PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is the latest in a long line of Battle Royale-themed multiplayer games to be released. You might be thinking that Battle Royale games are a dime a dozen and honestly, you’d be right. With games like H1Z1: King of the Kill proving to be incredibly popular, and people still nostalgic for the similar feel that Arma II’s DayZ mod had back in the day, what makes this one different? In our PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds review we’ll cover the similarities and differences. We’ll also talk about what makes it stand out on its own.
My First Battlegrounds Experience
It’s been too long since I’ve had a good, bloody Battle Royale experience, so I’m a little eager. I jump out of the drop plane much too early and start plummeting towards the island below. There’s a city stretching out beneath me, spanning across two sides of the mouth of a river. Nearby, I can see a cluster of shipping containers and warehouses. I decide to aim for them and direct myself towards them. My parachute opens up automatically as I near the ground, and as soon as I land I hit the ground running.
Immediately, I rush into a nearby warehouse and am pleased to find a weapon almost immediately: an M16A4. I pick it up and am just loading it when another armed person charges me down. I shriek and in a panic start spraying bullets in his general direction. He shoots back, but is no match for my unbridled terror and I put him down. Suddenly, I feel like I’m pretty good at this game.
I march out of the warehouse with purpose and see another person weaving towards me rapidly. He’s also got a gun already, and the panic starts to rise again and I take aim and shoot. Granted, I like to think I’m a little more calm and accurate after my first encounter. I put this one down too and am now feeling like I’m incredibly good at this game. Overconfident and full of bluster, I run around the side of the containers to loot my latest kill, only to be shot, one bullet to the head, and am put down. Game over.
A Range of Emotions
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG for short, can make you feel like a superhero, or it can make you feel like a chump. One game you might clear an entire city of enemies, jumping off balconies and hip-firing like it’s your job. The next, you could be punched to death in the corner of a dark room and be left wondering what happened. Or you could spend your entire match running from one side of the map to the other because you spent too long exploring a city and picking up goodies, only to find that the electrical field used to force players closer together has given up waiting for you and moved on. Now you have to desperately sprint towards the playzone. Good luck not getting shot the moment you set foot inside the safe area.
After my first explosive round of PUBG where I killed two people and died all within literally two minutes, I suddenly plummeted to the lower end of the spectrum. I was often in the first few people dead, I realized my aim was awful, and I still jumped at the sound of bullets even if I wasn’t the one being shot at. In fact, I jumped at everything. It was a very painfully humbling experience.
But I got better. With perseverance, my aim improved and I became calmer in dangerous situations. There’d be six or seven people outside my building having an all out gunfight, and I’d wait patiently for a lull before rushing out to join in the fun.
What is PUBG?
PUBG is a Battle Royale shooter, similar in gameplay to H1Z1’s King of the Kill and Arma’s Battle Royale game modes. In fact, Battlegrounds is developed by the same person, Brendan Greene, and therefore it’s not particularly surprising that the game feels incredibly familiar. The aim of the game is to simply be the last player or team standing. Everyone starts with nothing, jumps out of a plane to find any weapons and gear they can, then gets forced together by increasingly smaller safe areas known as the playzone until eventually, players are battling it out in a tiny area barely big enough for a picnic. A death picnic, granted, but still a picnic.
There is a solo game mode or alternatively, you can queue up with a teammate for duos or squads, which are up to four players. If you don’t know anyone with the game and prefer the playstyle of duo or squads, you can queue up by yourself and use the games “automatch” feature to find someone to play with. There is an in-game voice function you can use to communicate with your teammates, should you choose. Just make sure you confine your voicechat to team only, otherwise you may be revealing your location and strategy to lurking enemies!
How is PUBG Different From Other BR Games?
This is a question many people ask before picking up PUBG. At first glance, it may seem like it’s just another BR game. You’d be forgiven for having that opinion. However, the game does feel quite different. It has a good balance of the fun, fast-paced shooter feel of H1Z1, but tempered by the more tactical and strategic gameplay of Arma. While it’s not quite as realistic as Arma — bullet drop-off is quite forgiving and guns feel a lot more fluid — there’s certainly less of an arcadey feel when compared with H1Z1.
The physics feel more responsive than previous games in the genre, and the realism is a welcome change. Depending on where you land, you could have either a pretty calm experience, or a frantic and desperate search for weapons and gear. If you find you’re in the latter category due to landing in a populated town or city, sometimes it’s just best to pick up the first thing you see and go after the people who landed near you. Even if that first thing is a frying pan.
Solo vs Duo vs Squad
The playstyle of each of these game modes varies quite a bit, despite the goal being the same. In solo play, you’re up against only individual players, and teamwork is prohibited. Solo can feel more dramatic at the beginning but quickly settles into a very quiet game where most players will find a safe place to hide and wait for the playzone to shrink. This is where the RNG feel of the game can become a little frustrating. Players who were lucky with where they chose early on have a distinct advantage. As the playzone shrinks, they don’t have to move, but others will have to come out of cover and make their way across dangerous ground. When they’re out of position, people who have good cover already have plenty of time to take a long-range shot. Often it feels like the brave person will always lose.
Duos and squads have a more tactical feel. Duo feels like a good balance between the stationary gameplay of solos, but with more tactical movement. And it certainly helps to have someone to watch your back! More often than not, I get killed by someone from behind whilst I’m trying to watch everywhere else. However squads, I feel, is where the game truly comes alive.
Squad gameplay feels more tactical and strategic by far. It will, of course, depend on who you play with, but having to pay attention to how you move and considering that shooting will reveal not only your position but your entire team’s can really change up the way people play. Do you take the shot and reveal where your team is hiding? Even worse if you don’t have a suppressor or a flash hider, both of which will make it more difficult for an enemy to locate you.
But Early Access!
It is worth noting that Battlegrounds is still in early access. In fact, it was only recently released out of beta a few weeks ago. This is instantly off-putting for many, especially with games like DayZ still in Early Access after four years! However, in PUBG’s defense, the developers have been immensely active updating the game. Each week there’s a new patch with balance changes and other updates, including a new weapon. The team behind PUBG is involved with the community, with PlayerUnknown himself engaging with streamers and their communities on Twitch.
Even this is a lot more involvement than most Early Access games on Steam have had. There is a plan and a pipeline for PUBG that stretches more than just a few updates in the future. They’ve discussed their future plans, including potential new weather systems, custom matches, and even large-scale multiplayer such as 50 vs 50 battles.
One thing that could do with much improvement, though, is the optimization of the game. Even players with a beefy computer rig may still experience massive FPS drops, regardless of what graphics settings they try. It’s not terrible, but it can be frustrating when you get into a fight and end up battling more with your own computer than with the enemy.
While PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is nothing particularly new, it does what it set out to do and it does it well. There are plenty of Battle Royale games, but none of them have ever felt complete or polished. While PUBG has a bit of development to go before it’s perfect, if it ever will be, it’s already much further along than any of the other games of the genre has felt at its release. In fact, it feels like it’s further along already than other games of the genre are after many months or even years of development.
The tactical play adds an extra layer of complexity, and playing with a full squad is incredibly fun. Whether or not you’ll prefer this type of gameplay to something like H1Z1: King of the Kill will depend upon the style of combat you enjoy more. H1Z1 is a much more arcadey, point-and-click style of shooting. PUBG takes a more realistic approach. However, it never quite reaches the intense realism of Arma games, which is honestly a good thing.
I hesitated about this rating because while PUBG doesn’t take any major risks or try anything new, I don’t think it’s necessary to do so. This BR/Hunger Games game environment isn’t oversaturated. There are a few games attempting it, but it hasn’t quite reached the survival genre’s level of saturation. This gives them the freedom to try to perfect the game type rather than evolve it, and I think they’ve done that very well. However, if you’re sick of the other games in the BR arena, PUBG doesn’t do anything astounding or new. It simply brings a more polished and realistic feel to the existing game type.
While you don’t interact verbally with the community a great deal, unless you’re automatching for duos or squads, it’s worth rating them. There’s one reason for that: voice chat is enabled by default (Ctrl+T to save a life and mute it) and in lobby, it is terrible. The usual abrasive yelling, usually with offensive slurs, pops up here. It’s not quite as bad as in the H1Z1 lobby but it’s still problematic. However, at least the community surrounding the game is positive. There is a slightly more mature crowd of players who enjoyed Arma and similar games.
Graphically, the game looks great if you run it on ultra settings. This is even truer now that they’ve made foliage a requirement (as before, foliage was disabled on lower graphics settings). As you start to lower the graphics settings, the game’s textures and lighting start to look muddied. While this is quite normal for lower settings in a game, it’s frustrating because often you’ll have to reduce your settings to keep your framerate high enough to be comfortable.
However, what pulls up this rating is the sound. Players can locate footsteps, gunshots, and vehicles through excellent directional sound. It’s a simple task to pinpoint where a gunshot is coming from, and it’s easy to tell whether or not you’re the target not just from the bullet holes in the wall behind you, but from the whistling and crack of distant gunfire. They’re constantly tweaking the sound to improve it, so expect it to change, but it’s already one of the game’s strongest features. It is worth noting, however, that there are some sound glitches. This can cause the sound to crackle or distort occasionally. It’s a rare issue, but definitely worth mentioning.
Value for Money 7/10
Normally I’d say that $29.99 is expensive for an Early Access game. This is especially true when that game has only one map and one game mode that has the chance of getting quite repetitive. However, the type of gameplay that emerges from this style of game can make for infinite varied experiences. This, coupled with the fact that the dev team is constantly updating and communicating their thoughts and plans for the game, makes the price tag seem much more reasonable. I certainly feel like I’ve got my money’s worth after playing almost 100 hours in the last three weeks!
In closing, if you enjoy Battle Royale style games and are looking for something with more realistic, tactical play than the existing games in the genre, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is definitely one to watch. If you want something completely new, PUBG will not provide that experience.
+ Gun and vehicle physics feel natural, smooth and realistic.
+ Brings realism and tactical play to the Battle Royale genre, which was severely lacking before.
+ Excellent use of sound to help you locate gunshots and estimate how far away they are to better plan your play.
– Some optimization issues, with cities and populated areas feeling quite laggy.
– If you’re looking for something new and innovative in the BR genre, PUBG hasn’t changed a lot about the core game style.
– Early Access is a scary concept, especially for this particular type of game. Others in the category not quite making it out of the clunky EA stage.