Cheap PC Gaming: Day Z

It had to happen eventually. With the internet abuzz about developer Rocket’s ARMA 2 mod and my fondness for zombie games, it was only a matter of time until I braved the glitchy war sim that is ARMA 2 once more, but this time to try out Day Z.

Allow me to explain my position. I have had ARMA 2 for a couple of years at least. I bought it on a recommendation from friends on a long lost forum that is now empty. I tried to play it three times before I uninstalled it in frustration. It certainly sounded great and, in essence, it was. ARMA 2 is a military simulator, it’s realistic to the point of silliness, which is fine, except that for all that realism to be incorporated into a game said game needs to be incredibly complicated. The obvious result of this is that it is far from user friendly.

Now, years later, Day Z has surfaced using the ARMA 2 engine. I was interested for a week or two, but didn’t try it out due to not wanting to be anywhere near ARMA 2 ever again. Eventually I had to give in to the hype and reinstall ARMA 2 (as well as buy the expansion that’s required). I’m glad I did.

Day Z is a superb/horrifying experience that’s unlike any other. Dropping you into a vast Russian countryside that’s roamed by zombies and other players alike, your only goal is to survive as long as you can. Also loot, you should find loot too. I love loot.

[drop]It’s still not user-friendly, but I went in prepared this time. After having seen various videos of people playing I’d figured out the inventory, not to mention picking up a few tips for when I’m not in menus, and I’d changed some options (most notably turning off the dreadful head-bob) to make the game easier to bear and run a little smoother. I could actually play the game now, so I settled in for a zombie game.

Except I didn’t find a zombie game; I found a survival game that zombies happen to inhabit. You see, Day Z is not about zombies  – the zombies are just a hazard, something that can usually be avoided. It’s almost a social game – no, it’s almost a social experiment. Day Z drops you into a huge map with loot, zombies and, crucially, other players. The experience is every bit as about the human condition as things like The Walking Dead, except that here it’s actual real humans on the other side, not just characters who don’t bother to watch their children.

When you spawn a new character, you won’t have a gun. This makes you prioritise getting to a building to search for some weaponry, but due to your unarmed nature you have to be very, very careful not to attract any unwanted undead attention – running will definitely be something you want to avoid, so walking whilst crouched will get you around. Once you encounter some zombies that you need to get around, you will come across one of the most tense experiences you will ever encounter in a video game.

The defining moment for me, the one that convinced me of Day Z’s validity for comparison to fully-fledged games, was my trip into a military camp near the beach. You always spawn on the beach and after a few minutes of walking I came across this military looking camp that had a bunch of tents inside and a deer stand in each corner. I don’t know where it actually was as I didn’t have a map handy, but I’d read that deer stands were a great place to look for loot so I started looking for a way in. As I got closer, I realised that it was overrun with zombies. I ended up having to crawl through the only gates into the area whilst weaving between the growling undead. Even as I made my way between the deer stands zombies roamed metres away from me, their groaning so close it was making the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Whilst working my way through the deer stands, I turned a corner (slowly, as I was crawling) and found myself face to face with the first player I’d encountered in the game. We both paused for a second. I asked if he was friendly and he said yes, and we just went our separate ways. I don’t know what it was about this moment, but something about that sudden, cold dread as we came face to face – a panic that I’m sure he shared, really rung true with me. I’ve never experience that same emotional parallel with somebody in a game before, both of us stumbling across our potential end and just accepting it, and I don’t think I’ll experience it in any other game.

[drop2]I did eventually find a gun – it was obviously on the last deer stand I checked. It was only a G17 – a pistol, and not really a good one – with two magazines of ammo. It was such a tiny discovery, really, but the sense of achievement I felt when I saw that gun in my hand has been matched by very few games. I had managed to sneak past countless zombies, ‘survived’ an encounter with a human, if only because we were both unarmed, and I had a found gun. I was now armed, so I snuck back out and, an hour later, died. I didn’t even get to shoot the pistol. It was amazing.

When you die in Day Z, your character is deleted and you start a new one. Naturally, as a result if you come across another player in Day Z’s wilderness, you’re probably going to get shot. It takes time to find guns and, as such, people tend to be a little trigger happy when it comes to defending the character in which they have invested that time. It’s a shame, really, but it’s part of the game.

Teaming up with other players is great fun if you can find someone to do it with (or go into a server with friends and find each other), and can lead to some interesting scenarios. My favourites from Youtube are this and this. Seriously, go watch, it’s like nothing I’ve seen before in a game. It just isn’t possible in anything else.

So what is Day Z? It’s a game about other players, and how you interact with them. Whether you’re avoiding them, joining up with them, or shooting them, every single encounter is unlike every other one. Please do try not to just kill everyone though, we have enough bandits already.

Bear in mind that the mod is in alpha. It’s being changed constantly to try out new ideas, it lacks polish and is full of exploits and bugs (zombies can glitch through walls, opening a gate can kill you, etc), so you may need to make some allowances. You need both ARMA 2 and its expansion pack Operation Arrowhead to play Day Z. The bundle on Steam is £25, which is £10 more than my usual price limit for CPCG. You can reportedly use ARMA 2 free (the demo, available here) and just buy the expansion for £15 if you like though, which means this was a viable subject for CPCG. Technically.

For help installing the mod itself, here’s a guide and here’s a tutorial video.


  1. Was tempted to play this, but after installing ArmA II and playing it for a while it became apparent just how shoddy the whole thing is. Uninstalled!
    Now enjoying Opertaion Flashpoint on PC and waiting for War Z :-)
    Nice write up though, you’ve more forgiveness that I have for sure

    • DayZ and ARMA II are 2 very different experiences m8!

      Did you actually buy ARMA or is it the free version?

      Anyway onto the game, probably one of the finest experiences of my 30+ gaming life has been had on this game. Every game is always different and it has taken over my game time since the beta went live!

      If your a serious gamer, can get over the bugs and the lack of polish but are wanting an experience that has never been had gaming before you must try this mod asap!

      • oops! **but are wanting an experience that has never been had before in any other game then you must try this mod asap!

      • I purchased ArmA II and just did not get on with it. The scale is impressive but it just doesn’t carry the same quality Operation Flashpoint does in my opinion.
        It felt like a last gen title (though visually it is stunning) with an overall feeling of many great ideas not meshing anywhere as near as they should.
        I’m not forking out for the expansion to then try Day Z no matter how tempting it is, with so many zombie games out there and War Z on the way I can happily avoid this one. In the end if it IS as good as you say then it is me that is missing out hey.

  2. If anyone reads this who is thinking ‘this looks interesting’ get it. I’ve been playing for a couple of weeks and the experience is something else. The article sums up the importance of engagements very well. unlike a traditional game with guns, the element of choice etc as to wether you just straight up bandit or declaring yourself a friendly etc. means its much more exciting to encounter others in the ‘deer in the headlights’ way. Some people have chosen to play the games as medics and others as axe murderers. I recently read an article about how 6 guys kidnapped a new player and set about giving him tasks and a point system before he could be released. This game is interesting. try it.

  3. I would have been right into this long ago but it is incredibly buggy becuase the game engine has problems when it comes to doing the interior of buildings, making walking through doors like walling a high wire whilst drunk.

    Also i can justify in my head paying out £20 for a mod i might not evenbe able to set up and no one to play with :(

    Did see a good video though, a long person suddenly finds him self surronded by other players , who dont realize he isnt one of them, so he plays along, eventually they notice someone has infiltrated their group and they all murder each other in a paranoid frenzy.

  4. ALl my mates are loving this, they say its the best thing they’ve all played in years. Not my type of game really but kudos where its due, most of my mates are loving it

  5. I’ve actually stopped playing it out of sheer frustration.
    After spending days tooling up and getting top end kit, including Night vision goggles, I ended up tripping on a tree branch, breaking bones, passing out and bleeding out. And not for the first time either.

    Then there are the infants on the official forum who complain and demand “this server” needs blacklisting/admin abuse etc. And that’s not mentioning the impossible rules that admins HAVE to abide by. IMHO I think DayZ is starting to die off for the hardcore players, players who’ve been playing the mod for months.

    Then there are the hackers, ARMA 2 is an old engine that is being patched fairly constantly (beta patches I mean), but BattleEye is a piece of crap, it can detect script kiddies, but because this mod has drawn a crowd, coders are selling their wares at phenomenal rates to idiots who cannot be banned. Thats right, even server admins who know who the hackers are, aren’t allowed to ban them. Video, screenshots and server logs are barely enough to prevent your server from being blacklisted – banned from hosting DayZ. If said hacker made a complaint on the forum, then the admin has to fight tooth and nail to prevent blacklisting.

    But there is light at the end of the tunnel:
    It was conceived and development started early last year, it’s basically another Zombie survival game, but this time there are objectives other than finding guns and surviving.

    • As I said in the article, Day Z is very much in an alpha phase. Expecting not to have those problems is almost irrational.

      • it my seem that way from someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time playing. I’ve played this mod now for 3 months and I’ve seen nothing get better at all.

        2+ months ago we filled a 30 man teamspeak server with friends who were nuts about this game, now we struggle to get 8 people on in a day.

        That alone should tell you something.

      • Bugs aside, and they are expected… it’s paragraphs two and three that cause the most problems.

  6. Those two youtube clips make it look amazing. The whole scene on the bus is incredible and to think its just some guys messing around on a computer game.

    • although saying that the guy in the second one is more than a little bit creepy

      • That’s exactly why I liked it so much!

  7. I played this for a while and while it annoyed me so much to start with, I grew to love it. It still has some frustrating aspects to it such as legs that seem to break at the slightest gust of wind and the fact that you cant give yourself a blood transfusion without another player if you’ve lost blood, but the survival aspect of it was a lot of fun and finding weapons and supplies was very satisfying.

    However, I didn’t start enjoying it until I started playing with people I know, when I played on my own I was having no fun. For me, this game is one of those that needs your friends in there with you to really get the most fun from it.

  8. I bought ARMA 2 and the expansion in the Steam sale for 40% off, I’ll be playing it as soon as I manage to get my new computer done.

  9. Watched a few youtube clips about it a while ago. Didn’t spike my interest in the slightest… I’ve heard the controls are painfully awkward, too.

  10. DayZ is great. I’ve spent hours playing it. It’s definitely a game to play with friends though. I play with a few friends and we make an awesome team. We raid towns together for loot and work with each other. Saying that I’ve died loads of times as well. The PVP element in the game can be extremely frustrating. People kill you for a tin of beans. Which is frustrating.

    I’ve managed to keep my current character alive for ages, so I get really paranoid when playing the game now. Always worried that someone is going to kill me. That fear is what makes the game though.

    Gamoc, we need to team up. I know some really good looting spots. Places where other players have hidden their stashes.

    • Sounds good to me, tweet me and we’ll figure it out sometime ;-)

    • Day Z is a very team/coop based game, as it just isn’t as much fun alone. The same can be said for other games such as Borderlands and a few others. The PvP aspect of the game is very frustrating at times, especially when you get killed for less than a tin of beans (bandages). The thing some people don’t seem to understand is if there was a zombie apocalypse you will have to make the choice of kill or be killed at some point to survive. after all it is a survival game and if they need to kill you for food or you pose a threat to them then you will die vice versa. Another thing is people think you should spawn with a gun (you used to but it was removed) but they fail to understand not everybody would have a gun in their house should it happen in real life (yes i know its a game but its a simulator after all) My only grip with the game so far is the zombies don’t actually pose that much of a threat after you’ve played for a while they are more of a nuance than anything. I think this could be mended by adding in massive hordes of them wandering through citys. There should be some zombies walking around the woods as well.

      Since it was announced its going to be standalone I’m looking forward to some proper optimization as currently its a bit of a hog on the system resources (mainly the hard drive)

Comments are now closed for this post.