Ahh, is there any feeling as blissful and pure as the shit-your-pants emotion that games like H1Z1 inspire? The frustration of landing in to a site to find a whole arsenal at your disposal, only to be greeted with a 12 gauge shotgun shell to the head? Or maybe the panting adrenaline rush when you’re the last of the two players left? These feelings are some of the prime reasons that H1Z1, and other titles of its calibur, became so popular so quickly. Along with the mass growth of eSports and Twitch personalities.
For the longest time, H1Z1: King of The Kill served as a fully fledged successor to Player Unknown’s Battle Royal mod for the military sim Arma III. Originally conceived as the video game equivalent to the Japanese motion picture, Battle Royal, these titles pit hundreds of players into one gigantic arena with nothing but the clothes on their back. Loot and Shoot is the goal as you scurry to find weapons, gear, and items to help you to become the last man standing.
Although never managing to overcome its pitfalls for almost a year after release, H1Z1 was often criticised for its lack of graphical presence as well as numerous bugs. But with the huge amount of support thrown in for the game from the streaming site Twitch, H1Z1 held a monopoly over the genre for a brief time. This was until its now biggest competitor Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds went into early access. Since then American developer DayBreak has been working hard on updating the game to bring it up to a standard deemed acceptable to the community.
I, unlike many others, have never actually played H1Z1, PubBG or any other game like it. So as such I’ll be able to make a clear review on the title without any bias or past experiences to affect my judgment.
With that in mind. First up on the firing range, I’ll be taking aim at the game’s graphical prowess. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with how the game actually looks. H1Z1 makes use of the ForgeLight engine used in massively open world shooter Planetside 2 to great effect, the engine provides one of the best examples of being able to keep a consistently vast draw distance without causing too much of a strain on your CPU or VRAM. I was able to get a consistent 60 FPS with my Nvidia 960 Strix 2GB GPU and Intel i5-4690k CPU on high settings. A gentle surprise, with other open world games I often struggle to play with a Draw Distance above low settings.
The colours appear saturated to a degree in which doesn’t become distracting and the high texture foliage adds an immersive décor to the world that often becomes bland in other titles. Greens, reds, blues, and greys are visible from over kilometers of game space, giving an extreme sense of scope to the arena.
Whereas all these points were pleasantly surprising, the lack of variation in the game’s location can sometimes get a little bit disappointing. However, seeing as the arena is titled “Anywhere, America” the fact that houses are built in the same way and look the same on the inside is realistic enough for me to look past that issue. The HUD for me is a big no go though. The look of it screams “cheap steam indie flop” and although the game does have its own art style. The HUD just looks out of place.
Audio-wise, the game holds up on the most part. The guns are loud and the general noises of footsteps and movement are recognisable. The best thing about the games audio comes in the form of hearing other players guns popping off in the distance. It’s like a scene from Red Dawn feeding directly into my ears with a Saving Private Ryan filter placed on top of it. Trying to figure out the weapons location is paramount to survival. But not always as easy as it first appears.
Often I found myself either running towards or away from a gunshot I thought had come from one direction. Only to be shot from the same building I just evacuated. All the gun shots sound like they’re coming from outside which breaks my immersive gap too much for me to not make a negative point out of it. If someone shoots a gun in the room next to me, it should sound like it came from the room next to me.
H1Z1: KOK runs in a very similar way to many other online multiplayer games like to. Play to gain levels for your profile and unlock (or buy) crates for more cosmetic options, which are plentiful. It’s newest addition to the gameplay, however, comes in the form of the new Skirmish mode. These fast paced games spawn you with different rulesets like Shotguns and Snipers. A change of pace for long time players but I found a lack of incentive to actually take part, as a new player anyway.
Although I mentioned I enjoyed the gun sounds, I don’t necessarily enjoy shooting them. Each feels clunky in a weird way and ranges are sometimes hard to figure out. Can I hit a guy 100 metres away with a .45 Magnum in real life? Probably not. But you can certainly hit that shot. I found that half of the shots fired which I could have sworn were perfectly planted on a dudes head either went straight through or just liked to skim past their heads creating a halo shaped bullet holes in the wall behind them. This same judgement could be passed on the games crafting system in which I found marginally engaging, but the game does little to explain to you how you go about these certain systems.
As said before though, I am a new player so many negatives would not be a worry for many long term fans.
But for me personally, the stop-start nature of the gameplay can become consistently boring. One game I would get ploughed in the first 10 seconds to then have to wait another 5 minutes to enter a new game. Only to reach the top 10 players alive without seeing a single soul. I found the gunplay uninterestingly bland but holding the potential to reach greater heights. A lack of a cover button is among one of my biggest complaints, as well as the inability to switch the camera side of your 3d character as peaking around corners would become considerably more satisfactory than getting your shoulder shot before you even approach the end of the wall. Overall it’s a game that I could of imagined playing for a long time, but I always had that distinct nag on my shoulders that I was late for the party. Hopefully, I’ll get to try out PUB:BG soon enough to see if that has the substance I expected when I entered into H1Z1. But for now, great visual presence and an even better premise of gameplay design are let down too often by its simplistic nature and low-quality delivery.