The War Z Hands On

Developer: Hammerpoint Interactive / Publisher: Hammerpoint Interactive / Platforms: PC / Release Date: Fall 2012 / ESRB: Not Yet Rated

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You’re in the forests of Colorado. Your stomach is empty and you’ve got half a clip of ammo left in your gun. Aside from that, you’ve got a ratty baseball bat to protect you from whatever may or may not be in the hopefully abandoned cabin just down the hill in front of you. Wind rustles through the trees and you can hear some birds chirping in the distance… but that’s all. As you creep forward, everything appears perfectly placid. You round the corner of the cabin hoping for a door, but instead run headlong into a zombie. Before you can blink he swipes at you knocking your health down to 60 percent.

You panic and shoot, hitting him in the torso which has no affect. Another swipe and now you’re almost dead. You run backwards firing frantically. Just as your gun clicks empty, you peg the monster in the head.  He goes down, but now your gunfire has attracted the attention of all the zombies around you. How many zombies are there? Should you run? Can you take them out with your bat? You’ve scrounged for hours to collect everything in your backpack, how much do you risk to protect it?

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From my time with The War Z, I can tell that moments like this will define the experience. The War Z is an open-world survival horror game, and all that horror stems from very concrete and unforgiving rules about the game world. This starts as basic as how much damage zombies do. In the preview build I played, a good three zombie attacks would kill you flat. Death is not a fuzzy consequence either. All the items you’ve accumulated — guns, ammo, food, bandages, etc — drop when you die. Given that level up bonuses will only be very slight enhancements like the ability to sprint longer or reload faster, the real progression in the game comes from stockpiling instruments of survivability. One bad death can set you back to zero in addition to locking out that character for a day or more while they “recover.” Oh, and of course there’s a “hardcore” mode in addition where death is permanent. If you’re thinking you can just alt-F4 to escape from harsh situations, the developers are one step ahead of you. All character data is stored remotely, and disconnects will just idle your character for a while to make sure you get what’s coming to you.

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This is not a coddling, forgiving world. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to hear Ultima Online referenced more than once during the preview. UO had a very wild west feel to it; almost anything went provided you weren’t in a city under the protection of guards. The same will be true for The War Z. Not only will the zombies threaten to wipe out any progress you’ve made, but other players can gang up and ambush you without warning. There is a system to track this behavior though — kill too many players and you become a “bandit,” thus making you a target to everyone. You can only un-bandit yourself by killing other bandits. It sounds like a simple and self-correcting system that will promote interesting player behavior.

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Speaking of interesting behavior, I’m fascinated by The War Z’s quest system. Rather than conjure up systemic goals like “go kill five zombies” or “find me five cans of food,” players write and post their own quests along with a reward in the game’s safe zones. Say a player ambushes you and steals a gun you really like. You can post a quest for a player to retrieve it for you for a large reward. If they do, it’s up to the honor system for you to actually pay up. Of course, they could just lure you away from one of the game’s safe zones and simply shoot you and take all your items anyway. This open system has the potential for some crazy EVE Online style shenanigans, and I can’t wait to see what stories pop up.

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Some of my fondest memories are rooted in games that are unforgiving and brutal. With unrelenting mechanics and a laissez-faire attitude toward player interaction, The War Z could set the stage for war stories that you recall fondly years after. If you’ve got a dark streak that wants to be punished, look for The War Z when it launches this fall.

  1. Im saddened by the fact that this isn’t coming out for consoles. Still, looks like a killer game though.

  2. http://i.imgur.com/EBOr7.jpg
    Some great images from WarZ showing the not only are they too lazy to make their own assets, they are too lazy to even bother writing their own terms of service.
    http://imgur.com/a/SvNg5

    • You sir are an idiot. War inc and warZ are made by the same people. Do your research.

      • Being made by the same people does not mean you port the exact same game and throw in zombies and call it “BRAND NEW!!!”

        Using assets from a game they had been working on for years also does not qualify it as “In development for years before DayZ”

        But I would love to hear your thoughts about their Terms of Service being directly yoinked from league of legends.

  3. Is this a rip-off of DayZ, or is it the standalone version?

  4. Every time I hear about this game I think of this book:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_Z

  5. Why does every game that is simiilar to another game have to be ripoff? If thats the case then every game out there is a rip off.

    • if its remotely similer then it MUST BE A RIPOFF, like terraria and minecraft (despite the fact one is 2d and one is 3d, but minecraft “invented building with blocks”) or COD and any game with a gun in it, because CoD invented guns and the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” along with any other historical phrase used in the game. people are just silly that way, i do believe this game was in production before DayZ came out, and has since taken some aspects from the game DayZ but its not a ripoff.

      • But this game isn’t remotely similar, it’s almost identical! I can find very few differences between DayZ and the War Z, even the names are identical! And the only reason that people get butt-hurt over CoD clones and Terraria is because that’s the only games 12 year olds know.

        I don’t know who had what idea first, but what is important is that these two games are far too similar to be cast off as a mere coincidence, or even that one “inspired” the other. One of these is ripping off the other.

        (Even though War Z was in production first doesn’t mean it always had this gameplay, the team might have seen Day Z and started changing the game. Unlikely but possible.)

  6. The War Z was in production before Rocket even began developing dayZ for arms 2, and with using old assets, Rocket is doing it to for DayZ, go look at his blog, he actually admits to it, and why wouldn’t you use them, maybe it is lazy but hell I’d prefer more time to go into the mechanics then the assets.

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