By all accounts H1Z1 is very much like a zombie itself - it straight up refuses to die. After a slow start as a post-apocalyptic survival sim in 2015, the game adopted a battle royale mode that rocketed the game to the top of the Steam charts.
Unfortunately, a lack of updates soon saw the game fade into obscurity as contenders PUBG and Fortnite arrived to offer finer shooting mechanics and more enticing gameplay.
Despite this, developer Daybreak refused to give up and, after witnessing the success of Bluehole and Epic's shooters, it released multiple game changing updates in a bid to recapture the public's interest. When H1Z1's most recent update, Auto Royale failed to gain traction it really seemed like all was lost, but with the launch of H1Z1 on PS4, things may finally be looking up for the title.
While the H1Z1's open beta has only just gone live on the PlayStation store, I've spent the last few days playing around with the game's closed beta and I've been pleasantly surprised by how well it plays.
The key to H1Z1's potential success on console lies in its simplicity. A lot of the mechanics present in the PC version have been streamlined and tailored to work with a minimal amount of effort on console controllers.
If you've ever struggled to navigate Fortnite's complicated construction menus on a DualShock 4, or died in a panic as you tried to drop an attachment in PUBG on Xbox One, H1Z1: Battle Royale will come as a wonderful breath of fresh air. With no building to worry about and with a host of guns that come with attachments already included, scavenging for weapons and swapping load-outs is refreshingly simple, leaving you with nothing to worry about other than staying alive.
As ever with battle royale titles, the play area in H1Z1 slowly shrinks, pushing surviving players closer together. For the PS4 version, this gameplay loop has been sped up to make the average match last around 15 minutes. Airdrops float down from the sky at regular intervals offering brave players bigger and better weapons and armour. Much like in Fortnite, you'll also be able to find loot crates hidden around the game world by listening out for the telltale sound of radio chatter as you get close.
Because of this, H1Z1 comfortably straddles the middle ground between PUBG and Fortnite. With its semi-realistic visuals it offers a distinct 'PUBG-lite' vibe, but the speed of the gameplay and ease of control makes it much more easy to pick up and play than either game I just mentioned.
Crucially, the closed beta gave me the impression that H1Z1 will launch in a playable state, unlike PUBG on the Xbox One that was, and still is, beset by graphical glitches and network issues. Graphics wise H1Z1 does look rather dull and last gen though, sporting clumsy animations and a joyless colour palette that makes distant enemies tricky to spot.
Skip to 57 minutes in the video above if you want to see me win a match.
Aside from that though, my first impressions are good! I'm looking forward to playing more H1Z1 on PS4, which is a great sign as I'd completely written off the PC version. If Daybreak can continue to support and update the game at the rapid pace and not leave the game to fallow like they did in 2016, H1Z1 has a great chance of snagging the PUBG crowd on PS4.
H1Z1: Battle Royale's open beta is free for all to download but there are multiple, purchasable bundles which offer skins for customising your character. The game will remain free-to-play once it eventually launches proper, so expect loot crates and micro-transactions aplenty in the near future.
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