Gray Zone Warfare may be the new FPS hotness, but my experience with it left me cold

By admin May9,2024

As I write this, Gray Zone Warfare is sat at fourth place in Steam’s top sellers list. I’ve seen loads of vids from big FPS YouTubers pivoting to it as the next big thing, especially for the Escape From Tarkov-likers. So I gave it a whirl, both as someone who wanted to see what these more hardcore extraction shooters were like and to play a video game that worked. Unfortunately for me, the game barely functions on my rig to the point where it hurts my poor eyes.

Judging from my limited playtime with Gray Zone, it’s an early access extraction PvEvP shooter where, over repeated sessions, you gradually stockpile better loot back at basecamp like a squirrel stashing more elaborate nuts in an ever-expanding crevice. For instance, you take on a mission from a “Vendor” (a military person who lives in a menu tab) who tasks you with scoping out a village or the like. Then it’s a case of taking a helicopter over there, squadding up with pals or going it solo, making it out alive, and cashing in your cheque to spend on a certain type of bandage or a doodad for your gun – rinse, repeat. Kill members of the other faction while you were out there? Great, you can steal their good gear. Die to an enemy player, though? Yeah, that’s your stuff gone, probably.

I haven’t played Tarkov, but from what I gather, Gray Zone is a bit more forgiving. So long as you all choose the same faction, you can squad up with friends. And there’s PVE only, too, if you don’t want to be rudely interrupted by the bloodthirsty. It seems like it’s more conducive to quick sessions after work, with missions that’ll be largely uninterrupted by PVP nonsense unless you seek it out. And if you do die to an enemy player, persistent servers mean you can hoof it over to your corpse after you’ve respawned to see if those granola bars are still in your pack.

Flying over a lovely green vista in Gray Zone Warfare
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Madfinger Games

Sadly, I don’t think Gray Zone is particularly beginner friendly, though. If you’re someone like me who hasn’t ever really played something Tarkov-y and is easily overwhelmed by lots of finicky thingsā€¦ then expect lots of finicky things to overwhelm you. A pop-up consisting of three paragraphs acts as your intro and then bam, you’re left to figure out everything yourself. “Everything” here refers to the bazillion little things that military sim people love: ammo in your magazines not replenishing automatically, applying different healing products depending on what injury you’ve sustained (wraps, pills, drips), and buying different weapon mounts to attach different scopes, to name just a few.

I can’t pass judgement on the military sim side, as Gray Zone remained largely unplayable for me; a shame because I’d quite like to become one of those military sim lovers! Even on every setting low or off, the game’s only consistency lay in its near constant rubber banding and general frame stuttering. And that’s me running it on a rig with an RTX 3080, 16GB of RAM, and an 12th gen Intel CPU. Go and read James’ piece on the performance side of things, but let it be known it’s very poorly optimised.

All I really got the measure of was surface level Gray Zone, which had some nice Thailand-inspired settings, in the form of coastal huts and little towns. The helicopter rides were (fairly) lovely jaunts with plenty of green vistas (if you didn’t look too closely). And I particularly liked the gun feel, which had solid punch to each trigger pull and a smooth ADS animation. Besides that, it was reminiscent of an early PUBG, in the way movement had a slight delay to it, like your legs forever wade through custard. One time I encountered some baddies patrolling a gas station, so I looked through my red dot sight and could barely make out anything because of the dodgy brightness and view distance fuzz. AI represents an odd threat, too, sometimes cutting you down with laser precision or letting you wander right up to them without so much as a blink.

To be frank with you, I think the game’s a hot mess performance-wise at the moment and I’m guessing it’s the potential it shows that makes it a top trender at the moment. Especially in how it’s a forgiving version of Tarkov for the spreadsheet lovers who enjoy managing their soldiers like they’re a small business. Yes, I’m sure there’s great tension to be had in those quiet gunfights where only a few trigger pulls cut deathly silence and excitement in the optimal builds and whatnot. But even if it one day arrives as a polished marvel, I don’t know if it’ll be the one to convince me that – a simple man who doesn’t want to micromanage their reloads – I want to micromanage my reloads. We’ll see.

By admin

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