The War Z: First Impressions
Zombies are a funny thing. It seems to be a given that, as a geek, you think zombies are cool. For the most part, zombies are indeed cool. But I think it’s safe to say that we’re starting to hit the point of over-saturation.
The shambling undead are everywhere right now, have been for a while. Zombie books, comics, walks, television programmes. Zombie videogames. There are so many out there that a zombie video game has to do something very interesting to stand out from the crowd. The War Z is one of those games.
Currently in development by Hammerpoint Interactive, The War Z is a zombie apocalypse MMO, which drops players into a devastated world five years after a viral plague has destroyed civilization as we know it. The rule of law is gone and the few remaining human survivors have been forced into a brutal fight for survival. It sports both PVP and PVE modes, with social hub “safe settlements” in which your character can find some small measure of peace and quiet. Even with the ability to switch between 1st and 3rd person views and promised regular updates by the developers, it’s all sounding very much like any other MMO you care to mention.
Look a bit closer, though, and some interesting features start to peek their heads above the crowd.
First and foremost is that the game will offer two modes of play: Normal and Hardcore. Normal functions much as one might expect, with death resulting in a cooldown period before your character gets back into the action. Hardcore mode offers a slightly greater challenge: death is permanent. Permadeath is a brave move and always controversial in MMOs. Some people thrive on the knowledge that every step their character takes could be their last. Other players find it stifling and restrictive, something that prevents them from relaxing and just enjoying the game.
The payment model is also something of a departure. The game is available as a single, purchasable download; there’s no need for a subscription or in-game purchases and microtransactions. This isn’t a common payment model for MMOs. In fact, the only one I can think of that’s done so successfully is Guild Wars. This system does work, but if the game fails to build momentum quickly post-release, it’s hard to keep it going.
Something else of note is that the game will be playable through the usual public servers one might expect, but also will feature the ability to create and run private servers. With most MMOs, a private server is strictly against the rules; essentially it means running a pirated copy of the game’s server side for your own benefit, giving you or other server admin almost complete control over the world. Exactly how an official private server might work, and the scope of the tools available to the person running it, could very well give The War Z the extended longevity it will need to make a profit.
The game is due out for PC in autumn of this year and is currently still in alpha testing, so it’s hard to judge how it’s going to play. But as you can see from the screenshots above, it’s looking very nice already. Closed beta testing is due to open up soon, so head over to The War Z’s website, sign up and keep your fingers crossed.
Alternatively, if you fancy some more zombie action, you can follow my Project Zomboid visual diary thing. Project Zomboid is an isometric open-world zombie survival RPG. It’s a smashing little game, still being developed by an indie studio and well worth checking out.
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