H1Z1 leaves Early Access with new cars-only Auto Royale mode

H1Z1 is launching out of Early Access today and features a new team-based, cars-only mode called Auto Royale. The mode consists of up to to 30 teams of four players (one drives while the other three passengers lean out of the windows and shoot) speeding across the map as the circle of gas closes, collecting power-ups (like oil slicks, smoke screens, and double-jumps), launching off ramps, and doing battle with each other.

I got to play a couple rounds of Auto Royale this week on a test server, and you can see gameplay video and read all about it here.

As for H1Z1 itself, it's launching with a few changes to its standard battle royale experience. Most notably, players will be able to select the map grid they want to spawn over—until now, you spawned over the map in a random location. This tactical deployment, as it's being called, more closely mirrors battle royale games such as PUBG, which lets you decide when you want to leap from the plane and thus gives players a good degree of control over what part of the map they want to begin playing in.

A new heatmap, updated every few seconds, will give players an idea of where other players are landing. Also, players will usually (about 80% of the time, says Daybreak) be able to see the area of the starting safe-zone (the circle of gas) before they spawn, which will also help them decide where to land. I was told the price of H1Z1 will not change as it departs Early Access: it'll still be $20.

It's been a long road, so to speak, for H1Z1's exit from Early Access. The battle royale game started off as a popular mode for Sony Online Entertainment's free-to-play multiplayer survival game, H1Z1. After SOE became Daybreak Game Company, H1Z1 split into two different games: H1Z1: Just Survive (the survival game) and H1Z1: King of the Kill (battle royale). Both were in Early Access and both became paid-for games rather than free-to-play. 

More recently, Just Survive dropped the H1Z1 from its title (and remains in Early Access) and King of the Kill dropped everything but H1Z1 from its title. And now, H1Z1 is finally out of Early Access. Gosh. What a long, strange development cycle it's been.

Along the way, H1Z1 became a popular standalone battle royale game, opening the door for PUBG and Fortnite, which have since surpassed H1Z1 in player count and popularity. While its numbers have dwindled in the past six months (its peak was around 150,000 concurrent players, and it's now more regularly around 10,000), H1Z1 still has a pro scene and several yearly tournaments.