H1Z1, one of the progenitor of standalone battle royale games, officially launches today and it brings with it a surprising new mode that drops all players into a last-person-driving battle of car-to-car combat called Auto Royale. The new mode goes live today in beta.
“In 2016, we did something unheard of -- we split a successful game into two products and introduced the world to the first standalone battle royale game. The next year, we created the first battle royale esports league and became the second esport to ever air on broadcast television. This year, we continue to push this young genre forward with the introduction of Auto Royale,” H1Z1 general manager Anthony Castoro said in a prepared statement. “Auto Royale doesn’t rinse and repeat what is currently available on the market, it turns the genre on its head with a fresh approach - arcadey, vehicle-only battle royale unlike anything anyone has experienced before.”
In Auto Royale, up to 30 teams of four battle until only one vehicle remains. Each team’s driver speed around the game’s map, driving over power-ups and picking up weapons, ammo, fuel and health as the remaining three players shoot at the enemy from the vehicle’s windows. The new mode brings with it two new vehicles: A sedan and an armored recon vehicle. The mode also adds some vehicle specific features to the map and weapons including ramps, vehicle double jumps and the ability for the driver to drop mines, oil slicks, spray corrosive smoke and do turbo boosts.
The mode kicks off with players choosing which of the two vehicles to start in - the sedan is a faster, more nimble car with a higher jump, while the ARV is slower, more stable and less fuel efficient - and where to sit in the vehicle. Each vehicle has five seats. The fifth seat, located in the back middle row, is where a downed player can sit and wait to be revived by teammates. This fifth seat also allows teams to switch drivers on the fly.
“It’s a similar flow to H1Z1,” Castoro tells Glixel. “You go into Fort Destiny, but instead of choosing where you spawn, you choose which vehicle. Then the team captain chooses between a military ARV or a police-style cruiser sedan. The military vehicle is a little easier to drive: It’s more all terrain, doesn’t accelerate as fast. It’s a bigger target but with more protection. The sedan is fast and squirrely, but if you’re good with the handbrake and driving mechanics its a good choice.”
The idea is that those two vehicles will support two different sorts of playstyles in the game, he says. While the new mode will start with just the two vehicles to choose from, the team is working on more to add. “Assuming this mode is as popular as we think it will be, other vehicles are on their way,” Castoro says.
Some of the new items coming to this new mode include a light machine gun, crossbow with explosive arrows, vehicle repair kits, environment buffs, fire extinguishers, vehicle armor, smoke screens, high-octane fuel, turbo boosts, oil slicks, land mines and corrosive smoke.
Part of the reasoning driving this new mode is the idea that sometimes battle royale players feel they need a bit of a break from the intensity of the genre, Castoro says. “Battle royale as a genre can be very intense and it requires a lot of focus. After a while it’s like, ‘OK, I need to do something else.’” Up until today, that something else for many H1Z1 players was the “combat zone,” a deathmatch mode in the game which could also be used by players to warm-up before they got into the thick of battle royale play. While that mode remains, Castoro sees Auto Royale as a mode that will offer the same sort of break from battle royale intensity.
The mode is meant to feel a bit arcadey, he says, and it includes a lot of things to discover especially using the vehicles’ ability to essentially double jump. “Power-ups are hidden all over the map in crazy, strange places,” he says. “You can jump a car onto the roof of a building, up to the top of a mountain. The mode has a very Spy Hunter feel to it.”
The concept for the new mode was inspired by animations the team was working on for H1Z1. “We did this test where you lean out of the car and over the hood and can see 360 degrees. We liked it, but it was so overpowering that if someone rolled up with a load of people they’d have a huge advantage. So we decided to make it its own mode.”
Players in Auto Royale can become incapacitated, but they can’t die. They can either heal themselves with bandages or wait while their health springs back after a few seconds. To win in Auto Royale, the object isn’t to kill the players, but rather to destroy the car.
The Auto Royale mode isn’t the only new thing coming to H1Z1 on its official launch day. The game is also receiving some other updates:
- Tactical Deployment: Players can choose which area to parachute into at the start of a match using a heat map that shows locations of where other players spawn.
- Airdrop Revamp: The airdrop system has been refined to add more points of contention, increasing the drop frequency and item value.
- Season 1: The official first in-game Season for H1Z1 starts with an all-new scoring algorithm designed to reward consistency and aggression, not just a player’s ten best placements.
- Mini Map: Players now have the option to turn on a mini-map to help the navigate the world.
- Founder’s Item: All players who bought H1Z1 during Early Access will receive a special in-game shirt.
Castoro says that these updates to the core game, which the team rolled out on test servers, have “the best response that we’ve had to an update. We’re really excited about the reception.”
He added that the game will continue to evolve now that it’s live. That includes Z1 Remastered, a revamped version of the fan-favorite map from H1Z1’s early days. Daybreak also still plans to grow H1Z1’s competitive scene with support for structured, organized play, tournaments and the H1Z1 Pro League.
“Pro league is part of what we’re doing,” Castoro says. “It’s related to some of the content that’s coming in the near future.”