As you may (or may not) know, I like zombies. A lot. I enjoy playing Project Zomboid, Left 4 Dead (1 & 2), my phone has a folder crammed with zombie-related apps, and I read World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide at least once a year.
So, when I heard mention of the Day Z mod for Arma2, you can imagine how intrigued I was. Arma2 is a great military sim. In the main it is an infantry simulator, but you can also pilot fixed wing and rotary wing vehicles, jeeps, armoured vehicles and even boats. The premise for Day Z is that an unknown infection has killed most of the world’s population. You are one of the lucky survivors. You’re in Chernarus, an ex-soviet state (the map in the game covers 225 square kilometres(!)) and you’re on your own.
At least, to start with you’re alone. You start along the coast, sometimes even knee-deep in the surf. You have a terrible pistol and a few clips, a couple of bandages, a can of food, a water canteen and a small backpack. To find more supplies and better weaponry, you’re going to have to head into a town or village. The problem is that where there are buildings, there are zombies. Zombies are alerted to your presence when they see or hear you. Moving slowly will of course make you harder to detect but, you know, you’ll also be moving slowly near zombies! Individually, a zombie isn’t a major threat. Once roused, they are fast and they do hit pretty hard. However, even a couple of decent hits from your crappy pistol will drop them. Once you get several zeds after you, you may have a problem.
The main threat though, is other players. When you start the game, you have a humanity level of 2500. You can raise this through helpful acts, such as bandaging other players when they’re gushing blood. If you shoot another player, you lose some humanity. When your humanity level drops enough, your character’s outfit will change from the default “survivor” skin to the “bandit” skin. This makes you a kill-on-sight target for most players. Shooting a bandit is fair game, as they are free targets for everyone. And oftentimes bandits have primo loot, from their player-harvesting antics.
I’ve been lucky in Day Z (so far). I’ve encountered a lot of friendlies and only one bandit (who my ARPS chums and I soon dispatched). For me though, a lot of the fun and tension in playing Day Z comes from the not knowing what will happen when you run into another player. You see it all the time in chat, “Person in Cherno church, friendly?” “Yeah, I’m friendly, come on in”. And personally, I always wonder, are they friendlies? Or are they going to shoot me in my pretty, pretty face? I was on a fairly long cross-country trip in Day Z recently when I spotted a couple of survivors ahead cooking meat on a fire. I took a huge detour to avoid them just to be on the safe side. Though that was as much to protect them as it was me. As time goes on, I’m getting more and more tempted to turn bandit…