H1Z1 Goes Toe-to-Toe with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

SEATTLE – H1Z1: King of the Kill has a very simple premise: throw 150 players into a huge arena, then see who survives. It’s The Hunger Games; it’s Battle Royale; it’s probably going to kill you off within the first ten minutes. A recent combat update helped H1Z1 feel more balanced than before, but surviving into the game’s final rounds is still about as difficult as you’d expect. An upcoming practice mode may help alleviate some of the pain for newer players, and help veterans hone their skills even further.

Credit: Daybreak

(Image credit: Daybreak)

I got to try the new practice mode for myself at PAX West 2017, and while I’m by no means ready to win a 150-man-melee, I feel a bit better about my survival skills than before. The concept is pretty simple: You jump into a small map, complete with a few well-stocked bases, a few secluded outposts and a lot of open space. There, you can compete with a small number of players to find equipment and hunt each other down. The difference is that you don’t need a full complement of 150 players, and that if you die, you respawn immediately and get to try again.

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The practice mode itself is interesting, but pretty straightforward. I asked the developers if players would be able to earn rewards, as in the main game. They explained that it’s a possibility for the future, but it depends on how many players make use of it. As for the combat update, it retooled a lot of the guns, making aiming reticles more varied and giving some much-needed heft to some of the less popular weapons.

In short: H1Z1: King of the Kill is doing just fine, mechanically. The bigger question is whether the open-world battle-royale space is big enough for both H1Z1 and the very similar PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which is currently making a splash on Steam, and soon to be adapted for Xbox One. (Battlegrounds creator Brendan Greene did some work on H1Z1 back in the day, explaining some of the similarities between the two.)

To be fair, the scope of the games is slightly different. H1Z1 is a faster, more combat-focused game with a higher player cap; Battlegrounds is a more methodical, exploration-based game with a lower player cap. Still, you need only play a few matches of each one to notice that they have more similarities than differences.

Based on my experiences with it, H1Z1 seems mechanically sound, and Daybreak seems interested in making even more refinements in the future. Then again, the same is true of Battlegrounds and Brendan Greene. If the town of Mainstream Gaming isn’t big enough for the both of them, only the players can ultimately decide which one will succeed.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.