Currently undergoing a rather enduring closed beta testing phase, The War Z has proven a popular point of discussion amongst gamers despite still being months from an official release. This is largely due to some obviously misguided attempts to gain additional attention from the community at large, but still developer Hammerpoint Interactive is keen to reward these earliest of adopters by offering a continual stream of new content. And in Electronic Theatre’s time with the videogame, this is exactly what we experienced.
Beginning with the creation of the player’s character from a limited set of options, The War Z isn’t the most immediate of experiences. Progress is denoted by character rather than in-built checkpoints and the player’s character can exist across all servers and all instances of the videogame they choose to partake in. There is no objective in The War Z aside from survival: characters can find new items and gain experience to increase their competencies and statistics, so while most players will develop a favourite character to play as there will be occasions when a secondary character will be chosen over your lead.
Upon dying a character will take an hour to become available for respawn. Such a penalty is of course designed to encourage survival, but it does simply mean that most players will create several characters. It also greatly increases the frustration of dying at the hands of another player; an all too common occurrence in The War Z just as it is in many online videogames. There are those who choose to play as a ‘bandit’ – a viable and sometimes lucrative career choice – but simply hunting down other players to end their time in the world as opposed to being motivated by self-preservation is a cheap and unnecessary tactic.
With only one map available on official servers at this point many gamers might think that The War Z is quite restrictive, almost claustrophobic. Nothing could be further from the truth however, as the Colorado map is simply huge. As you enter the map for the very first time you’ll be spawned in a seemingly random spot – with potential risk of encountering the undead mere metres away – unarmed and under informed. It’s up to you how you decide to proceed from here, but of course the wisest decision would be to equip yourself with a weapon as quickly as possible. This in itself is no easy task however, as much of the map is devoid of life and useable objects.
Players would be best advised to head to a small settlement. Moving through a city unarmed is only likely to bring death, but running through the wilderness rarely offers anything but trees and rocks accompanied by rocks and trees. Whatever direction the player chooses to move in, they should make it quick and stick with it at all costs for it’s not just health players need to be wary of. The War Z also demands that players pay careful attention to their survival in terms of both food and fluids. Equipped with a single granola bar and can of soda when first entering the world, it won’t be long til these rations are exhausted and a weapon becomes a secondary objective.
There are currently many issues with the technical quality of The War Z – delayed texture loading, misplaced sound effects (oddly, the effect for walking on rock appears to be the same as that for metal presently) but Electronic Theatre is confident these blemishes are already on Hammerpoint Interactive’s ‘to do’ list. Even as it stands The War Z does provide a believable post-apocalyptic world, but not one which stands-up next to many of its contemporaries.
Despite the large number of servers presenting maximum occupancy, The War Z is currently a world in which every man (or woman) fights for themselves. Players may aid one another with tips on locations via the in-game chat (text only at present) but camaraderie is thin-on-the-ground in this early version. As such, progressing to the point where taking down more than one zombie is taken in your stride is nothing short of remarkable, and when faced with a horde most players will simply lie down and accept defeat. The War Z currently presents an inspiring world of opportunity, but little else that would warrant player investment. With months still to go until the final version sees release Electronic Theatre hopes that Hammerpoint Interactive can deliver on all of the promise their virtual world holds, and resist from further promoting the videogame publicly without recognising that good things come to those who wait.