PLAYER UN­KNOWN’S BAT­TLE­GROUNDS

1.3 mil­lion play­ers ev­ery day? Some­one needs a new nick­name

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START - Phil Iwa­niuk

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.

Cherry-pick­ing

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.

Chicken din­ner

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.

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