The concept of H1Z1 is simple: Hit the ground running, grab a backpack and whatever weapon is handy, and head to the safe zone while blowing away 149 opponents. Anything can happen during a match, including stealthy shootouts from behind crates, getting shot in the back while trying to cross an open field, and snagging a risky airdrop for some potent weapons and armor. Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the cornerstone of H1Z1 that keeps you coming back for more.
The core mode can be played solo, with a friend, or with a team of five, so you can enjoy the bloody melee without having to worry how many friends you have around. Making it down to the final circle of play while dodging airstrikes, bullets, and poison gas is often a thrilling experience, and you can go from hero to zero with the single crack of a shotgun. Whatever your skill level, making it to the last moments of a match is fun and frantic, and snack-sized stories often happen along the way. A player who gives away their location with proximity voice chat by accident when his mom calls him downstairs for chicken tenders, the player who just does donuts in a cop car around a warehouse waiting for someone to come pick a fight, or the jaded sniper waiting for you on top of the final hill. These are all memorable moments that make a match interesting and engaging.
The one-life, last-person standing structure creates a high-tension slaughterhouse that is is the bedrock of H1Z1, but it has other neat modes that differentiate it from battle royale competitors. One is Combat Zone which lands players in a small playing field, forcing tons of immediate action for all participants, and everyone starts fully loaded with a rack of weapons ready to rock. More importantly, it also allows players to immediately respawn and get right back into the endless battle.
Combat Zone is an excellent way to get a handle on how weapons fire, combat tactics, and more in a zero-stress environment. It is the perfect aperitif if you’re a seasoned player looking to practice with certain weapons, or if you’re a new player who wants extra trigger time before stepping into a mode where the stakes are higher.
Getting behind the wheel in the standard game is a powerful way to zip around the ever-shifting field of play, but vehicular gameplay is taken to a new level in the Auto Royale mode where teams are stacked into cars at the beginning of the game. You can’t get out of the vehicles, so your driver had better be adept at slamming on the nitro boosts, hitting the jump pads, and plunking down land mines while the rest of the team unloads buckets of ammo at supply crates and opposing vehicles. If your car goes up in smoke, that’s the end of the match for you. The novelty of Auto Royale is fun for a few rounds and a nice palate cleanser, but it lacks the compelling gameplay loop of the core mode and ultimately feels like a tacked-on diversion.
H1Z1 has some cool modes that give it some extra oomph, but the field of battle royales already has some excellent choices. H1Z1 has a solid foundation of scavenging, shooting, and surviving, but it needs a little more vim and vigor to really compete in the battle royale free-for-all.