H1Z1: Battle Royale has had a somewhat convoluted path in reaching PlayStation 4. It was originally revealed and released into Early Access as a zombie survival game by Sony Online Entertainment, but that was four years ago and since then Sony sold off the company, which renamed itself to Daybreak Games, and the zombie survival part of the game has been spun off into something different. What remains under the H1Z1 name is Battle Royale, in which a hundred players compete to be the last man standing.
The core premise of the game take moments to learn. Parachuted into a large map thats free of civilians and wildlife, you must survive until you are the last player alive, picking off the other contestants whilst a noxious gas cloud slowly closes in on you, killing everything in its path. You’ve seen and heard of it before, whether through PUBG, Fortnite or any of the other games crowding this young sub-genre.
Scattered around the map in generous quantities are weapons, armour, and vehicles. The lower tiered weapons and makeshift armour can found in almost every building, but the better weapons, which you will need if you are going to survive until the end, are only found in large crates that drop from the sky at set intervals. It’s a simple yet effective idea as it forces players who are spread out over a large area to converge at various points and fight.
How you play is up to you; you can be Rambo and run in to every firefight with all guns blazing or suit up in full camouflage gear, lay prone on a hill top and snipe enemies from afar. You can go it alone, team up with a buddy in Duos, or have a team of five in Fives, which is by far the best way to play in my opinion. Unlike many other team-based multiplayer games, the premise of H1Z1 is so simple that you don’t really need a headset to communicate with your team mates. Beeping the horn of a vehicle or shooting in a direction of something important works just fine. With over ten million players and counting finding a team to play with takes seconds.
H1Z1 has undergone quite few changes since the open beta began in May this year, and that’s rather surprising considering the game has been on PC for years. The graphics have been improved slightly and some matches are now played in bright sunshine rather than the murky overcast gloom that shrouded earlier games. Friendly fire was removed almost instantly, as some “hilarious” jokers thought it was fun to massacre their own team as soon as the game started. Rather more controversially, vehicle damage has been turned off.
New weapons have been added including an RPG, while the new air strike and EMP grenade have partial helped fix the one big problem the game had at launch, namely that when it got down to the last few players everyone drove vehicles around in circles rather fighting. The vehicles, which range from quad bikes through to a new armoured ARV carrier that fits a full fives team, have also been tweaked so they consume a lot more fuel than the used to, which also helps alleviate the problem of the the end game demolition derby.
H1Z1: Battle Royale is free to play, and you don’t even need PlayStation Plus to do so. Now that the game has launched, the in-game economy has been overhauled with three tiers of awards that can be gained via XP. The free level gives you a cosmetic item ever two or three levels until you hit level twenty, while there’s also a PlayStation Plus tier that gives you a few extra goodies. The highest tier requires you to purchase the Battle Pass which is normally £4.49 but currently on sale for even less, and this rewards you with thirty cosmetic items or small amount of in-game currency as you level up.
My biggest problem with the game when it was in beta was the extremely high cost of the cosmetic DLC – £15 for a just one set of skins for you character and vehicles! – and although those packs still exist, the Battle Pass gives you an awful lot of frippery and at a very decent price. All the DLC is purely cosmetic, so if you’re happy not running about with unicorn mask, then you can still play as much as you like without spending a penny.
Like other Battle Royale games, H1Z1 is rather addictive, but unlike certain other shooters (cough, Destiny 2) it’s also a very fair game. I never felt that my death was anything other than my fault and that I could learn from my mistakes and improve in the next match. As the circle of gas closes in, the tension rises and you have to play tactically. Choosing a good place to make your last stand is often a key factor in winning the match.
Complaining about a game that is entirely free to play seems a little mean but H1Z1 could do with a few tweaks. The graphics have improved considerably since launch but the animation is still rather basic, if you get killed you just crumple to the floor, and the draw distance for grass is just a little too close, so it’s noticeable and slightly distracting. You can occasionally see, but crucially not fall, under the map if you roll a vehicle, and trying to steer your parachute at the start of each game is like trying to wrestle with a greasy pig.
The map does have a few landmarks such as the fairground and dam, but it’s rather unexciting with empty buildings and burnt out cars spotted across the landscape. As H1Z1 on PS4 has no connection at all to the zombie survival side of the game, Daybreak could add a little more colour and vim to the map. There’s no need set the game during a zombie apocalypse when there are no zombies. The area where the final few moments of the match end does seem to be random so I may have been unlucky, but I’d like to see the end game play out in one of the larger buildings to dot the map rather than in an open field or small town. A tense shootout in one of the multi-level shopping malls would be excellent.
Solid is the word I would use to describe H1Z1: Battle Royale on PlayStation 4. It’s not the prettiest of games or the most clever, but it does what it does really well and it is a great alternative for those who find all the tree chopping and base building in Fortnite very tiresome. H1Z1 is off to a great start on PlayStation 4 and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.
Version Tested: Playstation 4 Pro