Waking up on a beach, confused, alone and parched, sets the tone for DayZ.
A game with a harsh learning curve that pits you, not only against Infected and the Elements, but the very best and worst in other survivors. ‘Chernarus’ -the base game- takes place in a fictional version of the post-Soviet Republic on a 225km2 behemoth of a map, while ‘Livonia’ -the recent DLC- takes place in the state of Livonia on a more modest 163km2 map.
The Base Game:
LIVE. GEAR. DIE. REPEAT is the basic premise for the majority of DayZ gameplay. I Personally have well over 1000 hours on the PS4 version which I’m reviewing here today, so I can attest to that four word mantra.
But as much as the game can be simplified down, the experience between “LIVE. GEAR. DIE.” are some of the most fun I’ve had in multiplayer gaming.
From the moment you wake up on the beach you’re entirely alone, there’s no map, no objective markers, nothing but the meme of Robert Downey Jr. whispering “Survive”.
The looting system in DayZ is, functionally, a great innovation on the PC version. Though it does suffer from issues involving how the loot tables are calculated by servers and some of the usual 'online survival game de-sync' that everyone knows and curses.
When you get off the shores, and out of the coastal cities ringing with low teir weapon fire, DayZ really starts to shine.
You'll traverse dense forests with some of the best tree, weather and audio FX around - im not kidding there, it is flawless in my opinion - and open farming country. All to locate small villages and towns to stock up on food, water and clothing. Possibly even working vehicles or even some player interaction.
Playing the good guy or villain in these situations is up to you of course, but KOS culture on console is admittedly prevalent - though sometimes you get some amazing revenge like the .gif below.
By now you’ve got a hand of some essentials like water, tinned food, medicine for sickness - often contracted from water and an absolute pain to be rid of - and a peashooter that can barely register as a firearm.
Its time to hit up a military checkpoint or base to get some of the really fun toys this game has to offer – bullet proof vests, combat helmets, and many a gun that will end other survivors time in Chernarus.
Just always be careful of the resident military, as they’re still on active patrol, just less… alive.
Stealth comes into play a lot more when you get to this point of the game, and the stealth options in DayZ offer more than just stance and cover advantages.
Crouching before approaching a site can be the difference between another player or infected hearing you and attacking while you’re in the open, or you getting the drop on some other poor soul hunting for an automatic rifle.
The combat system is great in DayZ; bullet time, bullet drop, gun noise, degradation and recoil are all at play here, this is a proper survival simulator in the firearms regard.
Suppressors don’t have the usual Hollywood silenced weapon trope either, only muffling your shots enough that hopefully the other guy cant pin down where your bullet came from - again the audio team need praise here, the high calibre guns "feel" like a high calibre weapon when firing them, while the pistols still have the satisfying pop of .45 and 9mm.
The player hitbox is tightly locked to the point you can shoot between a players legs or over their shoulder - a common issue present in most FPS & 3PS games, and damage you take from different weapon types, Infected or Wolves & Bears, play a large part in what you carry around in your kit and what you are constantly on the lookout for while surviving.
A look at the transition of kit from 5 days of casual play at each log out.
Bases, Tents and Ada’s, oh my! These are the more end game elements of DayZ - and much more fun if you have a team to build or ride with.
The Developer, Bohemia Interactive have made a fairly simple system for constructing bases and for getting vehicles running with promises of additional content into the future.
For bases, you need simple supplies like nails, tools and planks, with different variants of base construction available in metal or wood, or if you’re confident enough with a secret location you could bury some boxes or even pitch a tent you found in the wilderness.
Cars are very similarly broken down to a few major components; Radiator, Sparkplug, Battery, Wheels and Fuel – get all of these in working order and you will have the fun of riding in a large, mobile target making constant noise for all other armed players to hear!
However if you're playing on servers outside your host country, you may be subject to client side de-sync – an issue that still persists today and can result in your chosen whip becoming an ICBM. So in my personal experience... I much prefer walking.
The final endgame elements are the Loot riddled crashed helicopters - or simply Heli-Spawns.
These sites are where you find all the best loot the game has to offer, from Ghillie suits to Sniper Rifles, these random spawning locations have been home to some of the most intense firefights I've been in, as multiple teams encroach on the column of smoke laying in the centre of an open field.
But the risk/reward is always worth it.
Livonia Paid DLC Map:
Livonia is the latest addition to DayZ, arriving with update 1.06 for consoles and the advent of the Bear crisis in Chernarus - seriously, if you even hear a bear, run, its exactly like this bear release video
Livonia as a map itself is a great change to those who are used to Chernarus, with no sea as a reference, and random spawns for players all over the map, it creates an interesting dynamic - no longer is it a case of running for the North West corner, all the best stuff lies in the centre of the map.
As far as other noticeable differences; food and water is much harder to locate, animals appear hardier - had to put 2 shotgun slugs into a deer for it to go down rather than 1 - Military loot and Medical loot is much easier to find thanks to the changed loot locations, and useable car parts appear on derelict cars now which is a change people were requesting for years.
Overral I really like Livonia from about 30 hours of playtime, it is also much more optimised than the older Chernarus map, which is apparent more to those who have played Chernarus as long as myself.
Conclusion & Ratings:
DayZ is an amazing game for this genre, though it is starting to show its age with its initial release in 2013, Bohemia are working to add more content which has been slowly released over the last 5 updates.
However nothing is all peaches and cream, it does have some glaring faults; Client to server communication being chief among them - often resulting in De-sync issues which are common theme for most online survival games. Visuals wise, some textures are still 720p alongside a growing number at 1080p, which can be glaringly obvious. Ladders can be like playing Russian-Roulette on whether you'll make it to the top, and some inventory items can bug out requiring your re-log to reset your player inventory, or in the worst case - wait for a server restart to reset a structure inventory.
A Bug referred to as 'meat-balling'
While there are many who criticise DayZ due to some of the issues above and the history involving the development of the title, I am grading this title based on the merits of the game itself.
What we are presented with is a fun multiplayer experience that is made even better with a squad of mates and a welcome change with its permadeath system giving death some real meaning. I wholeheartedly recommend this game to those looking to have some fun in a zombie survival simulator and always remember those 4 words;
LIVE. GEAR. DIE. REPEAT