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The War Z Review

21 Jan 2013  by   Peter Parrish
Game Details
Developer: Hammerpoint Interactive
Publisher: OP Productions LLC
Reviewed on: PC
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Oh boy.

Some context: in 2012, a mod designed by Dean ‘Rocket’ Hall for the 2009 military sim Arma II was released. It was called DayZ and it turned Arma II into a multiplayer, zombie-survival game. Players started off unarmed (or barely armed) and had to scavenge for food, water and protection in a land overridden by both zombies and other humans, neither of whom tended to think twice about killing you.

It proved incredibly popular, giving Arma II the kind of late sales boost only mods can provide. Hall now works for developers Bohemia Interactive and is developing DayZ as a standalone release. It should be a considerable improvement over the somewhat clunky mod and is due sometime in 2013.

That stuff is important to know.

War Z

Other stuff that’s important to know: DayZ is in no way connected to The War Z. The War Z is not the aforementioned standalone version of DayZ, nor does it share any of the developers, graphics engine or anything else aside from the zombie survival theme. Having spent the past few days confirming my worst fears about people confusing and conflating these two titles, I think that needs to be stated and re-stated.

So again, just to be sure. The War Z is not DayZ.

For anyone outside the videogames bubble, it’s an easy mistake to make. Whoever named The War Z is an expert in diabolical marketing. Not only does it sound quite like DayZ, a successful mod in the same thematic genre, but it also sounds like World War Z, a successful zombie-themed novel (and soon to be film.)

But it is neither of those things.

War Z

More context: The War Z was spawned from War Inc, an unremarkable online shooter. When it was announced in July 2012, the game was clearly positioning itself to take advantage of the interest in DayZ. That action wasn’t too egregious in itself. This is an industry which thrives on iteration, and if Hammerpoint had delivered an alternative zombie survival title of sufficient quality, all may have been well.

All was not well. Producer Sergey Titov’s claim that “we began developing our game before DayZ” was shown to be, at best, a semantic contortion. More strangeness and half-truths were to follow.

When the IncGamers team played the beta in November last year, we assumed we were sampling a game that still had a great deal of development time ahead of it. Our reservations were tempered by the hope that the strands of gameplay that were obviously still missing would be implemented, that bugs would be dealt with and that the game could establish itself as a credible alternative to DayZ.

Instead, the game emerged from its ‘beta’ period with minimal (if any) changes and attempted to launch on Steam accompanied by a list of features that were not yet present in the game. A couple of days later the game was pulled from sale and Valve offered full refunds to all buyers. If you still need one, here’s where you should go.

War Z

You can probably see where this review is heading.

The War Z is not just a bad game. Bad games happen all the time. This is something far more insidious; a shameless attempt to cash-in on a popular trend with the minimum possible effort. It’s different from the regular band of clones, copies and derivations because most of those at least attempt to fashion a half-way decent game. This is a focused cash-grab, as plain as there ever has been.

Put simply, The War Z is the Ratatoing of videogames.

The expected components are all there (zombies, a big map to wander around on, items to find, other people,) but any sense of why that combination of things worked so well in DayZ has been trampled underfoot in a race to cream money off bamboozled players at every possible juncture.

In The War Z you will die, a lot. Sometimes fairly. Other times to animation glitches, bugs, unchecked hackers and spawn-point campers. If you’ve spent some real-life money in the game’s marketplace, those purchased items will be lost in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry, you can always buy more!

War Z

The survival genre relies on tension. If that constant sense of threat to your character from external sources is removed, games of this sort begin to fall apart. DayZ had the unwieldy but sim-based Arma II engine at its disposal, which resulted in a pretty immersive experience. The bleak landscape and Soviet-era buildings of Chernarus created enough of a suspension of disbelief for the mod to work. You felt alone, afraid and in peril.

In The War Z it’s more likely that you’ll be pulled out of the game’s Colorado landscape by repetitive sound loops, dodgy texture work and atrocious animations. Whenever you attack a zombie with a melee weapon it looks like this.

Dramatic stuff.

Maybe after all that exertion you should cool off with a lovely swim?

Oh.

There is a constant level of threat to the game, however. It’s the worry that something will bug out while you’re making your way slowly down a slope, costing you a sizeable chunk of health or possibly your life. It doesn’t matter which of the cosmetic character classes you opt to go for, they all have ankles made of brittle china.

Of course there’s also the ever-present danger of other human beings in general. The cheaters are inevitable and an annoyance, but genuine friendly encounters are rendered even more unlikely by the current restriction of communications to text. There’s an option to alter “communication volume” in the game’s menu, but voice chat appears to be yet another item on the To Do list.

Nobody, in a zombie survival game known for the ruthlessness of its players, is going to take their hands off their ‘weapons’ to input text and attempt close-range diplomacy. This leads to even more emphasis on a “shoot first” policy amongst players, and all-but rules out any entertaining negotiations.

War Z

Then there’s the stuff that’s just unfinished. Presumably you will be able to go in water at some point. Maybe the Missions screen will have purpose one day. Perhaps the experience points you gather from slaying zombies can, in some distant time, be applied to that greyed-out Skill Tree tab on the survivor screen. For now, of all the invented features advertised on the ill-fated Steam release back on 18 December, only two (100 player servers and a functioning perma-death mode) have been implemented. The rest are still missing in action. Lost in the development wilderness.

The developers can claim this title is a work in progress (or “foundation release”) all they want, but the moment they launched it on Steam with the impression that it was feature-complete they lost any right to the benefit of the doubt. There’s no indication on the War Z homepage that the game is in any way unfinished (save for a suggestion that more maps may be added in future,) but you’re unlikely to miss the garish BUY NOW button. It comes right after a set of images depicting scenes that never happen, and never can happen, in the game.

War Z

The War Z’s development has been characterised by duplicity, amateurish customer relations, shoddy craftsmanship and basic design flaws. It’s an unfinished, bug-ridden shambles and the fact that substantial amounts of cash have already been funneled to the charlatans behind it is a crying shame.

Remember the names Sergey Titov, Arktos Entertainment and Hammerpoint Interactive. If you ever see them involved in future titles, consider it a warning from history.

… On the other hand, the game does have quite a neat looking skybox.

War Z

Mm.

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1/10
If you see this game approach you, do not panic. Simply aim for the head, attempt a decapitation or set it on fire.
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  1. Viridius
    -11

    Seeing as how you don’t seem to aim when hitting a zombie with a bat, that you make no mention that the damage from walking over hills was fixed. And you make no mention that the developers sent an apology to everyone who signed up for this game. – not to mention all the other bug fixes and the fact that they are making unique weapons for EVERY PLAYER as a way of saying sorry -
    And the fact that this was posted TODAY the 21st and not a month ago I don’t see how you are any better than they are, You are trying to cash in on their past mistakes and make it seem like what you write is relevant.
    I normally pass off these war z reviews because while I like the game 90% of what is said is true. But when someone can’t even take the time to verify his information weeks after the fact, that is just asinine.

    January 21, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    1. mikevans888
      +3

      oh dear god, where do I begin with you?
      So they apologized. Big whoop. Anyone can make a huge list of mistakes and then say, “sorry guys, we’ll try harder next time.”
      Damage from walking over hills was barely improved. It happened less, and on the less extreme slopes.
      Unique weapons? You mean the katanas? The melee weapon that everyone recently? Funny, because in no way was it unique from the katanas everyone else got, and like every other weapon in the game, when you die with it, you’ve lost it. Forever.
      Cash in?? How are they cashing in on this article? Did you pay to read this? You know what they get? Money from ads on the site.
      Maybe the article was later than the other ones, but the information is still true. In other words, it’s still a POS scam.

      January 21, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      1. viridius
        -3

        A. ) If you actually bothered to read what I said, I had said I agree that the game isn’t that great. But that doesn’t give people the right to bash it without bringing all the facts to the table.

        B.) An apology does mean something if after that someone or something strives to better itself afterwards.

        C.) The unique models have yet to be released and yes you can lose the weapon, it’s kinda how the game works, if you are going to cry about it you shouldn’t be playing in the first place.

        And last of all, He is “Cashing in” by coming out with an article bashing a game others have bashed in order to create a better name for himself as a writer, It’s not a hard thing to do and many people do it. But this post is sloppy and lazy and should have had more effort put in to it.

        p.s I haven’t had any issues with hills since the fix went into place, heck I scaled down a mountain and got nothing.

        January 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm

        1. Dorjan
          +1

          Not true, they’ve followed the War Z a lot on this site. Check your facts.

          January 21, 2013 at 9:13 pm

          1. Viridius
            -2

            If they follow it why come out with another in a plethora of reviews bashing the game but make no mention of any recent events? You lot don’t seem to understand what I am saying here. I agree with the god damn article I am not defending the game. I am criticizing the fact that this review is coming out months after the fact and that it is not giving people all the facts. Everyone wants to sit around and complain about how bad media is and how hard it is to trust any source. But you are so god damn complacent when you agree with what’s being said that you over look the truth. Just because the game is bad does not entitle a reviewer to leave out information that might change someone’s opinion or lessen the blow to the company just for the sake of a harsher and grittier review. You all make it so easy for people like this to thrive, and not just online. So stop being so thick headed and actually think.

            January 23, 2013 at 9:11 am

          2. Hatrr

            Aaah, an apology and a not-yet-unique-but-maybe-soon katana. Ive changed my mind! I do think the reviewer missed some things – he should have spent more time on the hacker situation. You say reviews about the game only are 90% true, it should mean that most reviews about it contain 10% falsehood. Even though you seem to think that 50% of this review is lies, isnt it rather that most of it (the important things) are true?

            January 23, 2013 at 6:35 pm

          3. Viridius
            -2

            “Sigh” look when it was posted. It’s posted OVER a month from the initial launch of this game and it addresses nothing but the issues that were present. Are you all just to thick to get what I am saying or what? A review coming out this late and acting as if its one of the first reviews out is bull. But whatever if you all want to read this crap and keep supporting these subpar reviews go ahead.

            January 23, 2013 at 8:05 pm

          4. psyounger
            +1

            The reason this review was posted now was to give Hammerpoint time to sort this mess of a game out before any judgement was passed. Sadly Hammerpoint has failed to do that.

            Having played the game myself recently and it he past, the review is spot-on. The game is a mess, and really, DON’T BUY IT. You have been warned :)

            January 23, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    2. youngzen69
      +3

      Are they paying you to defend a scam of a game? A apology is only meaningful when someone does something unintentionally. The War Z creators knew exactly what they where doing when they did it. So the apology is meaningless. Second, games are not rated based on future promises, and why would I believe those promises in the first place coming from these developers? Finally, here is something a little radical, how about the developers refund people their money, fix all the things wrong with the game, and then come back someday in the future to charge people 15+ dollars to play the game. That’s worth a whole lot more then a worthless apology and a melee weapon.

      February 3, 2013 at 12:27 am

      1. Viridius
        -2

        Yes because my clear statements in saying this is a terrible game and that I am talking about knowingly withholding information. God are you just so blind to anything you don’t want to see that you skipped over me saying that this game sucks multiple times? This review is trash because the author doesn’t address recent events that happened before this review is was posted. And also like I stayed but you chose to skip over. I do believe and apology means something if people change afterwards and try to be better. Also I suggest taking some reading comprehension classes because its clear you are in desperate need.

        February 3, 2013 at 1:17 am
        1. +1

          Viridius,

          You made a clear, competent, and well founded argument countering this review of “The War Z” that was only slightly incongruent with the majority of other comments… They must be attacking you because they think you are trying to break the internet with your reasonability.

          February 28, 2013 at 1:11 am

    3. Johnny

      Viridius, no offense man, but you are kinda full of fanboism. Try to be a little bit more cynical when it comes to things like that.

      July 19, 2013 at 6:49 am

  2. DimaK415

    Right on for this article. But heres a question. What can we do? Class action? Unlikely. A consumer protection agency stepping in? Also unlikely. The sad truth is that after all is said and done, Sergey Titov and Arktos made a cool 4-5 million after costs and they will probably get away with it. It really is a crying shame.

    January 21, 2013 at 11:07 pm
  3. So…why is no one taking legal action against this company? It is a clear case of fraud. All of the people who bought this game should start a class action lawsuit.

    January 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    1. engineer

      company is located in russia or ukraine I guess -> forget laws and legal action over there

      It’s a shame, the company would have been probably already sued if it would be located in US or a proper EU state

      January 23, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    2. Discryptor

      Because it is all done through a LLC company…….. try suing anyone through one of those…..

      January 24, 2013 at 12:06 am

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