If you haven’t heard of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds by now, then you have been living under a rock. This is the game that has blazed a trail and forged its own path in 2017. In March of this year the online multiplayer battle royale game hit Steam’s early access store. In just the first three days the game made $11 million and by the second week of April sold over one million copies. From there it would be a constant flow of milestone after milestone being achieved, one million became two, which became four and has climbed to an amazing 25 million copies, just on Steam alone.
This month we got the much anticipated and long awaited 1.0 update which marks the official release of the game. As such, it is time to deliver a review on its current state. When it began early access, it was flawed in so many ways but fun at the same time, with each update and patch it began to really take shape into the experience it is today. Is it more flawed than fun? Or is it the opposite?
The gameplay loop is rewarding, satisfying and at times, damn right agitating. I have never played a game before in which I have such a fierce love and hate relationship with. It all begins with a lobby of players rushing into each other, shooting weapons and screaming profanity down their microphones, not the nicest way to start a match but certainly the most laugh inducing. All players are then rammed into a plane which proceeds to fly over the map, each player will then have to choose where they wish to land based on the planes trajectory or their personal preferences and leap out into the skies. There is something satisfying about jumping out of a plane and watch it poop out other players, there is a tense period in which you are darting the camera around looking for anyone else heading towards you. When the plane reached the end of it’s route, it will throw out all remaining passengers in a situation reminiscent of United airlines.
Upon landing you need to act fast and efficiently to acquire the best loot. This stage of the game can be chaotic or peaceful depending on where you decided to land. The busier the area, the more action you are likely to see, it’s just common sense. The loot you can find ranges from weapons to medical items and ammunition to equipment. All of this is randomly generated which leads to no two games being the same and builds this huge risk and reward feel that is prominent throughout. Luck certainly plays a factor in how well you do in each game, finding the best loot and landing in the right areas give you a great head start, the rest will be down to skill.
Shortly after hitting the ground or sometimes in the air if your diving further afield a play zone will appear on the map. If your inside, great, you can spend more time getting those essential items, if not, you may want to think about how you are going to reach the zone. This is because after five minutes a blue zone will start to close until it reaches the white line that signifies the play zone. In this blue area you will take damage and the unlucky ones who couldn’t find any first aid items will die. When the blue meets the white, a new and smaller play zone will appear inside the current one, and with each closing of the zone, the blue electrical field will deal more damage and after the fourth stage it becomes particularly deadly and a deciding factor in the end-game. This forces players to close in and engage on each other, directing the fight if you will, this is absolutely needed otherwise when down to just 10 people alive, coming across someone in the huge 8km x 8km map would be rare.
The red zone is a cruel mistress, a zone that pops up on the map at pre-determined times, giving players a short time in which to evacuate the area before it rains hell down on the entire vicinity. Blowing up doors, windows, vehicles and players in its wake, it doesn’t discriminate. What I love about all this, from the looting and surviving aspect is that there is a sense of urgency felt the entire game, tensions are high and the further you get the greater the adrenaline. Such a simple concept of a game that creates a unique atmosphere.
What this does best is emphasise player choice, aside from the play zone and loot selection, everything else is chosen by the player. What loadout to carry, where to go, what to wear, how should you style your hair, whether to take a stealthy approach or shoot on sight. There is no one right answer on the best tactics or ways to play but there are methods that can be considered more worthwhile.
Combat can be inserted into the sequence at any point after landing, hell, you could even get shot or shoot someone out of the sky as they are making their descent, which I have been on the good side of, once so far and it was incredibly satisfying. There are so many ways to engage enemies, hand-to-hand, melee weapons, guns, throwable weapons and even vehicles. The greatest thing is that kills and of course deaths can happen at any given moment, you are never truly safe or at least you should never assume to be.
Now albeit how fun this all sounds and is, there are nagging issues that have plagued the game even as far back as the early access release. Rubber banding has been a problem from the get go, the early game usually consists of making numerous attempts to pick up items and even being teleported back to a previous position. It gets better throughout the game but can even happen later on, for a game that relies on reflexes and skill, when this issue messes things up it can become beyond frustrating. Dying through no fault of your own is something you will come across and many, many times.
Weapons are always being adjusted and fine-tuned throughout the development process and will surely keep happening now post-launch. So, when you’ve finally become proficient in a certain weapon, anything about it could change forcing you to learn the gun all over again. Attachments are being changed too. From my experience, these changes have impacted greatly on match performance, expecting my weapon to do one thing only for it to do something else. The Kar98K for instance, since the latest patch responds differently, its bullet trajectory, speed and drop feel altered and have led to many misses, and even some deaths after I gave my position away when I expected to land a clean headshot for the kill only for it to either hit the body or miss. I have found with the gun combat in general, it doesn’t quite feel technically sound, leaving me with the thoughts of “Did I really miss that guy?” or “How did he turn around and kill me after I shot him with multiple bullets…” etc. Sometimes it could be down to something as simple as bullet spray, not hitting the most damaging areas. The target is in your crosshairs and you pull the trigger with no impact, could be the same issue, bullet spray or perhaps something as crazy as divine intervention. It makes you question yourself instead of the game, and even blurs the line between game fault and player fault.
A killcam feature has been implemented and greatly appreciated however don’t expect to see what really happened. The best you can learn from this is just knowing where the enemy was located, as the shooting isn’t quite in sync with what the enemy player actually saw on their screen.
Driving is far from ideal but is surely an effective way of traversing the map, especially in the open spaces you will sometimes be faced with crossing on your way to the playzone. It comes with its own bag of risks that appear in the form of, slight changes in the terrain that either cause you to fly to mars or stop in place and take damage, being shot out of the car by expert marksmen, colliding with another vehicle and blowing up, flipping, crashing, spinning out of control and even jumping out whilst moving to fall to your death. The trade-off is back, sometimes it can be safer to walk but certainly slower. Each vehicle handles differently and handles better since a more recent update.
As of the 1.0 release, the variety in terms of weaponry is fantastic, there are a ton of different potential loadouts. 30 guns are currently featured in the game and are split into different categories such as Sniper Rifles, SMG’s and Assault Rifles. There is something for every player, playstyle and situation. Combine those options with the 4 different grenades and 4 melee weapons it can be fun to loot and try to find your ideal kit. Attachments can also affect your decisions mid-game on which guns to go for, if you have a SMG suppressor I advise getting an UMP45 as soon as possible, got at least a 4x scope then try and get a sniper or assault rifle for it. It all adds to the joy of each match being different than the other.
The greatest feeling this game offers is of triumph and glory upon obtaining the delicious, sweet, winner winner chicken dinner. I remember my first time, it was a joyous occasion in which two friends and myself were frolicking in the woods, not a care in the world. That’s actually a lie, our butts were clenched, and eyes glued to screen looking for the slightest bit of movement. We were at the lumber camp in Erangel, when another squad decided to roll up on our territory, one gunfight later filled with rapid mouse movements and screams, and we came out on top. Riveting stuff, right? I swear it is much better than I described, overcoming every other team and player in the game to be the sole survivor or last team standing is the most rewarding moment of any game I have played, ever.
Visually, the game is exactly what it needs to be, it isn’t a masterpiece, but I would argue that it is in fact a good-looking game. Textures are highly detailed as is, unfortunately these appear flat and when it comes to changes in the terrain like dips and bumps it just looks out of place and obviously manipulated instead of natural. The two maps are incredibly diverse, with the one mainly boasting green-land with plenty of trees and rocks for cover whilst Miramir takes place in a vast open desert-land where hills offer the main source of cover.
Sound is an important tool in your arsenal, you can use it for not only listening out for enemy activity, but you can even use it as a distraction. Numerous times I have been caught out in the red zone whilst close to other players, to make a move I await the sound of the explosions before rushing in for the kill and have succeeded almost always. Masking your footsteps by using other means is a great way to gain the upper hand, the other way is listening for hostile activity. Footsteps and the firing of weapons give people away and it’s fun causing them pain because of their mistakes, but it can also lead to your own downfall. Yet again, the trade-off, do you risk giving your position away by going for a kill, or perhaps wait for other people to shoot and give their position away potentially allowing you more kills. Simple in thought and yet so complex in practice.
Weather can be a real game changer with rain affecting the audio and fog affecting what you can see. In the rain expect the unexpected, players can creep up on you in an instant. The fog will obscure your view of further distances allowing players to move in without being seen. It would be safe to say it ups the skill needed to win.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is without a doubt the most enjoyable game I have played this year, at the same time it is also the most frustrating. I love how games can vary from one to the next, how satisfying and rewarding both kills and victories can be, but more than anything I love tricking people into pressing the interact button whilst they are in a vehicle and watch as they fall out and subsequently be knocked down. The fun is not without flaws, but I believe the fun has finally outweighed those flaws in the overall experience.
OVERALL: 8.5/10 – GREAT
Written by Rhys Baldwin.