Wednesday, 05 October 2016 00:00

H1Z1: King of the Kill Early Access Review

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If you play PC games, you’ve probably at least heard of H1Z1: King of the Kill.

Although it’s still in Early Access, the sensation has developed a loyal following. As I write this article, 16,521 people are watching King of the Kill streams on Twitch. That’s pretty impressive for a game that’s not even out yet.

First, some context.

Prior to February 2016, there was only one core game called H1Z1. The now standalone, H1Z1: King of the Kill, used to be an in-game variation named Battle Royale, which ran parallel to a survival mode. Survival played more like an MMO: players could build bases and interact with (read "slaughter without mercy") each other and NPC zombies in a persistent world. Battle Royale, on the other hand, was more focused on fast-paced gunplay and competitive action.

On February 5, 2016, Daybreak Game announced they would be splitting the two modes into separate games. Battle Royale became H1Z1: King of The Kill, and Survival became H1Z1: Just Survive. Then, in August 2016, Daybreak announced that the official release of King of the Kill would hit our Steam shelves on September 20. However, the day before the supposed release, Daybreak announced that the release would be delayed, stating that the game needed more time to “bake” in Early Access. And while the release was delayed, Daybreak made up for it with a massive update.

I’ve put a lot of hours into King of the Kill since then, and overall, I’ve never had more fun with H1Z1.

For anyone who legitimately doesn’t know what King of the Kill is all about, the basic premise can be summed up in just two sentences. You and roughly 150 other players parachute onto a giant map filled with weapons, vehicles, and other valuable loot. Your goal is to turn everyone else into corpses and be the last man standing while not choking to death on the ever-encroaching toxic gas.

If that sounds fun, it’s because it is. Even when you suck. Trust me.

The new update takes it up a notch. The first thing you’ll notice when you boot up King of the Kill is the new landing page. From there you can do things that previously required you to be in-game, like reskin your loadout, unlock loot crates, and browse the marketplace for new gear. There’s an entirely new currency system that you can read about here if that’s your thing. I didn’t endeavor to understand it myself since I’ve always been more concerned with murdering players than staying on top of the latest skin fashions. The new update has also introduced a competitive ranking system that lets bad players like me know just exactly how bad they are. Thanks Daybreak!

Probably the single biggest feature in the update is the map. Daybreak has finally unveiled “Zone 2”, a completely reworked map that does not disappoint. Zone 2 is not only bigger than the original map, it is much more varied in terms of the content you will come across. The wilderness regions have more random campgrounds, cabins, and compounds that you will definitely end up having memorable fights in. The cities are bigger – a lot bigger – and looting your way through them without getting picked off by another scavenger is scarier than ever. The graphics were never bad, but the overhaul in the new update brings the game's visuals to a level that is on par with or flat out better than any of its competitors.

The in-game UI has also gotten some love. Upgraded features include but aren’t limited to a prettier and more intuitive HUD that, among other things, finally lets you see your friends’ health bars, and an in-game map that now highlights your grid position which makes it easier to get your bearings if you’re in a hurry. The new UI makes King of the Kill feel closer to a finished game than an Early Access title.

Probably my favorite addition in terms of gameplay is the Quick-Cast Hotkeys.

Previously, if you needed to heal yourself you’d have to open your inventory and manually use a bandage or med-kit. With the new update, you can assign your healing items to a quick slot that makes healing up mid-fight significantly less dangerous.

The updated vehicle physics are also a very welcome and much-needed addition. Tapping a fence-post in your jeep no longer automatically causes you to violently explode in a ball of fiery embarrassment…for the most part.

Overall, the new update has rendered gameplay more intuitive than ever. Though I haven’t run into any truly awful bugs since the first day of the new update when I was getting connected to lagfest Asian servers, this hasn’t been the case for everyone. The game’s sub-reddit is filled with posts regarding bugs, some of which, like long stuttering and skipping glitches, are game breaking for many players. Before you think about buying King of the Kill, you need to take a step back and recognize that, although the high player count may make it seem otherwise, the game is still in Early Access.

Bugs are to be expected – that’s what you signed up for by playing Early Access.

If you can’t handle that, then you might want to hold off. This is coming from someone who is seriously disappointed that the long promised and much-needed spectator mode still hasn’t made it into the game because it’s apparently bugged.


The Verdict

This latest update has brought King of the Kill to a new level. I loved the game before, and I love it even more now. Plenty disagree with me and think that the new update is awful and bug-ridden. To the naysayers, I’d like to remind you that there has never been a time when this game didn’t have bugs. Give Daybreak the room to get it figured out, the new patch has been out less than two weeks, and has made some significant changes to the game. If you’ve never played King of the Kill, there has never been a better time than now to try it out and see what the hype is all about. If you’ve played previously, then there’s plenty of new and improved features here for you try out.

Come kill me if you can, you bads.

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Mason Hattam

Mason has been a PC gamer for most of his life. Some of his earliest gaming memories are playing Myst and the original Diablo with his Dad. He’s a PVP addict and challenges you all to a duel. When he’s not enjoying his favorite games, he’s busy playing music with his friends and reading anything the internet can throw at him.


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