Internet phenomenon’s can be interesting beasts, from creating stars from little more than a short video, to turning a game that hasn’t officially been released at the time to be the multiplayer Game of the Year. The later describes Player Unknowns Battlegrounds, or as it’s affectionately known, PUBG.
PUBG has a simple premise. You and 100 people are dropped on an island, and the last person standing wins, that’s it in a nutshell. There is no hamming of a story, no weird attempts at lore, from a plane soaring over an island, you choose when to parachute out, and then don’t die.
As it stands, there is one map, which is a massive isolated island. The plane flies across the island in a different direction each round, which provides variety in where you will likely start. This means the one island sounds like a negative but I regularly found myself seeing new surroundings thanks to the vast size.
From the moment you land, it is perma-death. This means you must find a gun somewhere, and get killing or hiding. As the match goes on, you are alerted that the field will decrease. Then a red area gets marked on the map, and a forcefield appears. Being on the outside of that slowly kills you.
The forcefield appearing is what makes the game special, because the map size gives variety, but the reduction in the active area, regularly decreases the length of the match. This means that hiding will only get you so far in the game, and does make every game reduce in length from what could be hours, to at times less than half an hour.
The real adrenaline action comes when you parachute towards a dense urban area. Due to landing in places where there are a lot of buildings increases the chances of finding weapons, this is where the most vicious battles happen. It’s not uncommon to find a lot of people landing in the middle of a town, proceeding to find a gun, followed by a gun fight, knocking out competitors quickly in the first minutes.
If the above doesn’t appeal to you too much, then PUBG may not be for you early on, because that appeal is the only thing that will pull you through the bugs. Being on the Xbox Game Preview program, PUBG is a work in progress, not unlike gamers in Steam Early Access. That means that while it is broken, it is being updated daily.
When I first started playing the game, rubber banding and frame rate drops were terrible, resulting in one on one firefights where we would both run out of ammo and start swinging at each other because we missed each other so much. This has become substantially better, having moved to Asian, and now Oceanic servers.
Another snag was when an update came out. PUBG let me play a game, before telling me my client version was out of date. Reboots, and searching the Xbox store for updates netted no results. Then an hour later it told me an update was ready and I was good to go.
These frustrations are going to happen, potentially commonly, as the game is in this program. Bugs could get worse and better at any given time, as the game is essentially a Beta, so this is an important factor to consider when deciding to jump on now. Waiting for it to hit its official full release may make more sense if you don’t want to deal with these issues.
The game is also not good looking. That’s not to say it’s bad, PUBG is somewhere in the middle. This is something easily overlooked when playing the game as it’s all about the minute to minute action, but another thing to note, if it’s something you care about.
In its current state PUBG is a tough sell. On one hand it’s a broken buggy mess, that should get better, but may get worse between now and then, but on the other hand, it’s a phenomenon for a reason, it’s so damn fun to play, warts and all. If the game remotely tickles your fancy and you are willing to deal with bugs, it is easily worth its surprisingly low purchase price.
Released: November 2017
Platforms: Xbox One
Developer: Blue Hole Studio
Publisher: Xbox / Microsoft