H1Z1, as SOE will emphatically tell you, is not anywhere near to being done. Features are missing, placeholder art is everywhere, and there isn't a female character to be seen. It's only just playable on a larger scale, and yet the studio felt fit to open hundreds of servers (and take in thousands of dollars) so that the early crowd could sate its curiosity. There's no NDA, either, which means that the studio definitely wants people to chat the game up, whether good or bad. I'm happy to oblige.
In this MMO veteran's perspective, there are several facets of H1Z1 that are startlingly different. The screen is almost free of a HUD, allowing the scenery to take full control of the visuals. It was only when I got hurt or started to die of thirst, for example, that small HUD popups appeared to inform me of the cheery news. There's also no general or world chat (possibly because it's bugged), no quests, no introductory story, no radar map, no classes, and no starter weapons. It was just me, my fists, and my trusty flashlight (or Zombie Attractor, as I came to call it).
It almost didn't matter whether or not other players were around, as any structure I found was devoid of loot. I must have opened a warehouse worth of amoires, cabinets, refrigerators, and wrecked cars only to find nothing time and again. Realistic? That's your call. Fun? Not as much.
My second life progressed marginally better. Against all odds, I found a machete in one cabin and enjoyed thwacking away at a zombie that was running into the base of the house. For a game that's all about zombies, H1Z1 is relatively frugal about using them. I must have seen perhaps 8 or 9 during my entire session, and apart from the swarm accompanying the airdrop, none posed any actual threat. I could punch one out with several jabs if need be or just run right on by and count on the undead getting distracted after too long.
It got so dull that I actually welcomed the weird graphical glitches that happened here and there. My favorite was a house where all of the furniture was shifted about three feet through the walls (which were invisible) and barbed wire ran through the living room.
I also applaud the use of proximity voice chat. I did miss talking with players across the server, so finding someone and chatting with him up close was a welcome relief from the silence.
Things even started looking up when I found a string of houses that even had loot in them. In quick succession, I grabbed mandarin oranges, water, a hatchet, a knife, and antibiotics. Suddenly, a glimmer of potential for the survival mechanics shone through. Pro tip: Don't eat raw meat, as you can get food poisoning. But when it's a choice between that or dying of starvation, what do you do?
As it stands right now, H1Z1 -- at least the PvE version -- is a boredom simulator that's also a very poor man's State of Decay. Defenders will undoubtedly point to its alpha status as a reason for any faults (while still accepting the praise, of course). I say that the fact that the studio considers this build ready for a paying audience also opens it up to real and necessary criticism. H1Z1 needs a lot more work from the team, not a lot more bodies rampaging through the countryside, to make it a launch-ready title. I truly hope that what comes out of this will make good on the potential that early access suggests.
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