You’ve probably been hiding under a rock if you haven’t seen or heard from Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, that said you’ve probably been hiding near a rock if you have – A rock, in long grass and a sweaty palm on the grip of a weapon you’re not quite sure how to reload.
An indie phenomenon that has enjoyed massive PC success even if only still in Beta, its basically Battle Royale for 100 players, Encouraging people hunting at its finest. Having recently made the leap to console, in admittedly unfinished form we got to give it a spin. Along with the other 40 Million players, who have been breaking records by having at least 3 Million concurrent players online at any given time – so something is right.
So does the sleeper hit make the leap to console with a bang or does it get caught hiding behind a hay bale looking the wrong way?
The game starts well, giving you some nice characterisations with which to build your avatar, along with some as yet empty customisation options. I have to assume they are earns in game for performance, but I’m way off that. That’s it for UI, a clean menu drop and straight into selecting a server. Connection to live games is better now than at release given that the population has increased and the Oceanic server is online. After a short wait you will be dropped into the lobby area, along with 99 other hopefuls all jumping and running around waiting for the game to kick in.
Once the clock has counted down the game starts, you find yourself parachuting from a plane over ‘The Island’, if you can work out the map button its a good time to check location and aim for somewhere interesting, but not too interesting as you dont want to. Be getting swamped by other players.
The ride-in via parachute is pleasant enough, once you hit the ground its time to run. Head for the nearest building or shack and start looting, mission critical is to arm yourself, then get to the safe spot on the map as soon as possible. Once the players are on the ground a circle will appear on the map and another circle will move towards the first circle, this second, blue circle is something you need to be inside, because it hurts being outside for long.
This is a learning thing, my first couple of games were full of misadventure until I Googled the rules and basic strategies. After that, it made sense, find yourself some kit and get to safety – where other players will be keen to kill you dead. After this the circles meet the play area shrinks, forcing players into each others vicinity until they get seen and hunted down.
It’s a good mechanic when you understand it and the play area is so big, albeit mostly barren that being funneled into these kill zones keeps you on your toes. It’s easy to get complacent as you pick your way across the countryside watching out for other players, until you hear gunshots nearby and have a mild flush of panic.
Needless to say, mayhem follows. Also a great time to point out that while the graphics suffer from popping and the engine is slightly laggy, the sound is spectacular. An approaching vehicle in the silence fills you with dread and anticipation, the slam of a door next to the house you are hiding in can turn your gut and the rattle of sudden gunfire will be sending you back to the menu.
For an incomplete offering PUBG does play a little bit sticky, but more than makes up for it with the freedom and feeling of fragility. It puts you right there, hiding, hunting and strategising your next move. Dash out and steal that car while a player is looting or risk a gunfight that you will likely lose? More often than not I have been crept up upon and put out of my misery while organising my inventory. That and falling from heights.
Any game of PUBG offers up stories as you make your way through the island, surviving by accident or luck aiming to be that special player than survives. It is a game tha undoubtedly appeals to the darker side of human nature, the kill or be killed setting unlocks a primeval need to keep going. Cursing your own stupidity, learning and trying again, and when trying again means you win an encounter or two – feeling like a badass is allowed.
Needless to say, I have not been successful at all beyond a top 5 finish and that has been mostly stealthing around picking off the odd wounded player, but I have enjoyed every twisted moment of it and will keep coming back for more. Simply the most engaging, gritty and simple Third Person combat game around at the moment.
There’s more satisfaction on offer here, unlike the often tawdry experience of mainstream FPS arena games like CoD have become.