I thought it'd be a good idea to round up many of the current zombie MMOs and pseudo-MMOs so that over the holidays you can celebrate by ignoring your family to bash in a few previously deceased skulls. You can thank me later when all of the training you receive while playing these games helps you survive the coming zombie apocalypse.
The game appears much more stable now. You'll still have to contend with the occasional random server burp, and of course, the "colorful" community. It's obvious that many players are being banned for "unfair play" (something Mike noticed in his write-up), but it's hard to say how it affects the long-term game. Patch notes come in quite often, and the game does appear to be running a lot more smoothly. There are still some issues with graphics, like grass and trees remaining invisible at certain settings, but overall the game seems to be on better ground. In fact, many of the issues that Mike had appear to be smoothed out now -- especially when playing on a private server.
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Infestation: Survivor Stories is a gritty game that lets you run around in instanced maps that can hold scores of other players. You'll scavenge for goods and weapons, dodge zombies, and hopefully hang out with a group of friendly players. The game becomes incredibly dark at night, and you need to stay aware of the amount of sound you are making. You'll be warned if you are making too much noise or if you are getting too close to danger via an icon in your top right-hand corner that changes color as danger approaches.
You can die of starvation, of infection, of death by zombie, or in many other ways. As Mike pointed out in his article, getting killed by players is a problem because you drop the items you scavenged and then have to wait up to an hour before you can log in again. You can have several characters ready to cycle in or can pay real-life cash to shorten the wait. It only takes a few players who do not care about losing items or surviving to ruin a good game. Luckily, players can rent private servers directly from the company. I rented one myself to play on for a few weeks and will report back as to how that experience stacks up to the solo one. Look for that in a future article.
The advantage of DayZ over many other games is that it's relatively easy to get into once you figure out the basics. I bought the entire Arma II package directly from Steam, downloaded the DayZ mod from Steam, and then snagged DayZ Commander, an all-in-one launcher that does everything from repairing and updating your game to finding hundreds of servers to play on and keeping you connected to your favorites. I've already placed a few friendly, open servers on my favorites for easy play. If you overlook the initial cost of the Arma II pack, the game is easy, fun, and cheap.
DayZ will feel similar to these other zombie games because there are only so many ways to use the brown and gray color scheme. Luckily the mod also features a lot of graphical bells and whistles and looks great. If you try and swim past zombies (as I did early on), you'll suffer from hypothermia and will be subject to a blurring screen and shaking avatar. The mod is full of clever effects. You can break bones, become hungry, or die of dehydration. You can also team up with friends to salvage materials to build vehicles.
You'll run into many of the same trollish gamer types, but once you find a great server, you get to know many of the personalities. Many of them even prove to be helpful, probably due to the fact that the longer-running servers have figured out how hard it is to run a server that has to be constantly policed. DayZ is great for jump-in sessions, trying to locate some weapons and goods, and becoming part of smaller communities. The game does have a bit of a learning curve, especially concerning the controls, however, and the sheer number of variations in server types might leave you confused at first.
Because you can suffer from fatigue, you can switch between characters at your settlement. Some will flat out refuse to go because they are too tired or stressed, but once you assemble a team, making it back alive becomes much easier. You can steal cars as much as you want, but there is a limited number of them, and they do get damaged or even destroyed and can be repaired only after several upgrades to your home base.
There's a linear storyline and missions that you can take, and there's no shortage of random encounters with monsters, survivors, and colorful personalities. Every time you think the game is going to get quiet, it becomes chaotic once again. Think of this game as a combination of Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto, and a post-apocalyptic survival simulator. It has some of the best, most realistic systems for character development (and potential death) than I've seen in a long while. It's just so, so sad that it does not support multiplayer yet. Look for a brand-new expansion, called Breakdown, coming later this week.
There are many more titles that allow you to fight the walking dead, but these are the best multiplayer or semi-multiplayer attempts so far this year. Most of them are free-to-play with options, so be prepared to lose many hours in a virtual, brown landscape.
Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?