PLAYER UNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS
1.3 million players every day? Someone needs a new nickname
Very rarely do we get to dip quite so far into the great jar of games journo hyperbole as when we look ahead to the imminent release of
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, so please permit us these few wildly enthusiastic statements: we’re about to host a genuine gaming phenomenon on our trusty boxes of X, and there’s every chance it can find
Minecraft levels of popularity here. Not from the same crowd, you understand. Bluehole’s 100-player battle royale is considerably less wholesome than the aforementioned sandbox and cow-slapping sim. Set in a deserted Eastern European island after some ghastly unspecified event has caused all civilians to flee and forced you and 99 adversaries to fight to the death, PUBG (as it’s known to its mates) starts at gritty and takes a nosedive into even darker territory from there. If we were sitting at the fireside with a glass of fine brandy in our hand, we’d even ponder the masterful quality PUBG has at making us, the players, tell the story of its world with our actions. After all, there’s nothing stopping individuals, or even pairs and four-person squads, from forming larger alliances until the final stages of a round. But of course no one does. It’s simply not the done thing in the game. Truly, you hold a mirror up to this age of individualism, PlayerUnknown.
Let’s be real though: the game’s stratospheric popularity comes as a result of its ability to corral the best bits of multiplayer and survival games for the last few years, not any undercover social commentary. Remember when DayZ was a cool name to drop in ‘coming to Xbox soon’ conversations? PUBG takes the huge world map, the desolate atmosphere, and the military-grade realism from Bohemia’s stalled venture and chucks it all into a match type that forces excitement on you. How about
GTA Online’s roaming gangs, and improvised combat encounters? Present and correct here. Smartly, by shrugging off the persistent world stuff that bogs so many similar games down into a tedious, grindy experience, PUBG guarantees regular moments of controller-dropping, heart-squeezing drama. You might not have seen another living soul since you dropped out of the plane at the beginning of the match with 99 others, but when you notice the counter at the top-left reads ‘20 left’ it’s impossible not to feel tense. To drill deeper into how exactly
PUBG achieves that tension and to survive its Hunger Games mechanics, one must know the rules. After the initial skydive which commences each round, somewhere in the 8x8km map a play area will reveal itself. That in itself poses some interesting questions for you while you sit, bricking it, with a parachute on your back. Do you head for the areas that you know the good loot usually spawns at, like the military base to the south, or the power plant? Or do you instead head somewhere central, knowing that you’ll probably land within the first play area, but
“PUBG guarantees regular moments of heartsqueezing drama”
with fewer looting opportunities? And that’s without factoring in the trajectory of the plane, and the fact that most players tend to drop very close to its path. Any of these factors can and will lead to you having to fight off attackers with a frying pan wearing only some underpants within seconds of landing. We did say it got dark.
The play area diminishes in size every few minutes, and all those caught outside it will take damage until they make their way inside. In this manner, the relative safety you feel in the early stages is gradually tugged away and replaced by more frequent gunfire sounding out from all around you, 4X4s and motorbikes roaring past, and the unshakeable feeling of being one second away from an unsighted headshot (and an ignominious end to the round). However, brave players might want to explore outside the playzone for loot if they’re packing enough med kits and bandages to survive that slow and steady damage. Basically, there are wrinkles of complexity everywhere you look.
Over on PC, PUBG has evolved steadily since its Early Access debut at the start of the year. The foundations were firm from the start, but recent updates to add new guns, weather conditions and match types give an indication of the finished product we’ll see on Xbox One and the One X later this year. Recently, Bluehole rolled out first-person-only match types which restrict the perspective to… well, you get it. It might not sound like a game-changer, but losing the peripheral vision granted by thirdperson cam, and the ability to sneak a look around walls that it grants, makes for a different match. Since cross-platform play between PC and Xbox One will almost certainly be a thing, first-person mode may act as a bit of a leveller between mouse-andkeyboard players and those with pads.
To that end, PlayerUnknown himself Brendan Greene recently voiced his admiration of Destiny’s auto-aim mechanic, and the possibility that we might see something similar in PUBG’s Xbox release to further smooth out cross-platform play. Since a lot of the gunfighting tends to happen either at extreme long range through a 4x scope, or extreme close range as two players find themselves in the same dilapidated bungalow, aim precision demands are high. Some form of autoaim sounds like a good idea. Greene’s magpie eye falls on Sea
of Thieves’ water tech, too. A number of studios within the Microsoft fold are helping Bluehole out on the Xbox release, Rare included, and discussions have been held between the two studios about sharing the tech which creates SoT’s lovely rippling waters. Currently in the PC version water only appears as the surrounding ocean or in mediumsized puddle form in a specific marshland area of the game’s only map, but there are plans for several other environments for the full release. So far we know about a dense urban landscape filled with highrise buildings and surrounded by arid desert – not much potential for H O 2 there, so it sounds like plans may also be afoot for either a new map featuring some lakes, or perhaps more water-based vehicles for the final game.
Said final game will also bring several weather conditions, such as the most recent foggy update, thunderstorms and sunset states. It’s a real pea-souper too, that fog. More than just adding a creepy Stephen King atmosphere, it brings visibility way down, meaning audio cues are more important than ever. When the weather gets this way, the temptation to sneak-kill people increases sharply.
About that DayZ comparison earlier, by the way: don’t worry, this one is actually going to happen. It’s already the seventh best-selling game of all time on PC, and is carrying so much momentum into this Xbox release that you can freely toss aside the negative connotations of Early Access. Microsoft is serious about making Xbox the home for PUBG on console – evident in the network of first-party studios helping out on the project – and we’re serious about making PUBG our home for the foreseeable future when it arrives. n
“Losing the ability to sneak a look round walls makes for a different match”
below There may be even more lakes in the final game.