H1Z1: Battle Royale Review

H1Z1 is a pioneer of the Battle Royale craze and recently launched out of open beta and into its 1.0 version for the masses to enjoy on PS4, but how does it stack up against the numerous competitors that have popped up over the past few years? Can H1Z1 hold its own against the money-making monoliths that have taken the world by storm during the course of its development? After spending a few hours with the game and its new battle pass, here’s what I think.

A Mess of Menus

H1Z1’s customization menu has an overwhelming number of sub-menus. There are options for how your character’s head looks without a helmet, with a helmet on, and with a specific type of helmet on, the Tactical Helmets. Each part can have between 0 and 60 cosmetic options, most of which will be locked when you start the game, creating an intimidating amount of clutter. The game’s cosmetics try to borrow the wacky and colorful tone of Fortnite’s skins, but combined with the decidedly militaristic tone of the rest of the game, alienates its colorful cosmetics as they look out of place, unnatural, and ultimately, forced.

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The loot box store’s presentation is messy with three different categories of crates you can get that are purchased with the games “premium” currency, Crowns, ranging from 300 crowns to 5000. There are twelve different options in total, creating a bizarre half-compromise between simplistic and busy. There’s also a marketplace with individual cosmetics which players can buy with Crowns or another currency, Credits, gained from progressing through the Battle Pass. The Battle Pass progression is unclear, as each tier has tiny notches in their underlining that are too small and close together to figure out how many Battle Pass medals you need to get the next tier, which are awarded at the end of each match depending on your performance, and for completing challenges. Also, it’s worth noting that I was unable to find a specific place to view all of my game stats like kills, deaths, etc. anywhere in any of the menus.

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Boots on the Ground

There are 4 different modes, Solo, Duos, Fives, along with a Combat Training mode where players can practice in a smaller environment with respawns. There’s also an unreleased arcade mode where players will be able to play in unranked matches. H1Z1 has been able to find matches pretty quickly, and at the end of each round, you’re presented with the option to jump into the next match or go back to the main menu to open crates or customize your character.

Matches begin abruptly with players appearing in mid-air, their parachutes out, sometimes with a loud audio glitch. The parachute is tricky to use, as holding forward doesn’t seem to do much, while leaning left and right sends you soaring in whichever direction you’re holding. Players all start inside of the safe zone free from the toxic gas – but as the safe zone shrinks the map’s enormous size can become your worst enemy if you can’t find a vehicle. Vehicle handling feels great, but my attempts to run players down were thwarted as I simply passed through them without consequence.

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Healing items work similar to Fortnite’s slurp-juice, healing a small chunk of health before restoring a larger portion over time, but you won’t be able to pick up too many of them without a backpack. There’s also no base melee weapon for players unfortunate enough be loot-less during their first fight in a match. However, guns are just about everywhere in varying rarities, though you’ll be using the AR-15, Riot Shotgun, and a pistol for the better part of most matches. There’s also a bunch of weapons crates laying around the map, and you’ll know you’re close to one when you hear the nearby beeping of a radio transmission. When you open one though, its contents shoot out in every direction, so you’ll have to scramble to make sure you get everything.

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Matches play out in a similar manner to other Battle Royale games – drop in, grab a gun, run into nobody for miles, and die or win. Unlike Fortnite’s constantly evolving world, H1Z1 plays it safe with its single map which – although gorgeous at times – is pretty indistinguishable from other games in the genre, the same of which can be said for the overall gameplay.

As I mentioned before, H1Z1’s map is enormous, but feels empty with points of interest few and far between, none of them particularly interesting. Icons for different areas are off center, often up to a hundred meters from any actual structure it’s intended to indicate. The touchpad map operates differently from the minimap, as the larger map doesn’t show which direction you’re facing, meaning some players may need to switch between the two in their first few rounds to really get their bearings. Match time is on par with the average round of Fortnite or PUBG, but feel slower as the player count always seems to feel particularly high, no matter what stage of the game I’m in.

The Verdict

Overall, H1Z1 may be a pioneer of the Battle Royale craze, but in the games current form, it just cannot stack up against PUBG and Fortnite due to its lack of focus, polish, and overall content. It’s ambitious map size and player count work against the overall interest of the game’s flow, often making matches feel stretched beyond necessity to no real benefit. The main menus where players interact with rewards could definitely use some fine-tuning, and the in-game UI needs some fixing of its own like putting the D-pad on the left-hand side of the screen or showing player direction on the larger map. But most of all, H1Z1 lacks identity, easily lost in a sea of militaristic shooters, battle royale or not, and that may be the main reason it won’t be the last man standing when the genre fad begins to fade away.

***A PS4 battle pass was provided by the publisher***