Infestation World: Dead On Arrival?

Infestation World is an open-world MMO survival horror game, with a focus on what every open-world zombie-flavored MMO aims for: shooting zombies and not dying. You may have heard of this game in its’ previous mutations; “The War Z”, which was graced with a difficult history as a Steam title before being re-imagined as “Infestation: Survivor Stories”. The launch and short life of the online game was ended in Spring of 2013 by a hacking group that brought the servers and forums to a halt as OP Productions did their best to salvage what they could. OP began to rebuild, and launched the game yet again, this time as Infestation World.

When starting up the game, in lieu of actually having a manual, the game brings up the Infestation World website via your internet browser. It has a section for Game Guides, and like a person who enjoys knowing what they’re doing, I opened one titled “Scavenging for Resources”. What the page gave me was a series of pictures and a general overview of the hunger and thirst meters, and where to find different supplies. As I was already a fan of survival genre games, this was not a new concept to me, so I found it ponderous why they failed to mention the mechanics behind looting, just the existence of it. Confused, I started the game.

Coming into World, it offers quite a bit in the “survival” department, for starters. The typical hunger and thirst meters sometimes seen in survival sims make an appearance here, along with an inventory with limited slots. It’s a relatively straightforward interface, although I still had some marked trouble figuring everything out upfront. It took me a few seconds to realize that the camera was controlled by mouse movements, with actual spacial controls using the standard WASD scheme. I guess my relative inexperience with PC shooters might have had me at a marked disadvantage. However, I had an article to write; my intrepid spirit untarnished, I pressed on.

So, playing the game for five minutes or so, I came across a group of fenced buildings I took to be some sort of military holdout, seeing as there were tanks and all. After carefully jogging towards the only part of the map that did not clearly have humanoid figures in it, I managed to discover a break in the fencing and slipped inside the base. After another 30 seconds, I was unceremoniously shot to death by another player. Who then sent me a group invite.

… Okay?

That server had had a whole 6 people in it, so I tried again after my respawn timer was up, instead choosing one with even fewer human beings. Upon respawn, I went to a server with only one other human being, who I would hopefully never see. I finally came across one of my sworn enemies; a zombie, standing out in the open. Armed with a flashlight, I reasoned that if my character aimed properly (as she should, being a hunter) she might be able to brain it and take it down quickly enough. It was supposedly a heavy, baton-style flashlight, so it should work, right?

The AI for the zombies is atrocious. Perhaps it’s server lag, perhaps just poor programming, but anyone with a basic knowledge of hit-and-run or kiting seems to be able to avoid much damage from a one-on-one duel with these creatures. I whacked the undead fiend with my trusty flashlight. And again, a blow to the head. And again. And… again. Around 3 minutes later, I had gotten in perhaps 30 blows, and the zombie had killed me in five hits. And then shuffled away, not a care in the world, without even the common decency to eat me afterward.

So having played this game for 10 minutes total, I managed two deaths to two unrelated sources. Perhaps I would try once more, and do my best to stealth my way through to… somewhere. There wasn’t exactly a clear goal, so I figured the best thing was to head for the building I inevitably spawned near. When next I entered the game, it was evening. Unfortunately, the distance for your flashlight is similarly awful, making it almost useless in the only situation it’s actually meant to be used in. I began to jog around the fence, quickly realizing my mistake when my aggro sensor (or whatever it is) turned from green to orange. I dropped prone and began to crawl along, wondering just how long night lasts in this place. Unfortunately, as I pondered and shuffled along, I ran directly into a zombie, which took half my health as I got off the ground. I turned my flashlight on, hoping to kite it, and realized another major flaw in the game’s design. The zombies could run… but I couldn’t. My colleague later informed me of the mechanics behind running, and that it was indeed a thing, but by the time I found that out my desire to hop back on and try it out was gone.

Having suffered three character deaths in less than 20 minutes, I may not have gathered all of the nuances of Infestation World, but I can make a few observations from the viewpoint of a new player. The draw and view distances in this game are very, very inconsistent; the flashlight barely lights anything more than two feet from the character, and grass pops out of the ground seemingly out of nowhere, but the zombies and buildings are viewable from quite far away. Character customization could be seen as superfluous anyway, but the barebones attempt they have seems like they should have either tried significantly harder, or not at all. Combat is thoroughly lacking in both depth and balance, as a gun can oneshot any zombie, but melee weapons seem to be largely pathetic.

All in all, the game is unbalanced. More importantly, it isn’t fun either, which one could argue is the chief point of a game in the first place. If you are fine with a rather substandard shooter with survival-ish elements, then I would urge you to try it for yourself. Perhaps you, gentle reader, may find merit and enjoyment where I could not. However, if you need something more from your games than to simply occupy you for a time, then I can’t, in good conscience, recommend Infestation World.

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