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H1Z1: King of the Kill Early Access Preview

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H1Z1: King of the Kill is definitely one of those games that makes me glad that fully sensory immersion virtual reality isn’t a thing. Gunshots and bloody feet aside, the running would do me in.

King of the Kill is the spin-off of H1Z1 that encapsulates the old Battle Royale style of play in its own game mode. Each game comprises of approximately 150 players (give or take who is sleeping at that hour), running around in a large sandbox map trying to kill one another with discovered items as toxic gas slowly forces them into a smaller and smaller zone of safety.

In King of the Kill players discard the unnecessary 15 GB of survival-oriented data and focus purely on the hunt. Moreover, there are a variety of server modes that let players choose how they like their sandbox murder: with zombies or without them, with friends or lone wolf. Either way, there’s gonna be a lot of shooting.

And running.

Oh my, the running.

My experience in H1Z1: King of the Kill benefitted greatly from my experiences in Battle Royale, as the game is quite unfriendly to new players. Controls are not explained, nor are the rules of the spawn locations, the expected weapons, how inventory space (pockets and bags) works, how the first aid system works, etc. etc. My advice is to look up some videos before throwing yourself into the meatgrinder.

Before each match players wait within a small purgatory box surrounded by proxy-chat blasting fellow combatants. Once the match starts, each player parachutes in and can direct (somewhat) where they land.

King of the Kill 3-min

It’s largely down to luck of the draw whether you are blessed or cursed with where you spawn. High loot-spawn locations (such the two cities or the smaller rural areas) are always crawling with combatants and generally turn into bloodbaths quickly (careful, bathrooms have no windows and are great ambush locations). But remote locations stand a chance to be looted quickly. Being just that little bit too slow might mean you enter an empty house or, worse, get gunned down by the lucky looter as they exit. Moreover, the map doesn’t indicate where the hunting cabins and campsites are, so players unfamiliar with the game map will get slightly lost.

I say “slightly” because the map does offer some help: it’s divided into grids, the HUD provides you with a location, and you are supplied with a compass – but trust me, you’ll still get lost.

The game has the ability to switch between third-person and first-person, which boils down to perspective accuracy vs range of vision, and is largely up to the player to decide. Players can walk, run, crouch, sit (for some reason), and lie prone, and can move in all of those positions (except for the sitting one, but that has been known to change on occasion).

Spawning within allotted locations within the game (once again benefitting a knowledgeable player), police cars, jeeps and trucks serve as the vehicular transport (and sometimes weapon) within the game, and can easily outpace not only other players, but the environmental hazard of the toxic gas. In order to force players together, toxic gas is released a few minutes after the game starts, and the dynamic map shows the progression of the gas across the map. Death in the cloud is a gradual bleeding of health. Bandages and first-aid kits can slow or stall the decay of your health bar, but not by much.

King of the Kill 2-min

The toxic gas presents another one of those “luck of the draw” moments, because if you happen to spawn in the opposite corner of the map, you better start running as soon as your feet hit the ground. Moreover, you better hope you run in the right direction, because the green circle that indicates safety doesn’t appear until the first announcement of the toxic gas (five minutes before it arrives).

Graphics-wise, King of the Kill‘s textures are quite nice, but other than that it’s nothing mind-blowing. Granted, for a pre-release multiplayer sandbox map hosting 150 players (per game), it’s definitely not bad, either. Turning up your graphics will allow you to see fine detail in the distance, especially if you lengthen the draw distance. This puts people with more powerful PCs at a slight advantage, but then again so do faster internet connections.

Ultimately, King of the Kill is what you pay for – a sandbox deathmatch a la The Walking Dead crossed with Hunger Games. It is strangely addictive for those that enjoy that sort of style: you play, you run, you die, you hit “play again”.

Also, don’t expect the game to be problem-free. It’s Early Access, so there will always be issues, bugs, and the occasional crash, but from what I have been able to see the development team does stay in touch with their player base over such issues.

Does the split away from H1z1 seem a bit like a cash grab? Definitely, especially when coupled with the numerous micro-transactions that exist within the game(s). The division between games brings nothing revolutionary to King of the Kill. But it’s still a division that makes some sense, considering the H1Z1 crowd was a little bit split in its focus as well. It would all depend on the pricing at release. £15 ($20) for an Early Access seems steep, but for a developed game? Perhaps.

For what it is then, does King of the Kill offer a good time? Well, let’s just say staring at a small truck stop as toxic fumes flutter at your heels and knowing there are about to be 12 other people in that tiny radius, all looking to kill you, still gets the blood pumping.

H1Z1: King of the Kill is available on PC in Early Access. It’s slated to be fully released this summer, along with PS4 and Xbox One versions.

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