GWLS Intro:

Hey there everyone. We’ve always been audience-oriented as much as possible here at Geeks Who Like Sports and as much as Ray plays games, he can’t get to them all. So, we’ve reached out to you, the audience, to submit some fan reviews for some of your favorite games that you’re playing right now. And here is our first fan review from Casey Ewasko for Day Z on Xbox One.

The Day Z Earth Stood Still

Reviewer: Casey Ewasko

Genres: First/Third Person Shooter, Horror, Survival, RPG

Developer: Bohemia Interactive

Publisher: Bohemia Interactive

Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One, and PS4

Beginning its life as a mod for the popular PC game Arma II by developer Bohemia Interactive, Day Z has evolved into a complete stand-alone game with dedicated development teams on multiple platforms. Not until recently, however, did the game join Xbox Game Pass, the Xbox subscription service that gives gamers access to a whole slew of extra games for a monthly fee. And with this recent development, I was introduced to the game for the first time and entered its world of the shambling undead. 

The most important objective in Day Z is to survive. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. Day Z does everything it can to ensure your path to longevity is filled with obstacles and difficulties. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to overcome these obstacles by any means necessary whether they are there by design or unintentionally. First, we’ll take a look at the unintentional hurdles that a new player must overcome before they are able to worry about the lifeless hordes awaiting their arrival.

When you start off, you are simply spawned onto the map and from there it’s all on you. Control issues quickly become evident as there is little in the way of guidance or on-screen prompts. Even reviewing the button binds in the controller guide section is a chore due to poor labeling and an unclear diagram. I suspect that these issues could exist because this game was originally designed to be played by someone using a keyboard and mouse and the ease of access to inventory they provide. But more work should’ve gone into the port of the game to other systems to better prepare players who haven’t played Day Z or even Arma II on PC before. 

Before all this, though, you need to select your server, as again is common in PC games. There are two tabs, the first labeled “Official” and the other “Custom”. The Official server list is generated by the developers while the Custom section is filled with user generated servers and usually contain modified rule sets. I stuck with the Official tab as I wanted to play the game as intended by the creators. I will admit, however, that custom servers could prove to be useful if you want to deviate from the original visions sought by the creators.

One of the qualms I have with the server list is the lack of a briefing about why server choice is important. Day Z utilizes persistent worlds in each of its servers. If you choose to play on a server and decide to exit (your exit location is saved for re-entry), and decide to join a different server, you will spawn in the default location which could be anywhere along the coast. You will retain your equipment but not your previous location (goodbye cozy cabin in the northwestern woods!). This makes it important to remember the server number if you plan to return to where you left off. There is no mention of this when picking a server to play on which could lead to some interesting issues if you’re not careful such as the increased chance of encountering another player as you will spawn in one of the default locations. I understand this was implemented last year as an anti-ghosting feature to prevent people from spawning into other people’s camps (a long-running issue for the game on PC after some research), but the absence of the PC-prompt here on Xbox was infuriating.

Once I worked through the initial issues mentioned above, I finally arrived on the coast ready to dispatch cousin Zed and his undead cronies. It was roughly midday with plenty of sun and a slight breeze. Graphics and sound are done very well here. This is highlighted by day/night cycles as well as different weather patterns ranging from overcast clouds to torrential downpours complete with lightning and thunder. The sun casts accurate shadows, the trees swaying in the wind, and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore made it feel that much more believable. 

After taking a few moments to get acquainted with my new environment, I moved to the nearest town to find some supplies and pick a fight with a zombie. It did not end well. After delivering a knuckle sandwich to my first undead victim I was greeted by three of his friends who promptly tore me apart in the middle of the street. “YOU ARE DEAD” is the message I was greeted with followed by a fade to red. Persistence also extends past just the server and map. If you die in Day Z, you are dead forever. All that cool stuff tucked into that sweet backpack. The badass pistol and holster you found in the police building are gone. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. 

Upon close examination, though, this permadeath makes complete sense. Why would I care if I died if there wasn’t some sort of penalty for kicking the bucket? As mentioned before, survival is your main objective above all else, and should you fail, you will be punished. This means that every encounter and the possible outcome carry that much more weight.

The zombies are no joke. If you make too much noise, get too close, or pick a fight there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself outnumbered rather quickly. This is how they get you. Not by mutated super-zombies, rather, the collective of zombies within earshot that rush to your location after an altercation. This is especially compounded if you decide to use a firearm. Guns are loud in real life and equally so in Day Z. The first time I fired a weapon I honestly jumped in my seat. Should you find yourself in a situation that calls for you to discharge your firearm be prepared for at least 10 more zombies to rush you from all directions. My best advice here is to use melee weapons for a quiet approach or shoot and get to cover. Be warned when using firearms though, as you must load each round individually, which requires time—a luxury you simply do not have in most cases. 

Once I established a game plan on how to deal with the undead, I began to loot the surrounding area for food, water, and supplies. While looking through one of the many houses, I heard the footsteps of another player approaching me. As I moved to cover to find out who was nearby, a voice came over the VOIP (proximity chat) telling me to place my machete on the ground and to walk slowly out to the street. With nowhere to run, I complied, and moved outside where I was greeted by three players with full military gear. They promptly handcuffed me and instructed me to move to a building next to the one I was in. They began to interrogate me with questions such as, “Where was I headed?” and “Do you have any friends in the area?” While questioning was being conducted another player went through my inventory taking what they wished. I began to struggle, but was met with the buttstock of an assault rifle. They then decided to force feed me bleach causing my untimely death. Trust no one. I learned this life lesson very quickly and have adjusted my approach to other players accordingly. They can kill you, rob you, kidnap you, or even torture you. You can, however, do the same in return should this particular style of gameplay appeal to you. My best advice to a “fresh spawn” is this: find food, find water, and get inland as quickly as possible as loot gets better the more inland you travel.

You have many aspects that are constantly at play here such as hydration, nutrition, and overall well-being. If any of these details are overlooked, you will die. I have died more times due to malnutrition and dehydration than anything else. Just know that a good rule to follow would be “Could I eat or drink this in real life and not worry about any adverse effects?” If you find the answer to be “no” then it may be a good idea to rethink your strategy. 

Following the theme of immersion, some other features should be noted. Use the sun, moon, and stars to aid in navigation if the situation allows. There will be times when you simply cannot see these due to weather patterns but maintaining situational awareness is paramount in your survival. Weather plays a large role here. If it is raining you will get wet and so will your gear if not properly protected by raincoats or waterproof backpacks. When your character gets wet from rain or traversing a body of water, some gear and clothing will not function as intended and you could become cold/fall ill complete with coughing and sneezing. 

Things like having to load each round of ammunition into a magazine before it can be loaded into your firearm, as well as maintaining said firearm so it does not jam during a firefight are interesting aspects that add levels of realism to your experience. There are also crafting mechanics in place to allow players to make tools, start a fire, build camps, build bases, repair cars, and repair equipment (Duct tape is the real MVP).

While most games use the traditional architecture to tell a story, Day Z uses no such foundation. This could be viewed as a weakness by some accounts. However, my advice is to look at the game in a different way. Rather than a novel complete with different chapters that follow a linear storyline, Day Z could fall in the category of pick your own adventure or a collection of short stories. This feature is what makes the game unique because every life can be played out completely different from the last.

I recommend Day Z for anyone that has interest in hardcore survival style games as well as those who enjoy open world exploration with heavy RPG elements. If you have Xbox Game Pass, give it a shot. It’s worth a try at the very least. It should be noted, though, that there are issues with the UI as well as the first-time user experience that may create an unnecessary barrier to new players that I would like the developers address in the future. 

PROS:

  • Extremely immersive experience that is made possible by unique mechanics, sound effects, and interactions with other players.
  • Runs better graphically than most console titles that are equal in scale.
  • Persistent servers/game world.
  • No formal restraints to gameplay which means you play how you want without any story-driven consequences.
  • Day and night cycles as well as different weather patterns. Navigation via the sun, moon, stars, and other environmental details. 
  • Encounters with other players can lead to some unique experiences.

CONS:

  • The learning curve for Day Z is nothing to scoff at. Its steep and it is brutal to those that do not pay attention to detail. This is the main barrier to new players which could lead to frustration or leaving the game before they learn the ropes. 
  • The controls! Inventory navigation can be frustrating. The inventory screen could use some polish for controller users. 
  • No mention of the importance of remembering the server name if continuity is important to an individual player.

SCORE:

Originally released for PC on December 16th, 2013, Day Z has since received ports to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Most recently Day Z has been added to Xbox Game Pass on May 7th, 2020. Scoring will be conducted using the Batman villains scale.

  • 0: Crazy Quilt (why was this game even released!)
  • 1: Egghead
  • 2: King Tut
  • 3: Calendar Man
  • 4: Killer Croc
  • 5: Man-Bat (average)
  • 6: Two-Face
  • 7: Poison Ivy
  • 8: Penguin
  • 9: Riddler
  • 10: Joker (pure gaming nirvana that may lead to disruptions in personal lives)

On a scale of Crazy Quilt to The Joker Day Z flips a coin and lands on the good side with a Two-Face (6).

Day Z gets a 6 out of 10.

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