You awake on the shore of a desolate part of Russia known as Chernarus at the peak of a zombie-apocalypse as one of the few survivors left in the post-soviet state. You check your backpack and find basic survival gear. You find food, water, medical supplies, and most importantly your pistol. The rest is up for you to discover. Do you stay on the shore, setting up camp and wading the disaster until help arrives, or do you stray into the unknown towns and valleys of Chernarus instead of help coming to you?
The game itself is Arma 2, available on Steam. It’s a modern combat game but the real gem is the mod that has recently been released in alpha state, known as DayZ. After purchasing Arma 2 and one of it’s expansions known as Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead, you get Arma 2: Combined Operations. After that, a quick download of the mod prepares you for an online zombie survival game that will keep you striving to live for hours.
The game features a massive map, one that a person could spend hours running around to find their target location. That being said, vehicles are scarce, helicopters even scarcer. Without the convenience of these modes of transportation, it’s vital to travel the world on foot looking out for the many zombies (upwards of 1000 per server) and either avoiding or getting the attention of other players. Why avoid them you ask? Well, let’s just say that friendly fire is on. When a survivor murders another survivor, one of their meters turns red. This is their “humanity meter”. After the kill, the player is burdened with a new skin and a “bandit” tag before their name, so they can be easily identified.
Meters are a thing to look out for in this game. You have needs and these meters tell you when it’s crucial to satisfy them. You have humanity, thirst, blood loss, and hunger. Keeping these green keeps you alive. In addition to these realistic needs, your surroundings keep it real as well. There are weather changes, and the day/night cycle runs real-time depending on what server you’re on. When nightfall rolls around, there’s no telling what can happen. You could log off taking a break on a trail in the woods, and when you log back in during the night time, you won’t know where to go. Seasoned veterans will know towns and forests like the back of their hands and can navigate easily, but for a newcomer you won’t know what to do. The most you can do is drop a flare and hope someone else sees it, as it seems that people are friendlier when it’s night time and they’re equally as scared as you.
Initially you start off with some lame gear, but as you adventure and get to know the map better, you’ll know where to gather supplies and where to wait for spawns. Weapons spawn in many locations, and there are a few that stand out. The better your weapon and the better your ammo, the more likely you are to survive a firefight regardless of skill. There are assault rifles like the AK47, snipers like the CZ 550, sub-machine guns like the MP5, and much more. If you like to be more subtle about your killing, the crossbow will treat you kindly. One thing to note is that there are no melee weapons, and if you run out of ammo in the heat of a firefight or a zombie bout, you’re toast brah.
If you find friendly players you can do a lot of interacting in addition to seeing and being able to talk to each other. If the player is bleeding you can bandage him, inject him with morphine, even do a quick blood transfusion. If you want to survive you need friends, and you need them to live. On the other hand, if you want to be a lone wolf or a bandit you can murk every survivor you see or keep yourself a priority and cater only to your own needs.
As for the core gameplay, you have a lot of controls for everything in a standard modern combat FPS, after all the game is designed to be a war game. Adjusting brightness settings can help you see at night, and the sounds are terrifying. You know when a zombie is chasing you, because you’ll hear them and their footsteps right behind you and you won’t dare stop running. If you get hit too much by either a zombie attacking you, getting shot, or taking damage from falling, you can go into a stunned state where you can’t control anything until the timer runs out. You fall to the ground and all you see is your empty hand and the horizon. When you die, your stats get reset and you’re forced to rejoin the server to respawn. A little inconvenient but that’s what you get for dying. When you die, you’re back to square one on the shore with only a pistol and basic gear. On the other hand, you can quit at any time and the server will save you at the exact location with all of your gear, which you can also stash in tents or vehicles.
The community is tight as well. Like I said earlier, it’s in alpha stage so there is a lot of user input that can make for greater improvements to an already astounding mod. The forums have sections for survivors and bandits alike, allowing you to voice your opinion on a matter or start a clan to roam the map with. In-game you can also chat with everyone on the server (upwards of 60 players) and ask for meet-ups or to organize a clan there as well. My only complaint is the amount of bandits that are just out to spawn with the pistol and kill everyone they see. I can appreciate players who put some craft into their devious ways but there’s a part of that side of the game that disappoints me. That being said, there are plenty of class players who will gladly take you in at first glance, so there is always skepticism as well as never ending hope.
If this sounds like your kind of game, check out Arma 2 and it’s expansion Operation Arrowhead. If you purchase off Steam together the deal is $30, if you purchase them separately they are $20 each. If you buy retail I’m not sure how much they are. The mod is free, and hopefully it will stay that way. If you wish to attempt to obtain these in a pirate-y fashion, I cannot make any guarantees. There are over 100 active servers with growing capacities of up to 60 players. You need fairly decent system specs to run this game smoothly. My computers pretty mediocre and I can get by with minimal lag as long as I optimize the video options. In conclusion, I hope to see you washed up on the shore ready to take on the most daring and difficult mission of our lives. My Steam is dylanbrochill. I will end with a quote. When I entered my first server I heard that tents were important for survival, so I asked “where can I find a tent?”. A player replied “the same place you find everything else, somewhere”.