H1Z1: King of the Kill
The zombie/survival horror craze has ebbed in recent times but not if Daybreak Studios has anything to do with it. Their marginally successful zombie fest, H1Z1, was originally one game which offered two separate, and very different experiences. One was more of a pure survival horror game where players had to survive against hordes of undead while fending off other players occasionally as well. The other pitted players against one another in a Battle Royale type of experience, where the last “contestant” left standing, won the game.
According to Daybreak the two gaming modes developed their own unique followings and apparently deserved to have their own spaces—along with their very own price tags. So instead of getting both games for $20, gamers now have to pony up that same amount for each game individually. While there has been a lot of outrage over this splitting up of the two experiences or modes if you will, I won’t be getting into that here. I’d rather focus on covering the first H1Z1 game that I have had the chance to play, and that has been re-released: King of the Kill.
In H1Z1: King of the Kill, players are once again thrown onto a large rural map with patches of suburbia here and there, and must defeat each other in order to win. It offers several variants of the central Battle Royale theme. The first one is where each combatant is his or her own island and must strive to kill pretty much anything that moves. The second is where you and a buddy team up against other duos. And the final mode pits teams of five players against bands other similarly numerous gangs of enemies.
Curiously, Daybreak did away with populating some of its servers with zombie infested contests. I thought that those matches were fun since they made things more interesting, since for instance you could detect where other players were when they’d shoot some of the shuffling undead (should they get to close). It was just another variable that made each game more unique. As it is now, King of the Kill is strictly players vs. other players without any zombies in sight.
Whereas another recent offering in the Battle Royale style genre, The Culling, has made its brutal combat more of a melee-centric affair, King of the Kill has stuck with more of the shooter formula. That means that the first ones to get their hands on firearms (with assault rifles being the best of course), usually win. If you parachute into a forest area it is more difficult to come across weapons so your starting location is everything. This creates a mad scramble to the suburbs since houses and other buildings stand a better chance of containing various firearms, from a measly 9mm to a punchy shotgun or AK-47.
When you kill another combatant you gain access to their spoils—you killed it you earned it, essentially. This kill or be killed mentality makes each match fairly nerve-wracking as you struggle to stay alive against other real-life humans, and games can quickly get chaotic as you scramble to find weapons, vehicles, and valuable supplies such as medic kits and so forth. Vehicles in particular are very sought after since they not only offer a degree of protection against bullets and explosives such as hand grenades, but are also a convenient way of conveyance across the map. This is especially true since throughout each game, poison gas is released at certain intervals from the edges of the map, forming a progressively tighter and tighter circle of carnage and chaos. I’ve played several games where I was either run over or ran some combatants over so there’s that aspect of the worth of vehicles as well.
The game controls are pretty standard shooter fair, however there is no leaning or cover mechanics, which I think might have made combat more interesting. There is however, lots of bunny-hopping when contestants encounter each other, and since there is also no endurance gauge this mechanic not only looks silly, but happens to get abused quite often. Heck, I’ve even been guilty of implementing it myself on more than one occasion just because everyone else does it and hopping around like a mad person does make you harder to hit. A fatigue or endurance meter would have been a welcome addition though, and I do hope that Daybreak introduces it to both of its H1Z1 offerings (it’s still in its Early Access stage).
The graphics have come along pretty well, and the more natural terrain in particular is pretty spectacular with trees and other foliage looking realistic. On the other hand the weapons look pretty generic and feature bland designs but perhaps Daybreak will improve those visuals as the game progresses. The sounds are decent overall, with trickling water, insects, and other nature sounds coming off as authentic and believable. Weapon sounds, by way of comparison, sound fairly standard—not bad, but just nothing to write home about.
The controls still feel a little loose and floaty, but maybe the developers will be working those out at a certain point as well. They are okay overall, but as it stands right now there is a lot of room for improvement. Early Access games are fine since they give a lot of fledgling game studios some liquidity early in a game’s development in order to financially back their projects. However, sometimes this facet of the gaming industry is abused since some more unscrupulous gaming entities will release a mess of a game that shouldn’t have even been released so early. This short-sighted greed can really tarnish a burgeoning studio’s reputation since it creates ill-will with gamers. I’m not saying that this is the case with H1Z1 and I do hope that Daybreak succeeds, I’m just pointing out something about the gaming industry that is unfortunate.
H1Z1: King of the Kill is a serious blast when everything comes together (and you don’t die within the first minute or two). There’s tons of mayhem to get into, fellow combatants to stab, shoot, and occasionally fist fight or smash with brass knuckles, as well as run over or blow up. There is also light crafting and inventory to manage, which adds additional layers of strategy to the out-of-control and grisly proceedings.
I consider H1Z1: King of the Kill a decent Battle Royale-style experience that is sort of light on narrative but heavy on action. If it’s not taken too seriously, it can be regarded as a good time-waster when you’re bored. I’ll be back soon to review H1Z1’s other gaming experience, titled Just Survive. Until then, happy killing.
H1Z1: King of the Kill has some fairly great visuals that should be played on a higher-end gaming laptop or gaming PC. We recommend playing it on a beefy machine in order to see how great they really are:
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