Now playing: Arma 2 mod Day Z

Craig Pearson at

Day Z thumbnail

Most people will die from starvation, hunger, zombie-ism, or by Will Smith in an apocalypse. I died of naivety and gunshots. DayZ Mod for Arma II reworks the 225km island of Chernarus into a terrifying survivalist nightmare: you're dropped alone, with meagre supplies, somewhere in the wilderness. There is no goal, no end-game. You just need to stay alive. There are zombie NPCs and other players. With the undead you know where you stand, but other players pose the greatest threat.

With no map or compass, all I had to go on are the road signs and landmarks. It was midnight when I logged in, and the server has a real-time day and night cycle so the only light was the moon filtering through the high clouds. Removed of all context, I went with my instincts: I found a road and walked along it, crouching-walking and scanning left and right for signs of life. This is how you'll spend most of Day Z: isolated and paranoid. I strolled for half-an-hour, not seeing anyone or hearing the telltale grunt of the undead before I came up on some buildings, darker squares against the grey night sky.

Decision time: buildings are more likely to have food, water, bandages, but they also spawn zombies. I was alone, I couldn't see anything. I could feel the malevolent coldness of the world in my bones. I walked on, terrified of the unknown, but for some reason turned around to look back.

*flash*

Imagine this, only darker and scarier.

What was that? Then a noise like a twig snapping and another white flash lighting up the nearby buildings. Zombie don't shoot guns. Someone was down there, and in a fight. Two things passed through my mind: if I rushed in I could help and make a new friend; but if I instead approached cautiously he might be killed and I could loot the corpse. I'd only been in the game for about an hour, so I let my heart rule my head and sprinted in. The flashes resumed every few seconds, and as I approached I kept to the shadows. He was Gord, and he was standing over a corpse looting it. I chose this moment, where he was a bit vulnerable, to approach. He couldn't shoot me on sight that way. I could see he was looting a zombie and not another player, and that his outfit matched mine: kill enough players and you end up wearing a Babdit outfit. It could be in self-defense, or you might be a killer: the other player will never know. He looked up and we said hellos, keeping our guns trained on each other. A cautious alliance formed and he led me to some bandages stored in a nearby building. Then we headed out of town.

"Hurrrrr."

Fuck. My first experience of the undead was against the red glow of the flare Gord tossed: three of the things came sprinting out of the dark, running in jagged lines. I don't need this kind of shit at one in the morning: I crouched and rapidly fired. The last zombie fell just as my gun was making the hideous click of an empty magazine. Phew.

Just as Gord's noise and gunfire drew my attention, our fight was noticed by Red. He asked us over the chat channel if he could join our group. Gord and I'd fought off zombies together, so we were sure we could count on one another: we agreed to wait for Red and then all three of us headed away from town.

With a solid little group, we were more confident, so when we arrived at a small city, gas towers and tall buildings dominating the sky, we ventured in. There was no sign of other players: no gunshots, no flares. Just an empty city for us to scavenge. By now all of us were low on supplies, so it was vital we brave the death trap.

We'd had a few skirmishes and lit the area up with three flares. We found a body at the bottom of one of the gas towers. "What's an Alice pack?", Red asked. He was looting the corpse and talking about what was inside the pack: supplies, ammo, food in the chat channel. I started to wonder how exposed we all were: we were blazing red against the pitch black in a major city. How wise were we being in a world of scare supplies and murderers?

Red's night was coming to an end, and he offered to kill himself and let me loot his corpse, which I did as I needed ammo. Just as he left Gord crashed out. I was left alone, in a pool of light, full backpack, the occasional groan of a zombie prodding me to get the hell away.

You never want to be the guy in front.

I backed out of the city. I couldn't see much of it the night was so pervasive, just shapes on the horizon. I turned and spotted someone at the top of the hill. There was no way he couldn't have seen me walking up the road, but hadn't said anything. He was just standing and watching. I got out a "Hel-" into the chat when a bullet hit me. And another. Bleeding is bad in ArmA II, and doubly so in Day Z where the game keeps track of your blood. I tried to duck, but it didn't matter: I was dying and there was more than one of them. The figure was walking down towards my body. He walked up, calmly typed "I was the decoy" and put a bullet in my head.

Thanks to dayzmod for the excellent screenshots. Check our our Day Z interview with the mod's creator here.