The War Z preview: Zombie apocalypse

Surviving a zombie apocalypse is hardly a new concept in games, with many of them visiting this idea through action games and shooters. The War Z, from Arkos Entertainment Group and Hammerpoint Interactive, takes the zombie game in bold new directions, placing a heavy emphasis on surviving in a desolate sandbox environment for as long as possible.

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Surviving a zombie apocalypse is hardly a new concept in games, with many of them visiting this idea through action games and shooters. The War Z, from Arkos Entertainment Group and Hammerpoint Interactive, takes the zombie game in bold new directions, placing a heavy emphasis on surviving in a desolate sandbox environment for as long as possible. The War Z is best described as an ultra-realistic MMO survival game that places everything in the hands of the players. The world is massive, starting out at 160 square kilometers. Many of the abandoned towns are infested with zombies. It's up to players to clear those areas of the undead before setting up a safe settlement to recreate a semblance of society. "Most of these games stick to one aspect of the zombie apocalypse lore," said The War Z producer Sergey Titov. "You either shoot zombies, you survive, or you work on rebuilding society. We kind of merged them all together. From our standpoint, when players start playing the game, there are two distinctive stages. You spend time exploring the world, scavenging for supplies and weapons. And after you get comfortable and learn how the world works, how the zombies work and how they behave, that moves you to the next stage. The next stage is social interaction with other players. " Social interaction in this case extends to the game's mission structure. As far as missions go, The War Z completely forgoes the traditional formula. In keeping with the post-apocalyptic theme, there are no friendly NPC's in the world, whatsoever. That leaves the task of coming up with missions to the players themselves. Players can put out open calls to parties to complete tasks, like forage a nearby town for supplies or put out bounty hits on specific zombies. In exchange, the parties are rewarded with currency or items from the player's own inventory. It's an interesting twist on the MMO formula and one that will hopefully lead to some unique user-generated scenarios. Ultra-realism is a major feature of The War Z, as players will need to be aware of their actions at all times. Players have two separate meters, in addition to their normal health meter, to indicate hunger and thirst. Food and liquid must be consumed throughout the day to fill those gradually-depleting meters. When nearing zombie-filled areas, players must be careful not to make too much noise, as the undead will chase down anything they hear. And as soon as players are ready to take up arms, they must compensate for real-world weapon physics, including recoil for assault rifles and controlled breathing for sniper rifles. The War Z will contain two separate difficulty levels -- Normal and Hardcore. Both deal with player death in a serious manner. Player characters that die in Normal mode will not see action again for an indeterminate period, though Titov estimated something close to a full day. Characters that die in Hardcore mode meet an unceremonious end, as they will be permanently lost. Players will be able to create up to five characters and they can share items with each other through a global inventory slot. However, characters can only access the global inventory when near a safe settlement.

Clear out the zombies, then you can build safe areas.

Once players learn the aesthetics of The War Z and its world, the next step is learning to interact with fellow players. Players can band together to form parties for supply runs and for general zombie hunting. However, players must also be wary of troublemakers, because humans can prove just as dangerous as zombies. Players can kill other players at literally any point in the game, regardless of whether they're out in the open or in the hallowed grounds of safe settlements. And just as players can assign hits on zombies, they can also likewise assign bounty hits on other players, as well. Of course, to prevent outright trolling of others, each safe settlement has sentries that will attack out-of-control players deliberately attacking humans in those areas. After clearing remote areas of zombies, players can opt to build over it to create safe settlements for themselves, their supplies, and their clan of friends. However, some players have exercised creativity in crafting their strongholds. Titov recounts a story of one of the game's testers building a gladiator arena around a player spawn point using wooden barricades. He would then lure a pair of zombies into the arena and wait for players to spawn in. Players that survived the arena battle would be welcomed into the clan with loot and cash. After learning of The War Z's features, it was time to jump into the world for myself. With Titov acting as my guide, we spawned into the wilderness in the middle of the night. The darkness limited visibility, even with the flashlight in my inventory. To make things easier, Titov set the game to daylight before taking me on a tour of the neighboring area.

Only head shots will kill a zombie. So no shots to the body.

A town was just across the hill, so Titov showed off the sniper rifle, zooming in on zombies and relieving their heads from their undead bodies. He noted that only head shots could kill zombies, so anyone hoping to get by on body shots will be sorely disappointed. We decided to move in a little closer to see what kinds of supplies we could pick up. Unfortunately, we must have made too much noise, because a herd of zombies snuck up behind us and started reaching for our precious brains. I quickly ran out of ammo on my sniper rifle (not that it would do much good as such close range, anyway), so I tried to melee with my flashlight. That proved a futile gesture, so we picked up and ran away. Titov said running away would prove less useful in the final version of the game, as an endurance system will be fully implemented. Through my short time with the game, I was told that there would be no player leveling or upgrades. There is an experience point system, but it is used as a way to unlock gear, such as larger backpacks, different skills, or new character models. Currency can be used to buy supplies, but there are also rare gold coins that can be used for rarer items. Gold coins are found after disposing of special mutated zombies, who are a rarity in themselves. The War Z is an amazingly ambitious title, putting zombie experience fully in the hands of the players. It will be interesting to see whether players can band together against the zombie menace or turn on each other, Mad Max-style. The War Z is set to begin its closed beta later this fall.
Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 21, 2012 12:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, The War Z preview: Zombie apocalypse.

    Surviving a zombie apocalypse is hardly a new concept in games, with many of them visiting this idea through action games and shooters. The War Z, from Arkos Entertainment Group and Hammerpoint Interactive, takes the zombie game in bold new directions, placing a heavy emphasis on surviving in a desolate sandbox environment for as long as possible.

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      September 21, 2012 12:02 PM

      sounds interesting but how can you write this preview without mentioning and comparing it to Day Z?

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        September 21, 2012 12:07 PM

        Comparisons to Day Z came up during my time with them. Didn't want to mention anything outright in the preview so we could give this game a chance to stand out as its own product.

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          September 21, 2012 12:11 PM

          I can get that but I think anyone interested in this style of game is going to do the comparison themselves anyway so there's little point in trying to shy away from it. Especially given how unique Day Z is, it's not like there's a lot to compare it to or alternatives if some parts of it are putting you off (like how janky it is).

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        September 21, 2012 12:21 PM

        the letter z is in the title and both have zombies. done.

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      September 21, 2012 12:32 PM

      "Characters that die in Hardcore mode meet an unceremonious end, as they will be permanently lost."

      :)

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      September 21, 2012 1:02 PM

      So who copied whose name, Day Z or War Z?

      • rms legacy 10 years mercury super mega
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        September 21, 2012 1:34 PM

        Off-topic, but _Z_ is a great movie!

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        September 21, 2012 1:57 PM

        They both copied the book "World War Z" (coming to theaters June 2013)

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      September 21, 2012 1:06 PM

      [new vid] gameplay

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ko8SWs42m8

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        September 21, 2012 1:22 PM

        That looks awful..

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          September 21, 2012 1:39 PM

          :) yup not good hey, the graphics look nice(in some of the screens shots around) but the gameplay looks stupid it has the dumbest zombies I have ever seen, something is totally off.

          Mind you this probably is alpha so who knows, all they had to do is copy dead island zombie and gameplay and it be golden or Lef 4 Dead, anyways Dead Island is still my fav I hope #2 will own and Day Z in Arma3 engine should be bananas.

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            September 21, 2012 1:50 PM

            They are still in alpha. FWIW, the footage I saw in my time with them looked much more polished. For one thing, graphics didn't stutter at every headshot.

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        September 21, 2012 2:13 PM

        I love the way he pulls two 6'x4' fence board barricades outta the end of his dick.

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        September 21, 2012 6:09 PM

        lol that sure looked suspenseful!

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        September 22, 2012 9:22 AM

        They need to brush up on the audio. Wrong footstep sounds for the indoor material, no real ambient in the mix, bad footstep sounds in general. No ambient zombie sounds. Sounds very dead. But in a bad way.

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          September 23, 2012 12:52 AM

          It`s only Pre Alpha, and they have said, that there will be better sound effects and much more upgraded...

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      September 21, 2012 1:07 PM

      "Player characters that die in Normal mode will not see action again for an indeterminate period, though Titov estimated something close to a full day" wait, does it mean that if i die, i cant play for a day? not sure i get it, so if you have 5 character slots and there is an A-hole running around killing people, if i die with all 5 characters i am done playing this game for 24 hours? am i misreading it?

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        September 21, 2012 1:17 PM

        The idea is that once your character dies in Normal mode, you cannot access that character at all for "X" amount of time. So the implication is that if all of your five character die, you're screwed for a little while. It's meant to make death mean something and add to the realism element.

        Of course, you could always delete a character and start from scratch.

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          September 21, 2012 1:22 PM

          While i agree with them trying to make "Death Experience" to be a bigger deal than just "oh i don't care, i will respawn in 5 seconds", i still don't think that stopping people from playing their game for 24 hours is a good business model...

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            September 23, 2012 5:02 PM

            If you die 5 times, with characters that aren't all in the same place, that says something about your skill level. Now consider you have 1 character dead, 2 in the wilderness, 1 in a jam that you can't log back into without help, and 1 in a safe zone. If all those characters die from the same guy, thats reeeal sad. Also, multiple servers, my fellow. Multiple servers. Don't suck and you can play :D

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            September 23, 2012 5:07 PM

            And yeah you could always delete the character but then you lose skill training. Though you could just play hardcore and it auto-deletes your character every time. You just jump back in and play :P

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      September 21, 2012 1:27 PM

      Make it F2P.. each death is $1.00

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        September 21, 2012 2:09 PM

        This...is an idea worth thinking deeply about.

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        September 21, 2012 6:29 PM

        I thought it was free to play...

        They mentioned having a cash shop for weapons and such, but the weapons would be lost on death. I'm curious to know how that would work out.

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          September 23, 2012 12:50 AM

          Da fuq are you talking about? You can`t buy weapons, only items, like hats... and it wont be F2P, if you had read something at all about this game, you would know.....

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      September 21, 2012 1:53 PM

      Will wait for DayZ standalone hopefully by the end of this year.

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      September 21, 2012 2:02 PM

      I wish shacknews wouldn't support this game as it is shamelessly trying to ride the success of Day Z with it's naming convention.

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        September 21, 2012 2:09 PM

        Worse than the Holocaust.

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        September 21, 2012 5:38 PM

        I no rite? DayZ was the first and only thing to put Z in its name EVAR

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          September 21, 2012 5:55 PM

          Yeah cus Z in name is why DayZ blew up like it did.

          Totally not cus of the gameplay.

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        September 21, 2012 6:07 PM

        IT HAS THE LETTER Z IN IT! TOTAL RIPOFF

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          September 23, 2012 12:53 AM

          They both got the Z in end because of the famous book - World War Z (Movie will come out 2013)

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            September 23, 2012 11:16 AM

            That sounds like a total rip off of the book!

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              September 23, 2012 5:04 PM

              Nah man nah. That was WORLD war Z, this is kinda like "That place that looks like Colorado War Z"

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        September 28, 2012 12:45 PM

        Minecraft shamelessly used Infiniminer's core concept and made it way better. Who cares. May the best game win.

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      September 24, 2012 3:49 AM

      The "bold new direction" is exactly based on the same emphasis as Day Z. Hm!

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