A triumph: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds reviewed

PlayerUnknown’s Battleground has officially dropped for Xbox players across the globe and we couldn’t be more excited.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, looking after a newly born child, or haven’t been on any form of social media for the last six months, you may have missed the frypan-cooked memo and not know what PlayerUnknown’s Battleground is.

Here’s a quick overview so you don’t get lost in the wilderness, because there can be quite a bit of that.

What is this thing they call “PUBG”?

PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds (or “PUBG” for short) is a player-versus-player (PvP) action game that was first released in March 2017 for Microsoft Windows and Steam’s early access beta program, and inspired heavily by the 2000 film “Battle Royale”. If you’re not aware of that film, think of every person for themselves, or what later evolved into “The Hunger Games”, because that’s where this player versus player concept really kind of started in popular media.

BattleGrounds isn’t necessarily the same, and lacks the school vibe of Royale and the kingdom vibe of Hunger Games. Instead, the game sees 100 players airdropped onto an island with nothing but the shirt on their back, tasked with eliminating every other player with weapons and gear found scattered across the environment.

Think of it as a survival title that has you not only surviving, but killing everyone else on the island, almost like a vicious Lord of the Flies. We’re really crossing media here, aren’t we?

Entering an unknown battleground

When you first start PUBG (which it will be called forever more), you’ll find you have the opportunity to customise the appearance of your player, ranging ethnicity, gender, hairstyle, and color. It’s important to feel like a regular person, before you end up being killed by someone else, which will happen.

Each game begins with you and the other 99 players parachuting onto the map with nothing in your possession, so at least you’re all equal. There are buildings scattered across the area, though, and they’re not just abandoned shells of civilisation. Instead, it’s essential that you investigate these as quickly as possible as armour, weapons, clothes, and other bits and pieces vital for your survival are hidden inside.

Vehicles also populate certain areas, and much like the weapons you’ll be looking for, you’ll find that these can be picked up, entered, and driven around in, speeding towards random enemy players to get a delightful hit and run. Be careful though, because if they land a few shots on you through the front windscreen, you’re done for.

Like life, but not really

While PUBG is built on the idea of the “every person for themself” concept, it isn’t totally timeless. You’ll have a little under two minutes before the first PUBG circle appears on the map, a virtual safe area that you’ll need to rush towards. This can be placed anywhere across the 8-by-8 kilometer environment, and if you’re caught outside the white circle and within the blue wall of death, you will slowly take damage until you get inside the marked safe area, almost as if a magical life-depleting forcefield had suddenly appeared. Kinda like life, but not really.

With every three minutes that passes, the white circle will get smaller and smaller, and if you’re caught inside the blue wall of death, the damage-per-second will increase, so it’s important to strategically stay on top of this, all the while you’re hunting and being hunted.

This magical forcefield isn’t the only random event you have to watch out for, either. There is another circle called the Red Zone which sees bombs dropped in random spots inside the marked area, so if you’re out in the open and find yourself inside the Red Zone, find a building quick and wait for it to move on. Sadly, the Red Zone is not for the immediate loading and unloading of passengers only, as “Flying High” once suggested.

Once you’ve nailed all the things that can happen, it’s time to get in top the game, with PUBG offering extremely fun gameplay overall, but a sense of danger that will psychologically tapdance on your brain as you slowly take on the characteristics of a squirrel assessing nearby threats.

The most important thing you need to do each game is find a weapon as quickly as possible. This seems a bit like common sense, but you’d be surprised what everyone’s survival instincts are like. Fortunately, you can find melee weapons lying around, and these include a frying pan and a sickle, but what you really need is an assault rifle, sniper rifle, or a shotgun, as well as a few weapon modifications like a compensator, suppressor, grips, and scopes.

Think about PUBG as what the name means — “BattleGrounds” — because that’s what the game is, a battleground. You and the other 99 players aren’t here to light fires, roast marshmallows, and sing together; you’re hear to make gun fire, roast your enemies, and sing and dance on the digital corpses of the other players, but quickly, because until you’re the last player, you’re always being hunted.

You won’t need me to tell you to pick up First Aid Kits or bandages, but just a friendly reminder that bandages can only be used when you’re under 75 health, whereas Med Kits will heal you up to 100HP instantly. Just like real life (but not really)!

PUBG is also quite friendly when it comes to bits and pieces you’ll want to pick up. Since it’s based around the idea of survival, it should come as no surprise that you’ll want to keep an eye out for backpacks, headgear, vests, jackets, shoes, and the occasional ghillie suit to blend in to your environment. Certain items are ranked in levels one to three, so fingers crossed you come across a few of these which will help you survive a few bullets if you come across gunfire.

Getting tactical

Throughout the game, you’ll hear aircraft passing overhead which will supply an airdrop, and these contain a series of items that can help you, though you may want to remember that everyone can hear these, too, so you shouldn’t go out of your way to reach it unless you have no weapons or armor. These can be lucrative ways for other players to gun you down because, well, survival. Duh.

In fact, in PUBG there is no shame in hiding, and it can actually prove as a very strategic move to get down to the final 20 players on the battleground.

Curiously, PUBG will give you the option to switch from first to third person, and depending on the situation you’re on, this can actually prove useful. When running across the map or aiming at an enemy from a medium distance, third person is necessary, whereas first person can prove very useful in close combat.

The controls overall will take a couple of hours to get used to and can prove tricky in heated moments, and it’s worth mentioning that there is no auto-aim assistance like there is in most games, so accuracy is essential whenever you get the opportunity.

In PUBG, a headshot is one shot at the head, not near it. These things make it clear that the creators want PUBG to feel more realistic than most action games, and wanting their community to become more strategic than the run and gun spray of fire where every bullet hits a winner (or a loser, depending on whose view you’re seeing it from).

Performance problems

One challenge we experienced with PUBG on the Xbox One X is its performance issues, which aren’t surprising considering it’s an early release and the full game hasn’t launched yet.

The frame rate can be a little inconsistent, which wasn’t shocking as Microsoft never advertised PUBG Xbox footage, but this directly impacts environment textures. The plane that you descend from in the beginning is directly impacted by this, and often looks like two grey hotdogs playing a game of twister shooting through the sky.

Even the in-game inventory management can be quite annoying, and you’ll find you get killed off while in the process of organising weapons and items.

It simply takes too long to navigate through the four columns and doesn’t allow players to make a quick decision on the battlefield.

But is PUBG worth playing?

Despite the teething issues in a game which is clearly not quite final, PlayerUnknown’s Battleground is a fantastic game that offers its players a sense of realistic action gameplay.

It’s clear that the Xbox edition of PUBG is nowhere near complete with inconsistent performance issues directly impacting textures, but its gameplay is super addictive and compelling.

The fact that eve everyone begins with nothing is awesome, and the very definition of fair play. The opportunity to modify weapons and equip different armour and clothing items is a seriously great idea that can give players a serious competitive advantage, and I never feel as if I’ve lost the game because of another player being a higher rank or having better weapons. At times you do feel as if the map is too big with hardly any encounters over the course of 15 minutes, but the game does encourage stealth and not simply killing for killings sake.

Ultimately, it’s the game to play if you’re looking for a challenge, and a triumph that millions of players are getting into, us included.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG)
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