H1Z1 is a Fun but Flawed Battle Royale Experience

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Now out of Early Access, H1Z1 makes for an attractive alternative to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on PS4 and PC.

While Fortnite differentiates itself from its competitors with its colourful visuals and building mechanics, it’s hard to not draw direct comparisons between H1Z1 and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. They both feel like they’re aiming at the same market. There’s no PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on PS4 as yet though, leaving H1Z1 to gain a foothold.

The same, but different

Each dropping 100 players onto a map and leaving them to fight until only one is left standing, that’s only the start of the similarities between the games. Both are ranged-combat focused, letting heated firefights decide who’s the victor. Both expect their players to source equipment such as guns and armour while out in the field, slipping in an element of luck and survival wits into the mix. And both shepherd their players into an ever-decreasing playing area by providing an environmental hazard that saps the energy of those not in the safe zone. With such synchronous core mechanics, it’s no surprise that each feels familiar after playing the other. Though H1Z1 does have some unique traits that makes it stand out a little from its peer.


Performance is one area where H1Z1 stands out. Admittedly, I haven’t played PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on Xbox One for awhile, but the last time I did performance was choppy. So much so that it sometimes interfered with the game’s gunplay. There are no such issues with H1Z1 though; it’s silky smooth whether you play on a standard PS4 or Ps4 Pro. Of course, there’s a reason why it performs so well – it’s not an attractive game by any stretch of the imagination. If you’re not bothered by the lack of eye-candy though, you’ll be grateful that Daybreak Game Company has prioritised performance over visual splendour.

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No vehicular manslaughter allowed

Whether or not it’s just the placebo effect brought on by the game’s fluid framerate, but H1Z1 feels faster, too. Battles seem to move at an increased pace, and with less emphasis on modding firearms and managing your equipment, players are coerced to keep on the move. In many ways, H1Z1 feels like it takes PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and makes it more arcadey. It’s faster paced, more snappy, more accessible, and more streamlined. I can imagine some players really liking that. Others, however, will no doubt see it as a detriment.

Perhaps the one thing that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds players will really like about H1Z1 is that there are no vehicle kills. In order to make players battle it out with guns rather than trying to run over each other with cars, it’s impossible to do damage to other players by ploughing into them. The flipside is that it looks rather strange to run over someone but not see their bodies reel from the impact, but it does keep the gameplay focused. Plus, driving vehicles in H1Z1 isn’t much fun at all. It’s a pain controlling the camera, and the driving physics really don’t impress.

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Random encounters

One takeaway from playing H1Z1 that I didn’t expect is that despite dropping the same number of players on its maps as PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds, matches feel less eventful. Perhaps it’s because you parachute onto the game’s maps in a random location rather than choosing your own, therefore spreading players out more evenly; the maps certainly don’t seem to be any bigger than PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds efforts. Oh, and as an aside, parachuting onto a map gets a little weird as you approach the ground, with your player shifting left and right in an unnatural way. Anyway, unless you actively pursue equipment drops, chances are you won’t encounter many other people until the playing area has dramatically reduced in size. It prevents H1Z1 from attaining that tense atmosphere that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds does so masterfully.

For all of its flaws though, H1Z1 is more often than not an enjoyable experience. It’s certainly worth trying to see how well you get on with it, seeing as it’s totally free to play. And if you do enjoy it, each season will have a range of battle passes available; one that’s free for everyone, another that’s free for PlayStation Plus subscribers, and a premium one that’s quite reasonably priced. Rewarding you with cosmetic items and other goodies as you increase your rank, they provide a carrot on the end of a stick to keep you playing. Personally, I think it sits in the shadow of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and will remain to do so, but it has its merits.

H1Z1 is free-to-play, and it’s available now on PC and PS4.