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Retro DayZ: DoomZ Alpha Impressions

Hell on Earth

"This is a a remake of DayZ but made in a superior engine in which zombies can't just walk through walls." I love that. Puritanism in zombie games. If there was a Mojo magazine for games, "Doom is still the best engine in the world" would be its "the Beatles are still the best band in the world."

I digress. DoomZ really is DayZ in Doom, including the whole rickety, unfinished thing, at least for now. And, to be honest, there is some truth to its obstinate declaration about superiority - but it's not because of anything to do with walking through walls, and more because of how its appearance affects -and enhances - my survival game mindset.

When I play DayZ, I tend to spend more time than I should worrying about how it looks, framerates and visual glitches. This can distract me from the business of survival. Worrying about prettiness while zombies want to consume one's brains is very much fiddling as Rome burns. DoomZ is both atmospherically start, and so barebones that I immediately didn't bother to worry about its appearance and instead turned my mind solely to finding guns and food, and fleeing from its 3D-but-not zombies.

It's fascinating, too, to play a version of Doom where its most ubiquitous commodity - weapons and their ammunition - is an absolute rarity here. Having three bullets in your inventory is a miraculous turn of events. This goes against everything Doom is, and I can feel my mind straining to adapt to something I know so well changing so much.

The silent starkness of DoomZ means that the statement "night is coming", in its old-fashioned and jagged-edged font, somehow holds that much more terror than DayZ's. And never mind that this means the horde is on the prowl - there was a day? But where was the sunlight, the grass, the sense that the world yet lived? There was only a grey sky and brutalist buildings. There was so much land, so many buildings, but so little hope.

It's rickety. It's an alpha, you know? There is MS Paint UI art, there is difficulty in ascertaining what's a door and what's just a bitmap, and I had no luck getting the multiplayer to work (if indeed it does). But there's something to it. That essential starkness of Doom (or zDoom, as DoomZ currently uses) breeds a menacing tone and a heightened degree of grimness.

Sure, every one of its ideas is lifted wholesale from DayZ, but somehow this feels more like the end of the world. Because stuff like precision aiming isn't included, this is much more 'shoot / run / find food / find ammo / hide'. Desperation through directness.

Of course, I say all of this from a position of only playing it solo. With no potential to encounter humanity - whether benign or malign - the dread and hopelessness ramps up. Maybe once I've seen a bunch of DoomGuys haring about the place its slight spell will be broken.

In any case, it's free (either as a PK3 for zDoom or a standalone version) and it's twelve updates down the line with more to come. Definitely worth a look, now and much later on. You will die repeatedly, even though you think you mastered Doom long ago.

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