Player Unknown’s BattleGround, or PUBG (pronounced ‘pub-gee’) is arguably the biggest gaming phenomenon of recent times, reaching 3 million players on Steam and winning multiple awards. It’s attracted global fame and as it is now being released on Xbox and PlayStation (after cutting its teeth on the PC) I figured it was time to give you our verdict. Jump to the cut to see what we thought.
PUBG is a multiplayer battle royal game where up to 100 people shoot it out to become the last person (or pair, or team of 4) standing and to win the elusive chicken dinner. You play over two huge maps Erangel and Miramar. The former is a green-Lush island which has numerous towns, ports and manors scattered around it. Miramar is the corner of a desert with wide-open areas and derelict towns. Both offer unique challenges and require different strategies, and are sufficiently different to require you to change the way you play the game on each.
You start each game in a lobby where people just Mooch around climbing things until everyone has joined and you’re ready to go. You’re then dumped into a plane which flies in a random line across the huge play areas, before you jump out (by pressing ‘F’) and skydive to your designated landing zone (alas the parachute automatically opens at a certain height). You then land and have to scavenge weapons, gear and supplies before (or during) combat with other players becomes one of the major focuses. There are vehicles (cars, boats, bikes) and an ever shrinking circle of death that kills anyone outside it- forcing the players into an ever shrinking play zone. The final area is literally 1-3m across (from a map of nearly 8x8km). It gets pretty intense.
The combat is weighty and satisfying with accurately modelled ballistics. Bullets drop over distance and you have to lead targets to get accurate hits. It takes a little practice but becomes fairly instinctual after a little time. Happily a headshot is a headshot; though you can add some defence with military helmets, and each weapon has a distinct feel and encourages a specific play style. You can collect armour, backpacks (to allow you to carry more), medical supplies and a host of ancillary equipment such as weapon modifiers, grenades and scopes. The latter becoming increasingly important as you get better in the game; being able to engage at range a key skill that separates the good from the rest. You’ll end up with favourite loadouts and you’ll start developing your own strategies. Its very easy to get sucked into this game for long play periods.
On my PC (which has a lovely little GTX 1070 in it) it is a very good looking game and it’s very stable. Some players turn down certain graphical flourishes, such as foliage and grass draw-distance to give them a tactical advantage, but i’ve never found the advantage to be THAT great and I just love the way the game looks- so I play with everything cranked up to max. The movement and general controls feel right. It’s a difficult thing to quantify- some games I find to be too ‘floaty’ and ‘leaden’ in their movement, this feels just right. Everything about the game speaks about a passion to make things feel and play right, and I think this is a huge part of why the game is so successful.
As a veteran of online shooters, i have to say it did actually take me a little while to get used to the way it plays and how it shoots: it’s not quite ‘counter strike’ in the lethality of the weapons (in part due to the armour and helmets to can find), but it is certainly no bullet-sponge game with regenerating health. You will die a lot. Often without knowing how, or why. But once you’re past that curve, the game blossoms and becomes something really special.
I have sunk an inordinate amount of time into this title and I’ve even got my own chicken dinners (the game shows the phrase ‘winner winner chicken dinner on victory), and I’m nowhere close to my fill on it. Steam says I’ve put 62 hours into it, and I can easily believe that and i have no intention to stop playing any time soon. I find myself reading guides on line, rethinking my last round and watching player videos in an attempt to improve, to get better and to get more chicken dinners.
It really is a very competent shooter, it’s highly addictive and the addition of a death-cam which allows you to see just how you died (and to report any cheating) allow each death to be a learning experience, and it’s absolutely something you should take advantage of. Just HOW did they see me, and how did THEY move to win the engagement. Every round is an incremental improvement on how you play. There’s also a brilliant replay function which literally records everything within 1km of you at all times during the game allowing you to move the camera and watch everything that happens. It’s like the mini movie generator in GTA4, but better.
There’s nothing quite like it out there and it should be celebrated. If you like shooters, If you like team games or even if you like the Stalker series (walks through amazing scenery inter-spaced with blind panic and gunfire), I thoroughly recommend it. It’s fast become my favourite game.
And I DO love a good chicken dinner.
The Verdict – Red Mist
Platforms Reviewed/Available – PC (also available on XBOX and PLAYSTATION
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