Zombies might actually be scary again.
SOE gave gamers their first extended look at H1Z1 gameplay during a Twitch stream on Thursday. The highlights included:
- A nice showcase of the graphics, which utilized the Forgelight engine superbly. The sun’s rays bloomed through the trees and you couldn’t be blamed for thinking you were looking at PlanetSide 2.
- Hardcore survival game with permadeath and assertion that it’s not pay-to-win. You won’t be able to buy guns to get the edge on people.
- New features are added every day, rapid iteration.
- When it gets dark, it gets really dark. The torch was a huge help.
- Zombies that are actually threatening. Running through a pack of them will likely get you killed, requiring more tactical, stealthy gameplay.
- In addition to zombies, there will be various animals that might try to eat you – and, presumably, you can eat them.
- No in-game map.
- Vehicles! Again, not a surprise, considering the PS2 link, but it was still nice to see, especially when the devs “accidentally” ran over one of their own.
- Stuff blows up – a lot, by the looks of it. The devs said they had a guy specifically in charge of such things.
- Guns are “incredibly rare.” The game is less of a “twitch shooter” and more about survival.
- A peek at crafting, whereby a shed was created out of wood and planted in the landscape. Should make for some nice base-building, but I hope it’s not that easy to instantly craft cover during a firefight.
- And what everyone wants to know: When will I be able to play? The answer is in about four weeks, via early access for $19.99.
All in all, it adds up to a pretty sweet package, if all the parts can come together. And late last night, John Smedley tweeted the outline of a plan that would let players buy their own private servers with different rules sets, such as an adjustment to the spawn rates of weapons or vehicles. (As with most MMOs, the game will normally be played on central servers hosted by SOE.) This sounds like a great way to monetize; it’s a feature players will want and doesn’t offer any inherent advantage.
While I’ll admit to wishing that there was more variety in the survival genre than post-apocalyptic zombies – what about an alien planet or a medieval fantasy world with magical beasties running around? – H1Z1’s definitely got my attention.
There will be the inevitable comparisons to the king of the survival genre, DayZ. We’ve only seen a few minutes of H1Z1, so it’s tough to draw too many comparisons, but that won’t stop people from doing it anyway. The only thing that definitely stood out to me was the behavior and danger factor of the zombies in H1Z1, which any rational person would have to agree is greater than in DayZ. Early access into SOE’s game is also $10 less.
As for the other aspects of gameplay? People will obviously have their preferences, but I think H1Z1 represents the first real threat from a major game developer to Bohemia Interactive’s thus-far stranglehold on the genre. SOE’s not the clowns who made The War Z/Infestation: Survivor Stories, and they’re not a small indie studio like Facepunch Studios, the makers of Rust. This is a real company, with a real budget, and a real chance to take over the lead in this category. Heck, look at how many people bought into War Z, as much of a disaster that was. What if it had actually been good?
Think of DayZ as a little like EverQuest, which ruled the MMO roost for years until World of Warcraft came along. People still play and adore EQ these days, but it’s a mere shadow of its former self and, numerically, a very small part of the MMO landscape. I’m not saying H1Z1 will rise to WoW-like levels of success, but if it’s a more polished, more stable, better-looking, and cheaper alternative to DayZ, it could very quickly to the top of the post-apocalyptic hill of corpses.
For those who missed the stream, the VOD is available to watch below:
By Jason Winter