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H1Z1 Early Access Impressions

First off, you will see a lot of comparisons to DayZ in this preview. That’s because I’ve spent a good chunk of time with both games, so it’s only natural that “Father” is mentioned. I do sound as though I am bashing the game throughout but I’m not. Simple fact is that DayZ started this whole Survival Game affair and for that the developers should be applauded. Anyway, on to it….

I love a good zombie apocalypse game, it brings us all together and you get to kill the undead in gruesome ways. Of course it’s better when your real life buddies are involved. This is where the floodgates are rupturing with the absolutely chocca sea full of zombie MMO survival games that are out at the moment. Of course, the grandfather of survival games, DayZ pretty much started the trend, which in itself is still in the very early alpha of development. Some say that DayZ is in danger of being de-throned by other, more superior titles such as H1Z1, Miscreated, Stranded Deep and The Forest (co-op was recently added, so it kind of counts) to name a few. It’s bananas, it’s like WW2 shooters all over again.

Anyway, I digress, H1Z1 is shaping up to be something special. Sony, or Daybreak Game Company, as they’re now known, are doing some stellar work on this title. There’s an intuitive, yet simple inventory system (unlike DayZ’s which is just not fun to use at the moment), it’s snappy and feeds back well, assuming you’re not lagging on the server, we’ll get onto that later.

The visuals aren’t on par with DayZ’s and the map is only around a quarter of the size but the developers have said the play area will increase in time. The weather and lighting are pretty good as well as the view distance, again, DayZ wins out on both counts at a cost in computer performance. Seasonal weather is also planned so expect some variety. The engine is certainly capable of much more stunning effects and graphical improvements, it’s Daybreak’s Forgelight Engine that’s under the hood so it’s certainly up to the task, just look at Planetside 2. Marvellous.

The audio in the game is stellar. The 1911 handgun is an aural treat. The zombies have some rather terrifying moans and the slicing of rotten flesh with an axe it scrumptious. The ambient sound effects are also very well done, especially at night. Special mention also goes to the soundtrack. Very haunting with lots of different orchestral samples thrown in to up the tension.

The big things for me are feedback and the social aspect. Combat with both humans and the zombies is a treat. Smack a zombie around the head with an axe and it feels great, the AI reacts convincingly and goes down like a sack of spuds with a satisfying thud. It’s delicious. The social aspect is easier, for now as the play area is fairly small compared to other games. It’s easier to find buddies to crew up and take out those pesky bandits.

Crafting is fully functional and chopping down trees never gets old (hopefully the developers will add third person chopping animations at some point). You can hunt wolves, deer, rabbits and bears, if you’re feeling particularly brave. It’s a delightful experience, going out with your buddies to forage for wood and food.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a survival game without the dastardly other human players, the bandits, the scumbags who prefer to senselessly kill on sight. Daybreak have made an interesting decision to have separate servers for PvP or PvE (player vs player/enemy). PvE servers are just you versus the zombies with other humans, you can’t harm each other so it’s more casual. PvP is where the fun is though, for me, it’s more risky and adds to the tension, who can you trust? Is somebody who has their hands in the air and speaking over the mic in their soft, European accent really friendly? Or will he shoot you in the back when you’re least expecting it? It’s a very tense and thrilling experience when you add the human element to it.

Speaking of scummy bandits, if you’re feeling particularly daring, you can always enter the games’ Battle Royale mode. It’s kind of Hunger Games with zombies; all players parachute into the map and need to forage whatever resources they can to survive. I haven’t experienced this game mode yet but I intend to, it sounds very intense.

Of course not all is rosey in Early Access land, it’s just unheard of. There have been various server issues that have pretty much stopped us playing (being killed by teleporting enemies is frustrating) as well as some really annoying bugs, which I can only assume are latency-related (stuff like key presses not working, loot disappearing, laggy inventory, to name a few) but I can deal with this as it’s clearly an early work in progress title. I have to say though, for its first, major release, it’s shaping up to be something really special. I can’t wait to see where we are in 6 months time.

The main issue for a lot of players, is that the game will eventually become Free to Play (F2P) and with that , comes the caveat of micro-transactions. Yep, they’ll be there and at the moment, their implementation is a little questionable. The loot crate drops are very very risky. It will cost you, the player a hefty $5 to call in an aeroplane that drops off a big crate with some random goodies (or not, it depends how lucky you get, some report 20% chance of a powerful weapon). Now when this aeroplane is called, everyone around can hear the drone of the engines and they can also see the 20 foot plume of coloured smoke that emits once the cargo drops. Once dropped, it’s a free for all for whoever is feeling lucky. Friendships, hearts and legs will be broken for that precious loot. I think i’d be feeling rather peeved if my money was spent on such an item after Joe Bloggs shot me and stole the contents. It needs a rethink. Or perhaps people like the risk? Who knows.

In closing, H1Z1 ups the ante for all the other Survival Games out there. I sincerely hope the guys at Bohemia pull out some amazing things with DayZ as I know both titles will have unique features that separate both games. I do love Cherno but I also love H1Z1’s take on Proveglia. I’m just glad I have both games in my Steam library.

See you out there, fellow survivors. 🙂

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