Platform: PC (Reviewed)
Publisher: Daybreak Game Company
Developer: Daybreak Game Company
H1Z1 is a game caught between two titans. Despite being the father of the modern battle royale games, titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite have hobbled its popularity among players. Wanting to appeal to both the hardcore and the casual, H1Z1 has some great ideas that are hampered by odd design choices. However, the basic frame for this battle royale game is still the same. Everyone has one life and must parachute across a large map to hunt for weapons, ammo, and supplies. Each user only has one life and a cloud of poison gas continuously condenses adversaries closer to one another until one is left standing. It’s a strong foundation that shows promise, but may not be welcoming to new players.
The big addition to H1Z1 is a new game mode that takes the battle royale carnage and fuses it with the car vehicular combat genre. Dubbed Auto Royale, teams of four drop onto a map in either a sedan or military truck. With one driver and three passengers, players take to the roads in an attempt to blast their way to the number one spot. Along the way, users can acquire power-ups that will increase their defenses, gather ammo, and add special counter-measures like acidic gas.
This is an exceptionally chaotic mode in the best way that has hidden layers of depth. Understanding when to break off a chase or when to go for a power-up can make all the difference. Thankfully, H1Z1 wisely lets players swap seats so you are never stuck as the driver. Despite Auto Royale being in beta, the mode ran smoothly and I rarely suffered any bugs or notable issues. However, for this mode to be more than just a novelty it will need a better sense of progression otherwise it serves as a small distraction from the main course.
That mode is, of course, the 150 person battle royale that can be played alone, in a pair, or a group of five. From the start, players can select their location on a large grid that shows the most active locations on a heat map. This is a smart choice that lets players know where to go if they want to get into the action or avoid it. However, if you are the latter be prepared to go long stretches of virtually nothing happening. Despite sporting 150 players, most don’t roam the countryside and stick to three or four key locations around the map. These are usually large towns, cities, or suburbs that are full of loot which causes most matches to lose a ton of people before the first circle even closes in.
For those wanting to get into a fight expect them to be over rather quickly, especially if someone gets the jump on you. Gunfights are fast and furious, with most engagements only needing a few rounds to put someone down. This instills a nice sense of patience for those deciding to engage in most fights, but the curious lack of attachments or even scopes for weapons gives this game a very high learning curve. Don’t expect anything surprising in terms of weapons as the usual assault rifles, submachine guns, bows, and pistols all make an appearance. They all handle differently, but the minimal assortment of guns doesn’t do anything to spice up H1Z1’s combat.
If you do want to practice there is a mode called Combat Zone which acts like a never-ending Deathmatch. It’s a great idea and certainly helps you hone your aim under pressure or just warm up for a few matches. H1Z1 also boasts an in-game crafting system that allows players to make medical supplies, body armor, or special types of ammo. This is a great idea on paper, but the crafting feels poorly executed. Materials aren’t plentiful, which causes this mechanic to fade into the background for most matches. While you may occasionally whip up some protective armor, it comes off as a needless step in a game so driven by its pacing.
Like other battle royale games, players can purchase various skins and outfits to dress up their would-be killer. However, H1Z1 has three different in-game currencies – each of which are earned differently – which comes off as an over-complication. Skulls are the main currency and are acquired by playing the game or completing various challenges. These can only be used to directly purchase specific outfits whose prices range from moderately affordable to outrageously expensive. Yet, it’s still relieving that H1Z1 allows players to directly purchase some of the outfits instead of hoping they unlock via a loot box.
H1Z1 may be the patriarch of the modern battle royale game, but it’s not the best on the market. While it’s important to recognize what this game contributed to the genre, there just isn’t enough to make this title stand out. Boasting a very limited selection of weapons, needlessly complex in-game currency system, and a bland map, H1Z1 isn’t an incredibly memorable experience. However, if you are looking for a tough as nails, highly competitive battle royale then you might want to pick this game up. Auto Royale is a promising start to forging an important identity for H1Z1, but right now it just gets lost in other game’s shadows.
- Strong competitive design
- Auto Royale
- Fun customization options
- Combat Zone
- Very limited selection of weapons
- Crafting feels like an afterthought
- Uninspired map design
- Too many in-game currencies