Hid­ing in a toi­let for 20 min­utes has never been so tense

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Stephen Ashby

A lot has changed since the launch of Play­erUn­known’s Bat­tle­grounds. It’s gone from the big­gest game in the world to… well, not the big­gest game in the world. Fort­nite has hit the main­stream so hard, the main­stream is miss­ing a few teeth and isn’t re­ally sure what day it is. Ev­ery fran­chise un­der the sun seems to be adding a bat­tle royale mode to the next ti­tle. And all the while, PUBG has been get­ting tweaked and im­proved.

So how does it shape up nine months down the line? Well, it’s had co­pi­ous up­dates, added two new maps and a bunch of new weapons. It even has mi­cro­trans­ac­tions now – but we’ll get to that in a minute. The re­sult is a game that looks fairly sim­i­lar to the ti­tle that launched with much fan­fare in 2017. But the game­play, con­trols and sta­bil­ity have been given a ma­jor up­grade.

Off the San­hok

The big­gest change for v1.0 is that ad­di­tion of a new map – San­hok. For a start, it’s just 4x4km, com­pared to

PUBG’s pre­vi­ous two maps, Erangel and Mi­ra­mar, which are both 8x8km. But the player count re­mains the same. So there’ll still be 99 other blood­thirsty bat­tlers parachut­ing onto the map around you, and that means you are far more likely to meet some­one early in the match.

The good news is that it’s a weapons party, and ev­ery­one is in­vited. The drop rate seems to have been turned up a few notches on San­hok, and as a re­sult you’re far more likely to find a pow­er­ful as­sault or sniper ri­fle early on. That means matches on San­hok are faster-paced, more deadly, and con­stantly thrilling. If you’re the kind of player who drops straight into the Mil­i­tary base on Erangel (or Tilted Tow­ers in Fort­nite), you’re bound to love it.

The down­side is that, in some sit­u­a­tions, the num­ber of play­ers in close prox­im­ity can cause some frame rate is­sues and the odd in­stance of lag. We didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence this too of­ten on any of the maps, but for se­ri­ous play­ers, it might spoil the oth­er­wise heart-pump­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

How­ever, for the most part PUBG Corp have done a great job of cut­ting down on the num­ber of tech­ni­cal is­sues for the 1.0 re­lease. We didn’t get dropped from a sin­gle game, not once did the game quit back to the dash­board (a com­mon com­plaint from early Game Pre­view ver­sions), and gen­er­ally ev­ery­thing runs much more smoothly. Load­ing is also faster, and we rarely waited more than ten sec­onds to find a match.

How­ever, pop-in is still an is­sue at times – es­pe­cially dur­ing the ini­tial drop – and some of the tex­tures are frankly em­bar­rass­ing on the orig­i­nal Xbox One. There’s clearly still work to be done; cer­tain rocks wouldn’t look

out of place in Halo 1 on the orig­i­nal Xbox. Xbox One X is much im­proved, but you still couldn’t say that PUBG is a pretty game.

Then again, it’s not meant to be pretty. It’s about tense mo­ments, fight­ing for po­si­tion, de­lib­er­ate move­ments and chal­leng­ing shoot­ing with re­al­is­ti­cally clunky weapons. It’s about the game­play – and that’s bet­ter than ever.

Run­ning man

Out­side of the fast-and-fran­tic San­hok, Mi­ra­mar and Erangel of­fer a slower-paced ex­pe­ri­ence. You’re likely to be do­ing a lot of run­ning or driv­ing to get across the map and into the cir­cle, and if you don’t have a car, pre­pare to spend 80 per cent of your time sprint­ing with your head on a swivel. Does that sound fun? To be hon­est, even as we write it, it doesn’t. But, some­how, it is. There’s some­thing about PUBG that keeps us com­ing back.

The con­trols have been tweaked con­stantly over the last nine months – there are still some odd choices, but for the most part, reg­u­lar FPS play­ers will be able to pick up the ba­sics fast. Loot­ing weapons, ammo and items is (still) fid­dly, and you’ll of­ten find your­self grab­bing stuff you didn’t want or ac­ci­den­tally swap­ping your main gun for a cross­bow. But we can’t think of an al­ter­na­tive weapons sys­tem – it’s at the core of PUBG’s bal­anc­ing, and ev­ery­one is in the same boat. It’s just a case of prac­tice makes per­fect.

The other big ad­di­tion to ver­sion 1.0 is the Event Pass. This Fort­nite Bat­tle Pass-style one-off pur­chase gives you chal­lenges to com­plete through­out the sea­son with cos­metic re­wards for the ones you com­plete. You also earn a dif­fer­ent kind of in-game cash sim­ply by play­ing, which can be used to buy cos­metic crates. The Event Pass is en­tirely op­tional, of­fers no ad­van­tage over any other player, and isn’t even needed to un­lock cos­met­ics. So… yeah. We aren’t sure if there’s much point in the Event Pass ex­ist­ing, but it’s there.

Ul­ti­mately, whether you like PUBG will de­pend on what kind of player you are. If you love tense, tac­ti­cal shoot­ers with bursts of fran­tic ac­tion, you’ll love it. If you pre­fer COD’s cin­e­matic ac­tion, you’ll prob­a­bly be turned off. But you’ll be miss­ing out on some se­ri­ous adrenalin kicks as you get down to the last few play­ers and hear foot­steps be­hind you…

“If you love tense, tac­ti­cal shoot­ers with bursts of ac­tion, you’ll love it”

left Find­ing a ve­hi­cle isn’t es­sen­tial, but can give you a ma­jor ad­van­tage.

far left When it comes down to the fi­nal few play­ers, hold­ing your nerve is vi­tal. Force them to make the first move!above San­hok is small enough that you can see al­most all of it from the plane. Things get fran­tic fast.

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