H1Z1 Hands-on Preview
With so many zombie survival games to choose from, it can be a pretty daunting task finding one to suit your needs. Do you want action and speed to rule the gameplay? Or perhaps a more tactical approach? Regardless, there is more than likely the game you want located somewhere out there, on Steam or otherwise. Sony Online Entertainment’s H1Z1 aims to follow the more tactical route, and follows very closely in the steps of Dean Hall’s beloved Day Z.
If you have been out of the loop on the game, H1Z1 is all about survival against the world and everything and everyone in it. That statement should not be taken lightly, I really do mean it when I say everything and everyone. Be they the walking dead, basic needs or other players, H1Z1 makes it as tough as possible for players to survive, something I soon found out. As H1Z1 is currently situated in Steam Early Access, it is very much feature incomplete and has several bugs and the like in its current state, but of course, if you have ever played an Early Access title you already knew that.
Onto the game itself now, getting into a game can be a real pain to start. It is not irregular to find yourself sat waiting for 20 minutes in a server queue to finally join a game. Even so, before that a name must be chosen which does not match a name you have entered on a previous server, in turn resulting in a million different titles for dozens of different servers because a different name must be used to progress. Once finally thrown into H1Z1, I began exploring the control scheme and attempted to get familiar with basic mechanics.
The first and most important (I would soon learn) mechanic is that picking blackberries is a necessity. In H1Z1 a very minimal interface can be bought up in the top left indicating hydration, stamina, energy and health, which must all be maintained throughout play. As I had previously played very similar games, it was simple enough to make these bars stay high, though skill alone is far from what is required in H1Z1. Especially considering the game seems to be lacking some crucial components.
In a world as derelict as H1Z1, you would expect there to be mountains of loot available, yet disappointingly loot is minimal to say the least. Pre-patch, I was finding absolutely nothing but goggles which I did not need. After a patch however, loot appeared more frequently, yet it was still hard to come by. The loot issue could be down to server issues however, since I seemed to find more on higher populated servers, as opposed to ones with less people. Overall though, the image below perfectly depicts H1Z1 in its current state.
Despite coming across as pretty rough around the edges, it is important to remember that the game is still in early stages and all is subject to change. I would be lying though if I said some things did not worry me, which I will detail further down. My experience was not all bad however, there were several moments I felt seriously engrossed in H1Z1. For example; finding sticks is simple, and in turn so is crafting a bow. The game uses a discovery and crafting system which allows for unique recipes to be discovered and so crafting could go a long way. This might be basic stuff, but that does not stop it from being enjoyable. Once my bow and arrows had been crafted, I began my journey as a deer/zombie hunter.
It can be an incredibly relaxing experience shuffling through foliage and chasing deer. So relaxing, in fact, that the player can forget they are in a zombie apocalypse. That is, of course, until a zombie comes to bite your head off, in which case you shall be swiftly reminded of the current situation. Aside from my hunting adventures, I would often come across small, unplanned events which would once again show SOE’s vision for H1Z1 in the most brutal of ways.
My most memorable moment – and without a doubt one of my best ever – was when I met a bunch of wonderful people at a church. I thought they were all going to kill me, but alas, they accepted me as one of their own after some chatter. As we made our way out of the church discussing the game, another player came running towards us screaming “Bear”, and it was as hilarious as it sounded. He came in the church, and being the hero I was I told them I would defeat said bear in a game of fisticuffs. I went outside, and the bear was gone. The group came out and the bear returned, ripping one of the newly formed team’s heart out (not literally, probably). While they ran inside, I said I would defend them and proceeded to smash that bear’s head in with a branch. Thanks to the bear glitching inside of a car, that bear ended up being slaughtered and I was hailed a hero.
As dumb as the above moment sounded, it was one which could not be replicated. SOE had no idea that bear would be at that church, and they had no idea that there would be a group of people meeting to take it out, but they did, and it was a fantastic experience. Instances like the bear one can happen at any moment, and truly show the bold idea behind H1Z1. Community is what will build H1Z1 into a great game, but it is also what will break it as evidenced below.
For the sake of the preview, I used an airdrop ticket to call in a crate of goodies. In H1Z1 these goodies can be grabbed by anyone, and can only be called on providing the server has an ample amount of players in it. The crate will also not land directly on the player, but far away so anyone can grab it, whether you paid or not. I found a secluded area and called in a crate, which was pounced on by a group of three people before I even got there. I was murdered on the spot and soon after rage quit. I do not dislike the crate system, but it definitely needs some work, because as it stands it is entirely broken for those wanting to take a more lone wolf approach to the game.
H1Z1, as it, stands is in a tough place. It seems that it wants to be its own game but is struggling. Not only that, but the free-to-play nature of the game might cause problems for some. Though calling a crate in is optional, there is no guarantee you will get it which obviously can be very frustrating. It’s basically like giving an enemy a present, and that sinking feeling in your stomach is oh so real. These issues are going to cause major problems for the game, but there is plenty of time for them to be addressed too. H1Z1 hit Early Access on the 15th of January, and is expecting to leave it later this year.
You can support H1Z1 at the following link for $19.99 for the base package.
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