm
Dickyslamm

@KableCastle Yes yes Yo do da rewviu good pls? Yo spekie so guud engreesh dat it havve be guud rite?

Dickyslamm
Dickyslamm

@Nympher "Wonder how much money he got from the dayZ developers to do this shitty review" Hahaha ok, its only almost the lowest ranking game of all time by ALL reviewer sites put together. Nice pathetic try.

xover88
xover88

@Nympher Nympher is a clearly an ignorant so we should ignore this guy. I think he is one of employee in Hammerpoint. It's okay when you already spend so much money on WarZ without knowing that it is a pure shit and got offended by this review.

The truth why this game received a low score is because there is no passion went into this game for any of their customers but just a pure greed like for example Big Rigs. It really deserved 0.1 since Gamespot can't give 0 for their reviews.

-JMD-
-JMD-

@Nympher dude, are you serious? Or are you just kidding and being sarcastic? I dont get it...

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Nympher What are you talking about? Brett has been writing for GameSpot for close to a decade; he most certainly know what he is talking about. 

Yes--I am sure the DayZ developer are just rolling in dough :/

The game is awful. If you find any factual errors, feel free to email them to me: kevin@gamespot.com. 

Nympher
Nympher

@PietHenkJan indeed. Guys if you really wanna see the full game in action, jump on one of the stream on twitch and you will relize that this guy Brett talking some deep shit!

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@mydixiwrecked I had no idea there was a WarZ defense force, creating GameSpot accounts just to promote their terrible game. It goes to show you that almost any game, no matter how awful, has its rabid fans. 

mattydigs2
mattydigs2

@theblackfrog @Mattydigs1 I just looked at the pics. 4-5 are staged and fakey. They don't have the outright fake pics like the 'dual weild' one up anymore. The rest are legit. Let's just be honest here lol  Not defending the devs, just the game :) The patches have actually improved the game a lot. Not sure what you mean. Please be specific.

mattydigs2
mattydigs2

@Alexk91 @Mattydigs1 Simply responded with logic. There are legitmate reasons to hate on the game, y'know lol But I'm not going to say them here unless someone brings it up ;)

kdavisjr86
kdavisjr86

@mattydigs2 @KableCastle There is far too much evidence saying otherwise. What about the false advertising?  The producer's response to criticism on his forum, or his insults to spawn campers?  Players being falsely banned as hackers?  There is also accusations the developers bribing any bullying people who complain about the game.


I knew this was a bad game for one reason: the producer of this game also produced Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing.

Everyone should have seen this coming.

ricardofs
ricardofs

@Kevin-V @Nympher c'mon. you should know better. compare to most of reviews that some sh*tty games have in here, WarZ deserves a little better. I know 'bout this and i understand both point of views, but i would've give this game 4.5 _at least_! :) someone once told - "making a game... it's not easy." - ... and even online, with a big "map"(platform), even more difficult... why do you have 1 guy judging 1 game? that way, it's logical that some people would come here and "defend" the game. and i think you know* why that happens. (*well.. i 'think' know that...)

kikaider671
kikaider671

@Kevin-V@mydixiwrecked If they didn't defend it, there would be no point to player camp for noobs if people got smart and stopped buying a terrible game. Poor guy is probably resorting to actually killing zombies for loots since the player base dropped. Have some pity for the desperate. :/

cowkiller321
cowkiller321

Hey @mattydigs2  how are you? Say hi from me to @Mattydigs1

Also if you are going to create fake accounts to hype up a game do 2 things:

- Make sure the names don't resemble each other that much.

 - Choose a game that can be somehow hypeable. This one is the closest I've seen to consensual online theft. It not only shouldn't be played, it shouldn't be even available for the sake of gaming.


Best regards.

Ostwind
Ostwind

@ricardofs @Kevin-V @Nympher You obviously enjoy mediocrity. I suggest you gain some experience with gaming before you comment again. Typical youngling.

Infestation: Survivor Stories (The War Z) More Info

  • First Released
    • PC
    Infestation: Survivor Stories, formerly known as The War Z, is an online, multiplayer, survival-simulation game where players are thrust into a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world five years after a viral outbreak has ravaged the human population.
    3.4
    Average User RatingOut of 336 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Infestation: Survivor Stories (The War Z)
    Developed by:
    Hammerpoint Interactive
    Published by:
    Arktos Entertainment
    Genres:
    MMO, Role-Playing
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Intense Violence