H1Z1 is Sony Online Entertainments foray into the the Survival MMO world, with this title that released on Jan 15th on the (what I like to call) “EAT ME” Early Access Test model Evaluation system over the steam platform for around £14.99 ($19.99) for a basic package with some in game perks, there is another package available that offers even more such as extra event tickets and cosmetic items for around £29.99 ($39.99).
Although for now this title is a pay to play title it is worth noting that once H1Z1 enters Beta, or late beta testing phases the game will go F2P and follow a similar model to other SOE F2P games such as Planetside 2. So lets jump in and see how H1Z1 Early Access is shaping up.
So upon entering the H1Z1 world, one thing that is instantly apparent is how polished the game looks in it’s current state, although as with most early access games the render you see on screen will improve quite a bit going on towards final release, however in it’s current state the world is actually quite pretty. The dynamic weather system offers a feel of not so much realism but a deep ambiance to the over all environment, foggy nights, thunderstorms etc all add to the feel. It’s great to see that when it rains it’s not just a particle system that runs to make it look like it’s raining you actually feel it cause you can see the water pooling in areas, rain hitting objects and stuff and it just all adds up to the over all feel.
In terms of realism in the game, people expect to see the hard chisel cut graphics of something like DayZ which steers in the direction of being as realistic as possible, however people need to understand this isn’t an ultra realistic survival MMO, it has a stylized feel to it and that’s apparent in the art and rendering style of SOE from the look of buildings, items and indeed players, zombies and various creatures that roam the wilderness. Even with that said though, someone with a pretty heft graphics card, cpu and ram will get an amazing view of the H1Z1 world cause even in it’s slightly stylized state the world is extremely beautiful to look at.
As with games such as DayZ you find yourself spawning in at a random point on the map, with very little, infarct all you have is the clothes on your back, a flare, flashlight and a bag of gauze which you can unpack to heal yourself. I actually like this quite allot because of the fact it puts you into an instant survivalist mode where you suddenly think “Damn, I need food, water and then a weapon”, and it forces you to instantly move out into the world. And with most new games that are completely foreign to you until you learn a basic layout of where everything is, it gives you that instant fear of isolation, what’s that noise, where is it coming from ? where do I go ? and it’s a feeling you don’t get in many games and one that H1Z1 has captured perfectly and gave me a feeling I haven’t had since the first days of DayZ Mod and that was the deep gut falling feeling followed quickly by an “Oh Crap!, where am I… what do I do ?” However and sadly this feeling doesn’t last long after you start to get a basic understanding of the world.
After some creeping around, playing with the discovery and crafting system which I will touch on in a bit, it was quickly obvious that unlike games such as Rust & DayZ your life isn’t in immanent danger if you don’t find a weapon quickly, and don’t get me wrong the threat is still there but once you discover you can be armed and ready to go in just a few minutes it kills that fresh new world feeling because it takes away most of that fear that you have to survive long enough to find a weapon, but don’t let that take away from the over all game play.
So starting out in H1Z1 was a bit of a puzzle, It took twenty minutes of walking around in circles to remember that it has a rather interesting crafting system, and having used what I could remember from the SOE Dev live streams I hunted around for a house, and ended up finding a truck stop with allot of wooden boxes and quickly discovered I could break them open with my fist’s to get wooden planks, which in turn make wooden sticks and with the shirt I was wearing now torn up I could make an improvised wooden bow and turn the rest of the sticks into arrows thanks to the discovery system, So now I’m armed & completely useless.
Now don’t get me wrong the bow and arrow is a great tool however it has a steep learning curve that trips everyone up the first few times, I know it did me at least. It’s a simple weapon that’s good, quiet and easy to restock but it’s actual use makes it a little frustrating too, but after some practice, wide shots, shots over a deer’s head, a zombies leg instead of it’s chest I was soon channeling the spirit of robin hood and then I died. I forgot the golden rule of survival MMO’s and that is to actually survive, I had done so much running around I forgot to look at my food and drink meter which had bottomed out and I had died of Starvation. So I re spawned and di the process again, and that’s when the interesting thing happened, I looked at my crafting list and with surprise all the new stuff I learned stuck around. And so I crafted a bow some arrows and went on my journey.
The Feel of it all
As with most games H1Z1 follows the standard with WASD movement, third and first person toggle, in game voice chat etc, so players of planetside 2 should feel little to no difference in the control system of H1Z1 and that’s because, for those unaware, H1Z1 is built on the same model, engine and server tech as Planetside 2, which brings me back to my earlier statement ” instantly apparent is how polished the game looks in it’s current state” And this is why. The control system is smooth and just what you would expect if you have played games such as Planetside 2 and although the animations are still a little jerky here and there (It’s early access after all) it doesn’t take away from how solid the control system feels. With some games movements feel sluggish and some what autonomous from what you actually want to happen, for those who play games such as Defiance on the 360 you will know what I mean with the slightly sluggish turns etc, this isnt the case with H1Z1 though, movements are on the snappy side and feel well done when you hit a button and the animation instantly takes off.
The look of H1Z1’s environment as said before is quite stunning however the the games UI system can use a little work, the character/crafting/discovery window looks kinda good but can use some work and the health meter, options windows etc are just bare basic UI screens and it feels like a cheap shot from SOE as this is the main thing that makes it look like it was rushed out for Early Access, add on top of that, that currently in game you can’t change the key bindings through the options window in game it just makes it feel like a lame attempt at functionality, but this is the perfect time though to bring back that old mantra “It’s Early Access alpha testing”, which is quite true, and it’s with hopes the UI improves closer to beta and indeed final release, but for now it just seems … well… boring and rushed and sadly the same is true for the server select screen, but lets not get into that or I might never hear the end of “It’s Early Access alpha testing”.
The combat and AI systems in place in H1Z1 are actually quite impressive, I know I said the bow is a bit to handle but that only adds to the fun. No matter if your carting around an AR-15 or going bare knuckle combat still carries that old familiar thrill as it does with most games of the genre, especially in PVP,So I’m not going to give that a lengthy review cause it’s a bit different for everyone, all I will say is though is that even now at this stage combat feels solid and very satisfying, especially when you put an arrow into some guys eye who is zigzagging all over the place …. ahhh memories.
The A.I system is really impressive too cause it sort of governs it’s self and runs like a game inside a game. A good example is while I was creeping around the outside of a town I see a flock of crows go up into the air, I immediately think it’s a player but as I creep closer it’s actually a group of five zombies trying to attack them. So I sit and wait a bit longer to see what happens, suddenly a wolf comes out of no where and attacks the zombies, kills for of them before it finally dies because of the 5th zombie, so I watch a little longer and watch as this zombie turns around and starts chasing a deer. WOW! NPC’s that Attack other NPCS which in tern try and attack you if they see you, and this is the system, this is the main thing that makes H1Z1 special and gives it that sense of realism, after all during a real zombie outbreak everything is a hunter and everything is prey, If a zombie sees a cow it’s going to attack the cow cause it wants to eat, if it sees you it’s going to attack you cause it wants to eat, same with wolves and bears. They don’ know that unny shuffling human with one arm is a zombie, it just sees it as a person and a person equals food. So I see this as a big boon for the game because it has adaptive A.I that do their own thing based on the environment and their needs. And with that in place who knows what the limit of this A.I tech is or how it will evolve in the future…. very exciting stuff.
There are a few little downfalls though, but it’s nitty gritty stuff such as a red sun with a red halo during sundown, zombies and creatures getting stuck in place or in a building but this is just little stuff, and unlike DayZ where this becomes a big issue, SOE have the grunt, the tech and teams knowledgeable enough to solve all these issues long before final release so I wont harp on about those because it’s mostly insufficient stuff that gets fixed in time.
The server system list (although basic right now) yields something interesting, and that’s the server rule system. You have the choice on playing on a PVE or PVP server, but it’s when you look at the icons things become interesting, server rules such as “Head shots only”, “Crafting Wipe” and so on, which is a great move I feel by SOE cause it gives players more options for their play style, if you want just straight forward PVE where everything you learn in the discover system stays with you after death, you have that option or if you prefer the hardcore pvp, no third person, head shots only, crafting wipe where everything you learned vanishes you have that option too, even down to battle royal servers where it’s all against all to be the last man standing. So this is a good move cause instead of having to adjust your play style you can just pick a server to match your play style, and for a handy hint, hit the spoiler to see just what server rules there are.
- PVE Only
- Headshots Only
- Recipe Wipe
- Battle Royal
- First Person Only
Know I could review every single aspect of the game, it’s creation, play styles, bugs, whats perfect, whats okay and whats down right fail however H1Z1 is sort of special and is a game that really needs to be experienced to be truly understood, and that’s something you can’t get even from the most awesome and best known game review companies and the pro’s that work for them and critique games for a living, and lets face it, I’m not one of them, I’m just a gamer like you guys however I will close this off with the following….
H1Z1 is a game that has the potential to run along side and even rival such titles like DayZ, Rust etc etc etc it does however have the drawback of not being an ultra realistic survival MMO like people hope it to be. This is a title designed to run, look and feel the way it does for a reason because it isn’t designed to be ultra realistic. As with any game it does have it’s bugs, its moments of “OMG WTF I HATE THIS GAME” because of the current stable branch and the bugs in the engine and development, however for those that play early access games this wont be anything new. The control system is solid and the UI needs a complete overhaul however even with that said the game play is solid and polished for its current build. Does the game need more optimization and polish ? well yes of course it does however even with all the bad points, it’s still worth the £14.99 ($19.99) to experience the game even in it’s early access state as with it’s solid control system, good combat, the A.I system and indeed the rather interesting crafting/discovery system.
This title has allot of promise and given the success of titles such as Everquest, Planetside 2 and numerous others it’s safe to say SOE will take this in the right direction, which means H1Z1 will only get better with time, especially after final release, with constant updates, great community support this game is worth the playtime, and even if you don’t want to shell out the £14.99 ($19.99) you can wait until the free to play model is implemented and released and still have allot of fun, but I would say if you could try Early Access and grow with the game because even in it’s current state, it’s still allot of fun, energetic and vast.
Also don’t let what you may have heard about H1Z1’s controversy with Airdrops taint you, people every where are screaming “Oh it’s pay to win it’s pay to win” well that’s not true, in fact that’s not the case at all. Yes the airdrop system gives you a chance at a weapon, but only a 10% chance, and that’s if you make it through the heard of zombies that drop with it, and all the other players who are trying to get to it too and believe me, it’s no easy challenge, and you need to remember that yes …this is early access so everything is still up for debate and discussion and everything can and probably will change by release including these, so don’t give into the hate and rage, watch some youtube videos of actual game play that involves airdrops and you will see what I mean, don’t let the hate of others influence you not to at least try it for yourself.
I give this a zombie rating of 8.5 zombies / 10 … with further optimizations, new crafting recipes and better animations, along side a new UI this could easily be a 9.5 zombies / 10, however, Early Access is worth serious consideration.
And for your convenience a little look inside H1Z1 thanks to FrankieOnPCin1080p