The premise is a good one, if a little familiar: you’re randomly thrown into the wilderness with nothing but a flashlight, a granola bar and your wits. Survive the zombie apocalypse. However, it isn’t zombies that developer Hammerpoint Interactive needs to worry about; they need to fear their players.
I got a special hands-on with The War Z a couple months ago, and despite some obvious alpha game bugs, it looked pretty good. From what I heard from Executive Producer Sergey Titov, it was going to be awesome; a skill tree to build a character, socializing with other survivors in public safe areas, and microtransactions for cosmetic upgrades to clothes and weapons. Unfortunately, it’s hit some serious snags.
The War Z has had some problems prior to release. Kotaku reported that nearly 3,000 people were banned without any reason, and many more were banned from The War Z’s message boards due to a rather heavy-handed rules list (including barring posts that state why you quit playing).
Despite the hiccups and bad press, The War Z was released on Monday on Steam to the surprise of everyone. Rumors have circulated that The War Z was aggressively pushed out to beat the standalone version of DayZ (which gained popularity after becoming a mod for Arma II last spring) to market. The War Z quickly climbed onto the Steam Top Sellers list, but the exposure did more harm than good, because it seems the game developers listed a ton of features on the Steam page for The War Z that simply didn’t exist.
After a rather shocking interview Gamespy’s Dan Stapleton conducted with Titov, the description and key features list was revised to denote some features as “upcoming.”
It wasn’t enough though, and Steam pulled the game from its service, issuing this statement:
“From time to time a mistake can be made and one was made by prematurely issuing a copy of War Z for sale via Steam. We apologize for this and have temporary removed the sale offering of the title until we have time to work with the developer and have confidence in a new build. Those who purchased the game and wish to continue playing it via Steam may do so. Those who purchased the title via Steam and are unhappy with what they received may seek a refund by creating a ticket at our support site here.”
Through all the controversy and misconceptions, it seems that what players really want is an apology, the promised features and maybe a refund. Titov’s nonchalant attitude towards the debacle and his placing the blame on player’s misunderstanding of the features list has not resonated well. Is the game at least fun? There are no official reviews as of yet, but the user score on Metacritic is currently at 1.1 and dropping.