Project Zomboid Tech Demo Review
The world as we know it has come to an end. Zombies roam the land as humans struggle to survive, not only against the flesh-eating hordes but also against one another. Gangs scour the streets, breaking into houses and stealing whatever they can get their hands on using any force necessary. It’s a grim yet imaginative concept — unlike the outright unification created in other games such as Left 4 Dead, Project Zomboid presents us with what I imagine to be a realistic simulation of a zombie outbreak, with the threat coming as much from other humans as the deceased. Oh, but don't worry: There are zombies. Lots of them.
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You start off in a safe house. Your wife has a broken leg, and it’s heavily bleeding. Your first port of call, then, is to create some bandages and give her some pain killers. This is your first mission in the demo, and it guides you with helpful hints and tips to complete your objectives. The game has a very simple UI and a nice style, similar to the Sims series — the walls of the house become see-through as you enter a new room, showing you the explorable areas and contents, and you interact with everything via a point-and-click system which is easy to grasp. You can open wardrobes and various other containers to scavenge for goods to use either against the zombies or to aid in your survival.
Once your wife is secure, it’s time to arm yourself and board up some windows. You’ll go to a shed and find a hammer, some nails, and some wood planks. The hammer is not only a tool used to barricade doors and windows with the planks of wood — which gives the doors and windows a greater health pool against the invading zombies — but it's also your first weapon. Attacking is simply a case of holding control and clicking in any direction. After a while you become hungry and tired. You can have a quick nap, but then it’s time to find some food in a neighboring house. However — with a helpful yet surprisingly startling musical queue — you soon learn that this house is inhabited by your first zombie encounter, who quickly shuffles to you with one desire: brains. A quick smack with your trusty hammer, and the zombie lies dead, its own brains sprayed across the floor, walls, and door. Grab the food, then get the hell out of there. Back in the house, it’s time to cook the soup you scavenged from next door. While that’s on, your wife informs you that she got the radio working. Naturally, you go upstairs to listen to the grim news of the zombie outbreak.
As you’d expect, the demo has some issues and bugs. You can’t skip the intro sequence when you start a new game, though thankfully you’re spared having to sit through it when you die and restart. Doing events out of sequence — such as exploring the house next door when you’re not supposed to — does confuse the game and make it impossible to continue. But again, this is to be expected, and it’s pretty polished considering it’s just a demo.
The graphics, despite being simple, don't stick out too much. This might sound like a bad thing, but the style means you won't be distracted by various details — you won't have enough time to think about anything but surviving. The musical queues are already timed to perfection, soothing for moments of peace with sudden bursts when your character becomes panicked or scared. Again a comparison can be made between this and Left 4 Dead, but it's a positive one — the developers are clearly looking at what makes a good zombie game and adding those details into Project Zomboid.
At this point, I would kindly advise you to remember the soup. I say this because I didn’t, and in my forgetfulness, I managed to set the entire house on fire. This, in turn, set off the fire alarm, which alerted the whole zombie horde to the safe house. The barricades didn’t last long, and I could only flail my hammer so fast. I retreated to the second floor, to be with my wife in those dying moments — but she'd already caught on fire. A moment later, and I was too. I only had so many options, and I perhaps went for the least useful. Not ready to go down without a fight, I charged hammer-first into the zombie horde, flailing around like a man possessed and hoping the zombies would be set alight. They weren't.
I’m not sure what killed me, the fire or the zombies. But I do know one thing: from the brief moments I was alive, I was enthralled. Project Zomboid has all the potential of a brilliant game in the making, with scripted moments later on, including a man with a shotgun breaking into your house and threatening to kill you and your wife. The developers have clearly laid out their plans, and I cannot wait to see more content and explore the paid Alpha version. Sadly, the Alpha version has been taken down by developers The Indie Stone due to piracy — the zombie apocalypse has, clearly, already begun — but when it’s up and running I’ll be sure to write a full review. Now then, let’s see if I can cook the soup without killing myself.