H1Z1 Alpha Review – Is it worth buying into?

H1Z1 is the latest zombie survival game to hit PC gamers, having launched on Steam’s Early Access back in January 2015, but is it worth your time at this alpha stage, and importantly, your money? Developed by Sony Online Entertainment, although now going by the name of Daybreak Game Company (that’s a story for another day), H1Z1 had all the hype of being the next big thing and certainly had the resources and development team to back it, something other titles in the genre have been lacking. Does H1Z1 have the potential to be one of the leading zombie survival MMO games on the market? I believe so, however this isn’t the first time this has been said. Not only that, but Daybreak Game Company’s attempt to break into the market takes a different approach to the likes of DayZ. In this H1Z1 review I’ll explain why…

Firstly, H1Z1 will be a free-to-play. That is, once it’s completed which could be roughly a year from now. That means that by buying into the Early Access, you are paying for access to a game which will be available to everyone for free. You essentially paying to test H1Z1. So why bother spending £15 on the game right now? Common place with PC gamers, the majority of us hate waiting for games and the chance to be able to play H1Z1 at this early stage, despite being in early alpha is often enough to make us part with our cash. However the community has a lot of input with regards to what direction the game takes, so see it as a way of helping fund the development with the hope of getting a better end product. For your money though, you do get a few added bonuses such as 3 Event Tickets, 2 Crates and 1 Crate Key for the standard edition, with the Premium Edition giving you a lot more, but at double the price. Whether or not buying into an alpha for a game which will be free-to-play to all  upon launch is a good deal or not is something you have to decide yourself.

H1Z1 Alpha Review

H1Z1 Alpha Review

As for the gameplay. H1Z1 takes place in rural America and places you in the middle of a zombie apocalypse with nothing but the shirt on your back and a bag of gauzes to keep you ticking. As with DayZ, your aim is to survive. It is up to you as to how you do it and what path you go down along the way but eventually you will die. Death is permanent and thanks to the respawning mechanism, it’s unlikely you will be able to fetch your gear from your fallen character, but not impossible. H1Z1 gives you the ability to build your own base and to fortify it which is one of H1Z1’s standout features and the fact that this system is already implemented this early on in the game’s development is impressive, especially when you add to that its complexity and variety. Work is still needed, but it is way ahead of DayZ in this regard and gives players something to aim for. Equally good to see is the addition of vehicles, although it’s nothing less than we expect from a zombie survival game in 2015. Currently 3 types of vehicles are implemented, with some tweaks needed, but it helps give players something else to strive for other than just merely surviving.

Luckily, it is pretty easy to get yourself into a somewhat decent position. Scavenge the bushes around you for sticks to make very basic melee weapons and some crafting materials, or take to picking blackberries which are an easy source of both food and water. Heading into more populated areas though is what you will want to do if you are to have any chance of survival. Loot is somewhat plentiful at present, although with any alpha this is likely to change up and down as the dev team look to find the right balance. Guns however are much harder to find and the places most likely to contain them, such as the Police Station in Pleasant Valley are where other players are at. When it comes to players, PvP servers are as you would expect. It is pretty much a KoS world out there. We didn’t expect anything less though so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The option to play on PvE servers are though, very welcome, especially for those who want to be able to play without fearing other human players. Although playing for the player vs zombie experience is not recommended.

H1Z1 3

Is this a good idea? – Fighting zombies?

Zombies, in there somewhat docile state, aren’t the real threat in H1Z1. It’s other players. But first, let’s talk zombies since this is a zombie game. It gets frustrating that zombies seem to be one of the most neglected features of a zombie game. There’s nothing which sets the zombies apart in this game to others. They have basic animations, are glitchy and barely move unless they are plodding after another player. From my experience so far, they aren’t too keen on entering buildings either and trying to engage zombies in melee combat is painful and awkward. Collision detection is weak and it gets annoying to be hit by a zombie who has their back to you while fighting them. The addition though of wildlife into H1Z1 is a welcome feature and while the zombie vs wildlife fights aren’t pleasing on the eye, this is an area we hope will be improved upon. I hope that zombies will get a massive overhaul as H1Z1 approaches release and I am sure that adjustments and changes will be made, but I am not holding out hope that they will be genre defining. The zombies offer no real challenge or threat, easy to outrun and outmaneuver, even when they vastly outnumber you.

Gunplay is awkward and clunky and leaves a lot to be desired. As a whole, H1Z1 does feel clunky. From the animations to the gameplay. Hopefully this will change drastically as these are areas which DayZ has improved upon and despite being competitors, H1Z1 has a lot of learning to do from Bohemia’s survival title.

Those looking for a realistic survival experience are best sticking to DayZ. It is the most realistic game available and is likely to remain so far into the future. It does stuff that no other game has achieved so far or can get close to. I feel that H1Z1 acknowledges this and is trying to go into a slightly different direction, instead opting to make H1Z1 easier to play with a much more arcadey feel to it. The graphics for starter can’t compete with DayZ. As a result however, H1Z1 is less intensive on your hardware. At least that is the plan at launch. Daybreak are trying to open up the game to a wider audience and by being free-to-play when it launches, they will certainly do this. The question is though, is H1Z1 good enough to keep the more hardcore survival gamers who have drifted over to the game from DayZ? I’m not convinced, however I personally can appreciate both games for their differences.

It will be interesting to see how H1Z1 develops over the coming months and whether or not you buy into the alpha depends on whether what H1Z1 is trying to be is the type of zombie game you are looking for. It’s different to DayZ and offers a different experience and many hours of fun can be had even at this stage of the game’s development. However “pay-to-win” features are, arguably, present in the game in the form of airdrops. While these have been toned down to make the game fairer and to move away from being tagged a P2W title, microtransactions is the way H1Z1 will go down. Being able to purchase cosmetic items and airdrops may put off some gamers, as will the fact you are currently paying for a game that will be free.

I enjoyed H1Z1, but it has its faults, but this is Early Access. I hope it comes good, but I can’t help but feel that when it releases it won’t live up to the hype and expectation that was created when the game was first announced. I suspect a longer wait to see that zombie survival MMO we have been waiting for.