Zombies remain a hot ticket item when it comes to video game IP, and The War Z attempts to create a persistant world that directly competes with DayZ. The developers understand that you can’t beat an established formula by copying that formula. To that end, DayZ and The War Z could not be more different. As far as I’ve seen, their only real similarities are the zombies and the need to collect items to survive.
DayZ offers a complete sandbox, where hoarding is as equally rewarded as killing. Collecting and repairing vehicles, setting up camps and private servers for the stockpile of suplies, exploration and hunting other players for the occasional thrill: these are the draws of DayZ.
The War Z is about player interaction first and formost, and player battle above even that. In the Alpha, at least, there are no vehicles, no tents, no safe havens. You can even put your weapon away and pretent to be helpless, using in-game and voice chat to pretend you have nothing to offer. Ammo and weapons are far scarcer than in DayZ, but even the humble flashlight can bludgeon your enemies into submission. For the next few articles, I’ll discuss the lessons I’ve learned in the wilds of Colorado, so that those not in the Alpha or Beta might be better equipped to maim, shoot, and steal their way to glory.
Enter the fishbowl
The first thing I’ll say to new players is this: you are the biggest target on the map. New spawn or equipped, you will be shot, multiple times, from every angle imaginable. Few people who say they’re friendly are, and the lure of easy loot is too seductive to ignore. There will be snipers in the hills watching every city on the map, and especially the strongholds outlined in red. People will hide in high-value buildings, listening for your footsteps, for you picking up a weapon, eating or drinking. Like DayZ, you will die, a lot.
Unlike DayZ, death is punished via a respawn timer on the character selection page. Do not revive your character. Revives come in with nothing in their inventory. New spawns enter the game with a flashlight, some food and drink. Between the two, the new spawn has the distinct advantage of being able to hit things over the head. As of writing, you have the ability to delete and recreate characters at will. For this reason, when you die, quit to the character selection screen and do just that. Remake your in-game avatar with the same name and outfit, or different as you please, and start again. You’ll have a new spawning location and at least something to go on. If you’re lucky, the game will place you near a military location, where you’ll not only find supplies, but likely a real weapon of some kind. You might even find a gun and some ammo. Then the real fun begins.
It’s a beautiful day to die
The War Z looks amazing, superior to DayZ in almost every way, I think. However, that clarity comes at a cost. All players are easier to see, and you are no exception. But until you actually encounter another human being, you’ll be stuck with zombies and abandoned towns. Surviving either is fairly straightforward.
Zombies in War Z are much more tenacious than those in DayZ. Simply breaking line of sight with a tree will do you no good. You need to make yourself disappear, and stay that way for a good period of time before the zed heads will stop tailing you. There are tricks, the most useful of which is jumping on an intact car, hopping off and immediately crouching. Success is inconsistant at best, and just a glance in your direction will send the zombies scurrying back to your meaty goodness.
When they do manage to catch you, be aware that you have about as much health as a dying badger when it comes to being hit by zombies. Four hits will kill you at full health, and medical supplies are a luxury, not a constant. Bandages, painkillers, and antibiotics are common by loot standards, yes, but they aren’t inventory clutter like they are in DayZ. Their quick use means they can get you out of a tight spot, either with zombies or other players. You’ll use them as quickly as you can find them, faster sometimes, so it pays to be cautious.
The War Z map is large, though not quite on the level of Chernarus. It’s tempting to run everywhere, but your War Z character has limited stamina that takes much longer to refill than to deplete. Plus, the standard trotting pace will keep you relatively invisible from zombies out to a fair distance. In my experience, crouching and prone are only useful when in cities and trying to avoid/hunt down other players. Which you’ll eventually do a lot of.
Gotta gather that gear up!
The War Z map is littered with abandoned camp sites, empty towns, trailer parks, and desolate cities. Surprisingly, at none of these locations will you find a bounty of useful items. A couple pieces of food, some water or soda, and maybe a hammer or a knife. Guns are rare, as are good backpacks and ammo or protective gear. Collectable loot highlights in blue when you get close, and takes about a second to pick up, provided there’s room in your inventory for it. Items do stack, so you can technically have twenty 375mL water bottles and ten granola bars while only using two spaces.
When you come to a location where loot spawns, there’s a percentage chance zombies will be there with it. This chance increases with the value of the loot. For instance, a small trailer park with food and minor items probably won’t have any zombies near it. Vehicles with medical supplies, ammo, or gear might have one or two zombies, and time correctly, these can be avoided. Cities are havens for zombies, but only enough to be something of an annoyance and deterrent. Again, if there’s something particularly high-value, there will be a larger number of zombies nearby, no matter where on the map you are.
No two locations are created equal. The pair of cities present in the Alpha are night and day in terms of importance. The smaller is the prime location for PvP, the larger a sniper’s heaven and less prone to direct conflict. Both offer good loot spawn buildings, and Big City has a very useful building where footsteps go from soft to ear-shattering in no time. Expect campers.
One last thing. Just because someplace is big and well defended, by zombies or otherwise, does not necessarily mean there’s good stuff in there. If the undead wander about a particular building, they may have been lured there as bait for less wary survivors. And even when they aren’t, sometimes the loot they guard isn’t worth the trouble of getting. Usually, but not always. If you know a player is holed up somewhere, and you have a general idea of which way he’s looking, again, be cautious. It might be a stockpile, yes, or it might be a red herring. He could have a guy in the hills watching him, or a few friends in other buildings waiting for you to show up so they can take your stuff.
In the next article, I’ll share my experiences with PvP and how to profit from an unfavorable spawn. Until then, stay alive.