Review: H1Z1–Drop In, Arm Up, Go Nuts

H1Z1, developed and published by the Daybreak Game Company, is a free-to-play battle-royale title with an emphasis on mixing it up with 99 other players on an lonely island full of firearms. Image courtesy Daybreak Game Company Coming out of early access, H1Z1 (Formally H1Z1: King of the Kill) uses the same engine as its progenitor, the massive multiplayer sandbox zombie survival title, Just Survive (formally referred to as H1Z1). However, H1Z1 switches out the zombies for a pile of players to blast and get blasted by. One could easily compare H1Z1 to the popular PLAYERUNKNOWN'S Battlegrounds, as you parachute onto an island, scavenge for weapons and supplies while killing other players, Hunger Games style, and make your way to an ever decreasing safe zone, increasing your odds of victory of defeat. Where H1Z1 differs is the emphasis on fast, frenetic, almost arcade-y action, over the careful planning and survival in PUBG. For instance, while PUBG is stingy in its weapons and ammo to promote a more careful playthrough, H1Z1 has no time for that. Once you hit the ground on your chosen area on the map, H1Z1 practically throws a weapon in your hands and tells you to get in there. Firearms are littered throughout nearly every abandoned structure, putting a focus on more aggressively offensive play. Image courtesy Daybreak Game Company It's a nice changeup from the more careful nature of PUBG, it's just too bad H1Z1 has such a limited selection of weapons to choose from. You won't find any flintlock muskets in this battle royale, but you will find a lot of the standard selection of pistols, shotguns, and machine guns. Although there are special weapons like crossbows, melee weapons, and sniper rifles, more often than not you'll come across the same standard selection of arms. It's understandable, given the title's more action-heavy nature, but some additional flavor would have been nice. The one bit of strategy added to H1Z1 is the inclusion of item crafting. Shred pants to make bandages, salvage firearms and duct tape to make armor, explosive-tipped arrows, or a satchel for more items. In this way, no batch of items become truly useless. It's a small additional to the overall gameplay, but it adds a nice touch of prepwork to a match. There is some gameplay variety in the form of 2v2, and 5v5 modes, making it fun to fight and fail as a group than alone. However, the mode that grabbed my attention the most was Auto Royale. Several players team up and pile into a vehicle to drive around the map, grabbing power ups, jumping off ramps, and getting into high speed shootouts. It feels very much like a Grand Theft Auto multiplayer match, and it's a welcome change of pace when you want some pure action. Image courtesy Daybreak Game Company In the end however, I wasn't crazy about H1Z1 because while it prides itself as a faster, crazier version of PUBG, it still operates under the same rules. Battle royale games are like massive multiplayer deathmatch roguelikes; you get a lay of the land while picking off the competition, but one good shot and it's game over, no extra lives, no respawn.  You will die--a lot. You will lose way way way more than you will win. It's all about getting just a little bit better, smarter, faster, and twitchier, until you finally are the last player standing. But you can still also play a hundred matches and never win. The appeal is jumping in one more time and maybe, possibly, becoming the king (or queen) or the kill. If you've never played battle royale games before, it's best to keep that in mind. H1Z1 is free-to-play and is currently available on Microsoft Windows.  
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David Lanzafame