H1Z1 (Early Access) Review – The Same ol’ Zombie Stuff, or Something More?

H

H1Z1
Daybreak Game Company

I’m not the biggest fan of the whole over-exploited zombie genre, in any medium. There’s just nothing altogether scary about corpses shambling around which move so slowly that you can practically dance around them and not be in any real danger. Admittedly, the fast moving infected ones from the 28 films (28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later) were a whole lot freakier since they could sprint after you (overweight folks bought the farm pretty quickly!).

I am, however, a survival game lover. I did play Day Z (the older, Arma 2 modded version) and found it sort of charming, in a clunky way, with its wonky gaming UI and various glitches. But it never really won me over entirely. I’d heard about H1Z1 and watched some gamers play it on Twitch, and thought it looked pretty fun. So when I received a review copy of it, I promptly tried it out and here were my impressions…

For those who don’t already know, H1Z1 is a Massively Multiplayer Online game (MMO), and although it’s never really explained (there’s no campaign mode) the backstory that I’ve gleaned so far is that it’s set during a zombie apocalypse. Survivors must scavenge for loot, ward off hostile wildlife, fight or flee from zombies, and interact (or avoid) other players. H1Z1’s developer, Daybreak Game Company, has been pretty responsive to its community of gamers, and has recently patched various glitches and bugs which plagued its rather rough release back in the beginning of 2015. They have also introduced female zombies, ATVs, a new hospital setting, touch-ups to their base building and crafting systems, and various other fixes and content.

Courtesy - Daybreak Game Company

Courtesy – Daybreak Game Company

There are two primary ways to enjoy H1Z1—As a Player vs. Enemy (PvE) or Player vs. Player (PvP) experience. On the PvP side, there is an extremely addictive mode called Battle Royale. This is the first game mode I tried out, and fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a gaming friend who also happened to be an H1Z1 veteran, show me the ropes.

My very first game began with us parachuting down over a rural area. My friend urged me to land on atop of one of two tenement towers that we’d spied from the air. After successfully landing, he said: “You gotta look for loot in this game right away! When you arm yourself, other players will think twice about messing with you.” That, combined with the fact that I’d seen some other parachutes sailing through the air around our building, immediately created a sense of high tension. We quickly opened the rooftop door and began rummaging through each of the tenement’s apartments below. I quickly found a baseball bat and my friend, a rifle. I also found some scraps of cloth that he told me I could convert into bandages for healing wounds.

Courtesy - Daybreak Game Company

Courtesy – Daybreak Game Company

After I finally found a ranged weapon (a revolver), my friend led us back out to the rooftop in order for us to be able to scout out other players in the area. Battle Royale pits up to 170 players against each other across pretty large maps. But as time ticks on, poison gas is released at various intervals throughout the match, forcing contestants into an increasingly smaller zone. I’ve heard that the beginning of each match is where much of the action happens. And sure enough, as we crouched upon the rooftop we could hear numerous gunshots and screams on the streets below. An onscreen indicator shows you when people meet their end, and indeed over a hundred contestants were killed in the first few minutes of the bout. Talk about a sped-up version of Darwinism.

Just as my friend was telling me about the need for patience during a typical H1Z1 Battle Royale match, two other players burst through the rooftop door (that I was supposed to be guarding…whoops) and a furious firefight ensued at close range. Unfortunately, one of them had an AK-47 and pretty much “sprayed and prayed” us. A spent AK magazine later, and my buddy and I were splayed out on the rooftop, turned into Swiss cheese by the high caliber rounds.

Courtesy - Daybreak Game Company

Courtesy – Daybreak Game Company

“Wow! What a rush!” was all I could muster. Even though we’d met our doom, the harrowing experience gave me insight into just how fun and unpredictable a typical BR match could be, and I enjoyed several more games after that, and then another several, and then…well, you get the drift. I lost the remainder of my day to H1Z1. There are also options for two and five player teams, where you must stick together in small cliques in order to stand a better chance against other teams. However, towards the end of these game, teammates will eventually have to turn on each other since there can only be one survivor.

I also tried out the PvE mode, which is more of the traditional zombie-survival experience that many folks are used to in games such as the aforementioned Day Z, and others like State of Decay, Rust, 7 Days to Die, and the excellent Dying Light, which I also recently reviewed. Content-wise, H1Z1 really has a lot to offer even though it’s still an Early Access game. I enjoyed my PvE play-through, as it had a similar sense of unease as the BR mode did, but introduced more zombies as well as hostile wildlife such as wolves and bears. Also, the apprehension and tension generated from encounters with other players is almost palpable, since unlike overtly hostile nature of BR, you are never quite sure how other actual gamers will react to you. Will they begin chatting you up in the hopes of potentially teaming up with you, or attack you if they see that you may have some loot that they want? Or perhaps they’re just being chatty with you in order to get the drop on you later, once they’ve gained your trust.

Courtesy - Daybreak Game Company

Courtesy – Daybreak Game Company

H1Z1’s visuals are well-handled, and what really struck me was the dreariness of the environments—houses and stores look ransacked, and suitably abandoned, like people had grabbed what they could as quickly as they could and got the hell out of dodge (or devoured). Crashed and derelict vehicles also litter the maps and offer opportunities for looting. The sound department also got things right, and there’s nothing like hearing a zombie moan from an unknown location as you rifle through dresser drawers and closets alike in an abandoned house. What makes them scary here is that they can pop up at any time, so you have to be constantly on guard.

H1Z1 is an excellent offering into the zombie survival genre. It’s more traditional zombie apocalypse mode offers some unique twists that should surprise fans of zombie games, and its PvP mode is a real blast, as well as being super-addictive. I’ll definitely be following this game’s development as it comes along.

Courtesy - Daybreak Game Company

Courtesy – Daybreak Game Company

SCORE: 84%

Kane’s Conclusion:

H1Z1 has some really sharp graphics that really pull you into the apocalyptic mood of the game, but in order to fully enjoy them, a decent gaming PC or gaming laptop is needed:

 

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