A new game en­gine? Truly, these are the dayz of our livez

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Phil Iwa­niuk

“The un­dead here are re­lent­less pur­suers once they pick up your scent”

Pub­lisheR Bo­hemia In­ter­ac­tive De­vel­oper Bo­hemia In­ter­ac­tive For­mat Xbox One ETA 2018 DayZ’s is one of modern gam­ing’s most dra­matic and un­pre­dictable game de­vel­op­ment sto­ries. It was the mod that took over the world, then seemed to go out with a whim­per as de­vel­oper Bo­hemia In­ter­ac­tive took over from orig­i­nal cre­ator Dean Hall. For a sus­tained pe­riod in 2016, there weren’t even any zom­bies in it any more, which means tech­ni­cally it should have changed its name to ‘Day’.

Mo­men­tum is back with the am­bi­tious open world sur­vival ti­tle though, with a new game en­gine im­ple­mented and an Xbox Game Pre­view re­lease im­mi­nent. The un­dead are even back! Hooray! Also: run!

About that new en­gine. It looks just fab­u­lous, par­tic­u­larly for a game whose stand­alone en­tered PC early ac­cess in 2013. The broad vis­ual di­rec­tion is still de­fined by muted colours, au­tum­nal nat­u­ral scenery and a gritty Soviet real­ism to the is­land of Ch­ernarus (sim­i­lar to PUBG’s Erangel, in that way). But there’s now a new­found den­sity to grass and trees, a re­al­is­tic sway to their in­di­vid­ual blades in the breeze, and so much post-pro­cess­ing that even Cr­y­sis would be proud. While you’re roam­ing the shore­line just af­ter spawn­ing it takes on the look of Dear Es­ther: Land­mark Edi­tion with ex­tra sparkle; fur­ther into the is­land as trees and scrub­land give way to derelict houses and train­yards, it’s like wan­der­ing through the Danny Boyle zom­bie movie three­quel that never was. A very plau­si­ble set­ting for un­dead hor­ror.

Dayz of fu­ture past

Much of the fo­cus of Bo­hemia’s new en­gine is on mak­ing DayZ feel bet­ter, not just look bet­ter. No­to­ri­ously janky from its in­cep­tion, as it ar­rives on Xbox Game Pre­view this is now a game in which it’s no longer more dan­ger­ous to climb a lad­der than fight a zom­bie. Long­stand­ing prob­lems PC play­ers had with tra­ver­sal, aim­ing and melee com­bat feel no­tice­ably smoothed out now, and it’s no longer likely you’ll fall through the floor and break your legs when you try to mount a lad­der. There’s still some work to be done when it comes to run­ning and crouch­ing an­i­ma­tions, and bet­ter feed­back from mak­ing a hit dur­ing melee com­bat, but this is DayZ we’re talk­ing about: it’s en­cour­ag­ing to see up­dates at all af­ter its pro­tracted al­pha phase, and up­dates don’t come much big­ger than an en­tirely new game en­gine with vi­su­als, an­i­ma­tions and UI to match.

Per­haps in­dica­tive of that seis­mic update – though we’re guess­ing – is the de­par­ture of cre­ative di­rec­tor Brian Hicks, who says he’s been tak­ing more of a back­seat in re­cent months and is no longer needed on the project. There’s still a lot of tech­ni­cal work to be done un­der DayZ’s hood in the name of pol­ish, but this was once a game that seemed lost in the de­vel­op­ment wilder­ness so we’re rack­ing the 2018 state of play up as a net win.

It’s also a great time to reac­quaint with the zom­bie sur­vival for­mula that al­ways showed so much prom­ise in the ear­li­est mod re­lease. The un­dead here are re­lent­less pur­suers once they pick up your scent, and find the near­est open door with alarm­ing speed when you slam a front door in their face, pan­ick­ing and in dire need of some breath­ing room to craft a ban­dage or two. You feel hunted, and with the sur­vival sys­tems pun­ish­ing even in iso­la­tion, it makes for an in­tense ses­sion. Alone, in co-op, or on a server full of blurry hu­man al­liances, DayZ re­mains a unique vi­sion of sur­vival in the age of the walk­ing un­dead.

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