Early Access Spotlight: Sony Online Entertainment's H1Z1
January 2015 is seeing the launch of SOE's H1Z1, which is an online multiplayer zombie survival game. Yes, to answer the obvious question, this is Sony's attempt at creating their version of DayZ. On the onset, that is not a bad thing. DayZ is a pretty good game and SOE knows how to make addictive online crack (Ever Quest anyone?), but the fact of the matter is that H1Z1 is already seeing a pretty rough start within days of launching. So how did a game based on a genre that doesn't seem to die (pun intended) manage to go wrong? Continue Reading
Release Date: 15th January 2015
Available on: PS4, Windows, PC Download
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Issues: Promises and Realities
One of the biggest points of contention that many players have with H1Z1 is the fact that there are pay-to-win mechanics. P2W is basically the ability to shell out cash in order to gain an advantage over other players in a game-functionality sense. During the game's development, it was often said that the game would not have P2W mechanics -the only things that can be purchased would be items that provide an aesthetic/cosmetic change.
However, as of the game's early-access launch, a feature known as airdrops has been implemented which allows a player to call in supplies in exchange from some real life cash. While any player can pick up the airdrop -not just the person who paid for it, it is still easy enough to plan an airdrop so that only the paying player can benefit from it. And included among the items you can get in airdrops are consumables and weapons -which definitely gives the paying players and edge over the non-paying ones.
It is said that he game will be free to play on consoles -so an incentivized pay system does make sense. But due to the fact that they had been promised differently on an early-access game (which they paid to get into), many Steam players have opted for a refund. Thankfully, SOE has allowed a no-questions-asked refund program for players who have purchased the game prior to learning about the airdrop system.
Gameplay: Feels Like DayZ, Only More Crowded
Our initial foray into the world of H1Z1 had us with an interesting server-selection screen which allows you to choose which version of the game world to jump into. The characters you create can only be used in the server you made them so try do decide early if you want to stay in a low or high population server. Of course, even the low pop ones tend to get a little bit crowded. Thankfully, the serve selection also points out important server details; players not too keen on competition will want to stay away from the PvP servers and those who like to switch the camera view should avoid the first-person view only ones.
By saying the game is like DayZ, we mean it exactly feels like DayZ -only with smoother graphics and somehow, more problematic gameplay. And that is not due to the fact that DayZ has been out for a while and we are used to it and H1Z1's mechanics are still quite new. The fact is that the gameplay of H1Z1 is bogged down by the fact that you have to deal with so many other players congesting many zones.
Also, the controls are hard to adjust to since changing your keyboard and mouse configuration is impossible. This is not due to the fact that the mapping system is badly done or not intuitive; it is because there is no mapping system at all for keys. Hopefully, the developers decide to add that functionality later on.
The game is focused on crafting -regardless of whether you have been scavenging for resources or looting them off the corpses of other players, progress in the game comes in the form of acquiring items and putting them together. If you come across an already made item, there is an option to study it in order to learn how to make one should you ever need to.
Dealing with the zombies is pretty easy as they tend to lumber around clumsily. Though as with the genre-stereotype, try to avoid masses of them as a small group of zombies can easily overwhelm you if you are not prepared.
Delivery: Also Like DayZ, but Actually Better
If you can manage to put aside the issue of the paid content providing pay players with an advantange, the bottom-line of H1Z1 is the fact that it has much of what it takes to be actually better than DayZ. The graphics alone are enough of an example. From the various backgrounds, environments, lighting effects, textures, and most importantly, character details, this game showcases a very polished world.
The combat and play is even better; guns, melee weapons, and even vehicles move and behave solidly -each one acts as you would (more or less) expect, and since both games are in early access, the volume of bugs is not all that different either.
And just to make things clear, by DayZ, we mean the standalone game. While the graphics of H1Z1 easily matches up the ones in the Arma II mod, the gameplay bugs on H1Z1's alpha build will certainly not much the stability of play of a mod on a retail release title.
The Verdict: Wait for the Consoles
In this age of next-gen games often being designed more for consoles than the PC, the best way to gauge what H1Z1 will truly be is when it comes out for the Playstation 4. And considering the huge amount of stuff that the developers have to polish, it will be quite a while before that happens.
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H1Z1 is developed by Sony Online Entertainment.