H1Z1: King of Kill Review
Artwork and logo courtesy of Daybreak Game Company

H1Z1: King of the Kill Review: Extreme Wilderness Adventures

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Artwork and logo courtesy of Daybreak Game Company

In January of 2016, Daybreak Game Company announced that they would be splitting their popular zombie survival game H1Z1 into two separate titles, each with its own dedicated development team: H1Z1: Just Survive and H1Z1: King of the Kill. Just Survive is an open-world multiplayer survival game (with zombies) that’s all about, y’know, just surviving. King of the Kill is, in Daybreak’s own words, “a fight-to-the-death shooter spectacle.

It’s a clever way to divide the playerbase into two separate communities–if you’re all about base building, scavenging, and player interaction, Just Survive is for you. If your main objective in multiplayer games is killing other people, then King of the Kill is probably your cup of tea.

The premise of King of the Kill (KotK) is relatively simple. It’s a video game version of the Hunger Games, basically: 150 participants compete for survival on a massive map, scavenging for supplies and killing one another until only a single player remains. Toxic gas is released after the first couple minutes of play, forcing players to navigate towards a randomly determined “safe zone” to escape the slowly approaching cloud of deadly green fumes.

The toxic gas is not farts. It's totally not farts. We promise.
Put your orienteering and map-reading skills to the ultimate test in H1Z1: King of the Kill.

KotK is still in early access, but the game has proved quite popular, often occupying a spot on the list of most watched titles on Twitch.

Is it worth picking up a copy?

(Editor’s note: H1Z1: King of the Kill is currently on sale for $9.99 via Steam.)

First Impressions

I decided to familiarize myself with the game a little bit before diving directly into King of the Kill’s PvP, and figured that the “Training” option, where respawns are enabled, would be a good place to start. It does let you get more comfortable with the game’s controls, explore the map, and experience the bread and butter of King of the Kill: looting, running around in the woods, more looting, and getting butthurt about other people having cars. It’s like high school all over again.

I load into the Training mode, parachute to the middle of an appealing little field, and start running towards a lake. I hear the hum of a car approaching. The voice of a pubescent teenage boy pipes through my headphones, startling me: “HEY, ARE YOU A CHICK?”

I’m confused for a moment before I remember that I’d chosen a female avatar at the character creation screen. A Jeep hurtles towards me, then pulls to a stop and a man in a neon hoodie carrying an assault rifle emerges. The voice begins to interrogate me: “YO, ARE YOU NAKED? I BET YOU’RE NAKED!”

Cars are scarce in H1Z1: King of the Kill. Be careful, because it's easy to run out of gas.
I forgot to take a screenshot of this encounter, so here’s a random one of me in a car.

I can’t figure out how to activate my microphone, so I jump into his car, hoping that I can steal it.

“DO YOU WANT FREE STUFF?” the young man asks me, and I’m grateful at first, then suspicious, and then just kind of weirded out. He repeats himself: “DO YOU WANT FREE STUFF?”

I still can’t figure out what my Push-to-Talk key is.

“DO YOU WANT FREE STUFF?”

I’ve gotten out of the car at this point–a safe choice, I think–and begin pressing random buttons. I want to explain to the young man that I do want free stuff, but I’m also not a girl, and, more importantly, that I’m not particularly fond of his attitude and he should probably re-evaluate how he approaches women.

After twenty seconds of futile button-mashing, he shoots me in the face with an assault rifle. And they say chivalry is dead.

Welcome to H1Z1.

Success is Boring?

Here’s my short guide to placing in the top 50 in H1Z1:

Parachute into the mountains. Loot the nearest point of interest. You’re probably going to be alone, but be careful of the larger areas–the tiny campgrounds and mini-trailer parks will supply you with a weapon, a backpack, and, hopefully, some first aid kits. In a perfect world, you’ll have an assault rifle, a backpack, and a helmet.

Wait until the safe zone is revealed. Run towards the safe zone, avoiding cities, suburbs, and large groups of cabins. Stay off the beaten path. As you trek through the wilderness, loot the smaller areas on the map: campgrounds, trailer parks, and more campgrounds.

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By the time you’ve made it to the safe zone, you’ll either be dead, or you’ll be one of around 75 remaining players, because them gosh darn city dwellers just sure do love to kill each other.

Once you’ve made it to the safe zone, find an enclosed area. This is your new home. You might hear other players, but you don’t have to engage with them. Crouch to remain silent, and loot whatever buildings happen to be nearby if you want armor, more ammo, or something to occupy yourself.

When you get bored of hiding, or the safe zone starts shrinking, you’ll inevitably run into another player. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot each other at around the same time, and proceed to have the world’s clunkiest shootout. In most cases, you’ll start getting shot at, panic, try to run for cover, and die. But hey, you were in the top 20. Nicely done.

There are four points I’d like to emphasize:

  • “Optimal” play is boring, especially in solo mode. Do you like walking in the woods? Well, congratulations, because that’s the easiest way to win. Sure, you can parachute into the city and start gunning people down in the streets, but you’re just as likely to be on the receiving end of the bullet in this scenario. If you’re playing to win, it’s boring. If you’re playing for laughs, get ready to die quickly.
  • Other players are a real issue. I’ve witnessed this on a couple streams and experienced it first hand. There’s now less than half of the game’s players remaining and off in the distance you spot them. Barreling down the hill towards you in 3 to 4 police cruisers are the “posse,” a handful of players colluding to make your life miserable, like digital schoolyard bullies pummeling a kid in the corner. Obviously, this can make for a downright shitty experience at times.
  • The map is too big, and feels empty and meaningless. I’ll come back to this point later, since it’s one of the biggest issues with the “flow” of the game at the moment, but there’s too much empty space in H1Z1, and not enough stuff to fill it.
  • Duo play is incredibly fun, but it seems that Daybreak has prioritized the experience of Solo players. You don’t get a rank, personal stats, or other quality of life features in Duo mode. But Duos were, at least in my experience, far more rewarding. I had a great time running around in the mountains with a friend. While I can see myself occasionally playing a Solo game, playing with another person was simply more enjoyable. For a game that doesn’t have the competitive feel of Counter-Strike, Dota, or even Rocket League, I’m going to prioritize fun over being a tryhard.

Bugs and Issues

I love the fact that it’s 2016 (still), and we’re able to cram 140+ players onto the same server, but Daybreak still haven’t found the winning formula as far as netcode, lag compensation, and general multiplayer stability is concerned. Players warp around the map, bullet trajectories and hit registration are unreliable, and you’ll find yourself teleporting backwards on occasion.

I’ve also run into a myriad of game-breaking (albeit entertaining) bugs. I queued for a match of Duos with a friend, and while I was able to parachute to the ground in relative safety, he never landed. Instead, he spent 10 minutes hovering on a hillside, parachute fully deployed, unable to move, until I started dropping items near the player model and the game released him.

Welcome to H1Z1: King of the Kill, the most intense parachute simulator known to man.
To be entirely honest, this was pretty funny.

My biggest gripe? The guns. They’re truly awful. As a Counter-Strike veteran, I’m well-versed in the “MY CROSSHAIR WAS RIGHT ON HIM” experience, but H1Z1: King of the Kill elevates this frustration to a new level with a mixture of poor netcode and some seriously poor hit registration issues. You’ll shoot at your target. You’ll miss. You’ll shoot again. Another miss. This is the way of life in H1Z1.

Key Areas of Improvement

Before taking the game out of Early Access, Daybreak have lots of work to do, and some important questions to ask themselves. Is the “Solo” game mode supposed to be the most competitive, while Duos and Fives are for messing around with friends? And if Solo mode is their priority, what can they change to make the experience of playing by yourself more engaging and entertaining? On a scale of 1 to 10, how “competitive” is the game meant to be? Right now, it’s sitting at a “3” in my book.

Taking out the zombies was a logical choice, since Daybreak clearly wanted other players to be the primary source of tension and action in H1Z1: King of the Kill. But due to the sheer size of the map and the fact that it’s easy, bordering on expected, to spend upwards of ten minutes at a time without running into another player, there needs to be something to spice things up a bit. You want to make camping (literally) in the woods less of a guaranteed survival tool? Fill it with wolves, bears, or other animals that can prematurely end your career as an amateur survivalist. The map honestly just needs more stuff to feel truly alive and/or interesting. It’s entirely up to Daybreak to decide how they want to accomplish this, but here are some ideas I’ve had during my numerous digital walks through H1Z1’s forests: zombies, dangerous wildlife, environmental hazards, violent gangs of NPCs with guns, and, my personal favorite, trees that eat people.

On that note, I can understand the logic of making loot easily accessible. Really, I do. Running into a player who’s tricked out with AR-15’s and bulletproof vests while you’ve only got a pistol sucks ass, especially when you’ve just landed your parachute, but the sheer availability of weapons and supplies instantly devalues them. Oh, you’ve got an assault rifle? Cool, so does almost everyone else.

The game’s loading area, an anarchic playground called “Fort Destiny” where all 150 competitors spawn before the match starts, is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in my life.

Every game of H1Z1: King of the Kill starts off in Fort Destiny.
Yep, seems normal.

It might test the limits of your PC, but Fort Destiny is truly a unique and special place.

As far as entertainment for viewers is concerned, I asked Patrick what he thought about the game:

I firmly believe H1Z1: King of the Kill is an extremely satisfying game to stream for an audience, especially when it’s down to 10 or less players. I watched some of Summit1G’s King of the Kill stream and was thoroughly entertained. As more and more players fell to the virtual wayside, I could feel my heart rate increase as he slowly would make his way to the final safe point only to be then sniped and promptly scream/eat his microphone. At least he didn’t walk through any fire this time.”

I’m inclined to agree. The game is at its finest for both players and viewers when there are only a handful of competitors remaining. This is where King of the Kill shines.

I’d give H1Z1: King of the Kill a solid 7/10. There are some important issues to address, but the concept is there. All it needs is polish, love, and continued attention from Daybreak.

Esports Edition was provided with a copy of H1Z1: King of the Kill by the developer. As with all of our game and hardware reviews, our opinions are our own, and positive reviews are only awarded through good gameplay. Check out our Ethics Policy for more information.

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J.P. was introduced to Counter-Strike by his older brother in mid-2014, and has yet to play more than five hours of any other game since then. He is in his second season of serving as the in-game leader for his CEVO-A team, Good Intentions. J.P. has a degree in Literature from Bard College. You can contact him via Twitter at @JPCornerCSGO.
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