DayZ PlayStation 4 Review

Chernarus diaries.

It’s safe to say DayZ’s road to release has been a long one. What started as an obscure mod for hardcore shooter ARMA II, DayZ quickly went viral overnight and it wasn’t long before the game’s developer Bohemia Interactive wanted a piece of the action. The mod’s designer joined the team, a standalone DayZ game was announced, and its popularity only intensified. Thousands of curious gamers were snapping up copies of ARMA II just to get a taste.

Back in 2012, I too got caught up in the DayZ craze. I can’t remember how much I paid for ARMA II and one of its expansions but from what I had seen of the mod through videos and anecdotal war stories, I knew it was something I had to see for myself. That hype train derailed the moment I finally dropped into the game. DayZ was nothing more than a barren sandbox with nothing to see or do but survive. I felt like I had been duped.

I never went back to the DayZ mod after those disappointing first few hours, but with Bohemia Interactive supporting the development of a standalone version, I had faith that one day I’d return to a game that had some actual flesh wrapped around those bare yet refreshingly inventive bones.

It seems that, ever after several years of development and the backing of a big name publisher, little has changed. For those eyeing up the recent PlayStation 4 release, you’ve been warned.

If you’ve played games such as Rust, 7 Days to Die, Conan, or The Forest (the best of the lot in my opinion) then there’s a lot of overlap. Not really surprising when you consider that DayZ effectively birthed the entire sub-genre.

Upon entering a game you’ll wash up on the shores of Chernarus, a fictional former Soviet state that has fallen since a mysterious zombie outbreak. Your objective is to survive for as long as possible, fending off the undead and nature itself, scavenging for resources and monitoring stats such as hunger, warmth, and hydration.

It’s a fairly straightforward game at its core, but does a terrible job at explaining the fundamentals. There are no interactive or video tutorials whatsoever, no handy tool-tips or beginner quests. Essential mechanics like gathering and crafting are left for the player to discover and the only way of really learning what DayZ’s many items do is by diving into forums or wikis for an answer.

Even if you have some notion of what’s going on, grappling with the menus is an unpleasant experience for console players. Nothing about the way you can manage your inventory – moving, equipping, or combining items – feels intuitive. DayZ is shockingly cumbersome, as if purposefully erecting a barrier between you and any sense of enjoyment.

My first hour with the game was uneventful to say the least. It was mostly spent wandering through fields and forests, completely lost within the 230 square kilometres that make up Chernasus – DayZ’s one and only map. At least it was daylight: in later sessions I found myself spawning into a game set at night with no way of being able to see anything at all.

I had almost convinced myself that I’d run into some kind of bug and that buildings simply weren’t spawning, before I eventually stumbled upon a small farmhouse. Employing that same hoarder mentality I’ve picked up from battle royale games, I found myself picking up a variety of fairly mundane items such as fruit, clothes, and a can opener.

In DayZ, you’ll spent a huge amount of time sifting through rubbish. Honestly, it’s as if the team stopped development on its survival game to pursue Charity Shop Simulator 2019 instead. Rummage for long enough and you might turn up some decent items, especially if you know where to look. Still, it’s a mighty slog and it was only after several hours that I finally managed to find a gun with some matching ammunition.

The only thing that makes any of this worthwhile is your interaction with other players. That’s what drew me to DayZ in the first place, watching videos in which strangers either band together or engage in tense standoffs. Despite the game’s many shortcomings, there’s potential there for players to create their own functioning civilisations. You can potentially found self-sustaining settlements with farming, commerce, and even laws.

DayZ has the tools to create incredible stories and unforgettable player interactions. However, it demands a colossal sacrifice: the time required to feel like you’ve made a genuine footprint in this virtual world is simply insane. Despite having years to refine DayZ, Bohemia Interactive has done seemingly little to help players achieve their ultimate in-game fantasies. Even basic features, such as vaulting knee-high obstacles, are laughably absent.

Performance and visuals combine to make for another depressing low point. DayZ has the same amount of pomp and flare that it did as a 2009 mod to the already bland and utilitarian ARMA II. It would be somewhat tolerable if not for the huge framerate drops and pop-in that occurs whenever moving towards one of the map’s more densely populated areas. At times it’s barely playable.

Summary
DayZ has a rich history, a long lineage of war stories and strange survivor tales that have drawn thousands down its rabbit hole, but its reality is very different. There’s nothing here but a dull, vacuous wasteland, devoid of character and relying solely on players to make their own fun.
Good
  • Rare moments of magic when interacting with other players
Bad
  • Lifeless and unrewarding
  • Braindead zombies that aren’t fun to fight
  • Looks and plays like a last-gen relic
  • So much wasted potential
2
Written by
Senior Editor bursting with lukewarm takes and useless gaming trivia. May as well surgically attach my DualShock at this point.

5 Comments

  1. I played a little of this last night with Jim. It reminded me of Wander, that awful PS3 game I had to review, the pop in is ridiculously bad. If you invite a friend to your game they don’t spawn near you, they spawn randomly on the island as there is NO MAP, so you can’t see where you or your buddy is, you’re left to try and find each other by hoping you can both see a landmark.

    Of course you could be on the other side of the island and as it’s so hugs – and bloody empty – I got bored running through forests before I ever managed to find Jim.

  2. I think you’re exaggerating how much time you put into this latest build of DayZ. For example:
    You always spawn with a flare. There are no nighttime only servers on PS4. Light your flare (of which you’re given 3 I think) and the whole surrounding area lights up.
    Guns. Guns always have some correct ammo already loaded in a mag. If you had genuinely found a weapon during your “review playthrough” you would have known this.
    Clothing, food, weapons, tents, are all easy to find if you look in places you would expect them to be. Look for a gun in the middle of a forest…Yeah, you won’t find one. It’s simply common sense.
    No, I don’t think you played for more than an hour or two maximum. Perfect example of modern game critics (you’re not journalists).
    For what it’s worth, I don’t like DayZ either. I think it’s dreadful. Buy I came to that conclusion from y’know, genuinely playing it.

    • Clocked a good 7/8 hours, plus the time spent with previous PC versions. I’m still playing it now.

      There aren’t night-time only servers, as you say. When joining a server it’s pretty much pot luck whether it’s night or day. If you’re playing on a persistent server (imports you previous character/loadout) then you won’t spawn with a flare.

      Gear and crafting materials are sometimes found in the places you would expect them (armour/guns in police and fire stations) but they are sparse. Also, depending on where you spawn, it might take you a solid 20 minutes to get to these buildings.

  3. I feel this is kinda of biased and inaccurate. For example on new spawns, you spawn with a flare. You have to play DayZ as it is supposed to be played. Its not supposed to be a action packed, FPS shooter game. Its supposed to be played like a survival game, which means you’ll do a lot of gathering and wandering. Just like you would in a real apocalypse. If you don’t like that kinda of stuff, the game isn’t for you. If you enjoy it and like a roleplay feeling world, then play DayZ. You won’t be bored either because you’re constantly sneaking past zombies and fighting hordes of them off in towns and forests.

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