Now that H1Z1, Daybreak’s battle royale masterpiece has made it out of beta and is in the hands of, well, everyone, we had to jump in and see it firsthand. The game does bear quite a bit of resemblance to other battle royale games like PUBG and Fortnite, but it looks a bit more like PUBG. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of these Battle Royale games, you essentially start in a sandbox with no weapons and you are tasked with seeking out weapons to kill the other players on the map. If you can kill them all, you win the match. It’s not that easy, of course, in fact, these games remind me of The Hunger Games, but with guns. You’ll have to use all of your cunning and all of your FPS skills to survive, and even that might not be enough.
Before we get into the meat of it, one thing that I really want to point out is that I’ve heard many people bashing this game and asking why they shouldn’t just play PUBG or Fortnite. Honestly, I can’t give you an answer either way but I can say that H1Z1 feels a little more accessible than other Battle Royale games on the market. I feel like PUBG and Fortnite are on two entirely different extremes with PUBG going for realism and Fortnite taking the term ‘Team Fortress’ to an entirely new level. H1Z1 is kind of in the middle, and it’s extremely simple. Honestly, there’s not much to set it apart from other shooters which is why so many people tend to gravitate away from it. Does that make it a bad game? Not really, but I think it could do more to stand out.
If you’ve never played H1Z1 then you might have the same confusion that I had during this thing’s rocky development. My general question from the beginning was “What the hell is this?” Every time I hear the name ‘H1Z1’ I think ‘Zombie survival game’, and that’s because that was how it started. It was much like DayZ in the beginning, but later on, it added its ‘King of the Kill’ mode. This turned into a separate game, and eventually down the line it all sort of consolidated into a game that REALLY wishes it were PUBG. Does that mean it’s a bad game? Not really, it’s just one that needs to do more.
It All Starts at the Airport
H1Z1 has traded the typical FPS game lobby for a physical lobby where you stand around with other players before the match begins. In the normal mode, you will be at an airport near a helipad surrounded by warehouses, medical tents, and trucks. If you venture down the map you will find an updated leaderboard pointing out who won the most matches and where they stand in the rankings. Should you have any gear to equip or unequip in your inventory, now would be the time to do it rather than when you’re on the ground.
You will spend some time in the staging area, and eventually, when enough players have joined the match, you will receive a notification and countdown timer indicating the time of the match start. Once the timer reaches zero, you’ll be on your way.
Death from Above
Like its cousins PUGB and Fortnite, H1Z1 does not take the lazy way out by simply spawning you into some random corner of the map. Instead, they allow you to choose a drop location from a grid-style map and then they drop you into the air, forcing you to guide your parachute to the ground at a location of your choice. This is one of the major aspects that sets it apart from PUBG where you can only pick WHEN you drop. Once you land, you can search the area for weapons, armor, and other items that will make your fight a little bit easier. Sometimes you might be lucky enough to land on a stockpile of weapons, and other times you might end up in an abandoned warehouse with the enemy closing in. It really is a matter of luck with these matches, and you would do well to move fast once you get boots on the ground.
The real problem that I have with a strategic map and drop is that players know where they are going and they know what they are going to do when they get there. Once you are familiar enough with an area, you can effectively hole yourself up and pick off players as they come down. Eventually, when enough parties are familiar with the drop locations, it really becomes a stalemate and not all that interesting.
Getting Into the Fight
By the definition of the genre, you have one mission in H1Z1: Survive. Once you land, you will be given a certain amount of time to get into the circle before poisonous gas fills the area. As the game progresses the circle will become smaller, forcing players to fight in a more confined area. Once you land you will have plenty of space to move around, so start searching houses and other buildings for weapons. At the end of the game, crates will start to drop, giving you access to more interesting endings and a more potent end game.
There are a few crafting elements to the game, for example, you can break down items like shirts and turn them into bandages. You can also combine items with duct tape and sheet metal to create body armor, so in other words, try to be creative. There’s always a way to win if you look hard enough.
Play Alone or with Friends
The game is designed so that you can play solo, but you can also choose duo or five-person squads. If you use voice chat, a five-person squad can be an invaluable tool, at least until the very end. It can also make going for crates a little bit easier at the end game as you will have someone to watch your back. Still, you could end up taking a bullet to the brainpan as you go for a crate that you HOPE contains a more powerful rifle. Does this mean that you should completely avoid going for crates? I would say no, because if you have sub-par gear in the end-game, you’re not going to make it very far.
During one of the first games I played, I ran into another player who I thought for sure was going to kill me, but instead, he dropped a few items for me to pick up and tried to show me the basics of the game. Then he was promptly shot in the head by a sniper, so you can say that was kind of a blow to my morale.
All in all, a game of H1Z1 will typically last for 10-20 minutes, but those minutes can be some of the most intense of your life. Honestly, I recommend grouping up if you want to live for longer than a few minutes because some of the people you’ll encounter in-game have amazing reflexes.
Don’t Worry: It’s Not Pay to Win
There are three currencies used in H1Z1:
- Crowns – Paid for with Real Money
- Skulls – Earned by Completing Challenges
- Scrap – Earned from trading in Skins
As for what you can buy with them? I was pretty happy to find that it was pretty much cosmetic options. In H1Z1 you don’t really have progression, and all you have to worry about is making yourself look as good as possible. If you can’t afford to get skins or crates, well, you can still make yourself look like a badass by being the very best, like no one ever was.
If you’ve had enough of the battle royale game you can try auto royale which allows a few dozen cars to completely disregard all the rules of driver’s ed by engaging in honorable combat with one another. It’s very much like the battle royale mode but don’t worry, you’re not going to be getting out of the car to loot buildings. Instead, you will drive over glowing power-ups, and all of the gear is placed in the trunk. Personally, I would prefer a more realistic depiction of vehicular combat but like I said, it’s a more accessible game.
When you spawn in you will either be a driver or a gunner. If you are a driver then you will need to know the map so that you can easily find the power-ups and take alternate routes when the action gets too tough. If you are new to the game and you spawn in as a driver however, then I’m sorry, but everyone is going to hate you.
If you don’t spawn in as a driver you’re going to be a gunner and your job is two-fold:
- Shoot everything until it dies
- Hate the driver for being such a failure
It really is that simple and right now there’s really nothing else like auto royale on the market. Let’s just pray to god that they don’t split it off into a separate title because we’ve really had quite enough of that with this title.
As a battle royale game, it really fulfills its purpose even if it does so in a very generic manner. I had some performance issues, and I really think that they should make it more accessible to players with mid-range systems, but that’s probably more of a ‘me’ problem.
Oh boy. Well, I mean, if you’re looking for a straight ‘shoot em’ up’ experience then you’ve come to the right place, but don’t expect to be completely blown away by this game.
Learning Curve: 9/10
You pick a drop zone, you drop, find weapons, and commence to purge. There isn’t much to learn here honestly other than some light crafting and maybe teamwork if you’re not familiar with the concept.
Graphics / Sound: 8/10
It looks and sounds like every other shooter so I’m not sure what to say here. The graphics are great, but they’re probably not going to pull you in.
Now that the game is free, I have to say that the value has gone up significantly. H1Z1 has the distinction of being one of the first Battle Royale games out there, but beyond that, you should probably spend your time playing something more interesting. I’m not saying don’t play it, I’m saying to consider your options.
All in all, it’s not a BAD game, not by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t make it a great game. In the end, this is going to be a matter of taste; with so many battle royale games out there, where do you want to spend your time?
+Well-executed battle royale gameplay
+Light crafting system
+Awesome vehicle royale mode
-Bad performance on mid-range systems
Related: Battle Royale, Daybreak Games, H1Z1, Review, Shooter