PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (for PC) ReviewTime: Jan. 16, 2020
Currently, PUBG is available on Windows PCs (Windows 7 64-bit and later) and the
Xbox One, though Sony loyalists are currently out of luck.
For the PC, integrated graphics chips aren't sufficient to run PUBG, but the requirements
of at least a Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 or an AMD Radeon HD 7650 are reasonable.
When you launch the game for the first time, you must first choose a username before
entering the character creator interface. Most of the customization here is standard fare,
but to make your character stand out, you need to unlock accessory packs with in-game
Battle Points (BPs) that you earn from matches.
However, make sure you are happy with your choices since you won't be able to edit
your character again unless you part ways with 3,000 BPs. It takes a while to collect
any significant amount of BPs, though you get more by making it further into a match
and damaging the competition. For reference, I played about 10 matches before earning
the 700 BPs needed to unlock the first accessory pack.
Joining the Battle
Like many other games in the open-world survival or first-person shooter genres, the
primary goal of PUBG is to be the last player alive. However, PUBG doesn't settle into
the genre norms. It takes some of the best aspects of open-world games, combines it
with the mechanics of a good first-person shooter, and accommodates a player base
typical of MMOs.
There's also a good balanceof gameplay elements. For example, you get to choose where
to parachute down on the map, everyone starts without a weapon, and there's a deadly and
giant shimmering blue dome that reduces the playable area every so often. Also, there are
random bomb raids from above, a wide selection of land and water vehicles to commandeer,
and a vast and detailed map free to scavenge.
To join a match, you click the Play button in the lower left corner to launch a single player
game with standard rules. Currently, the playable game modes, include Solo, Duo, Squad,
and 1-Man Squad. You can also choose between first-person and third-person camera views,
which can affect how well you see other players in your periphery.
According to the PUBG Wiki, additional game modes may include five-person team battles
on a smaller scale map, and a War mode, a 30-minute free-for-all type match with respawns
after early access concludes. I wish there were plans for massive 50-player team-based
skirmishes or a capture the flag mode since I think PUBG has the technical capability,
player base, and map size to pull either of those off well. With the full release of the game,
the developers have cleaned up the menu system a bit and navigation is noticeably quicker.
Of course, you don't have to stick to any of these modes. If you want, you can host a custom
game with a group of friends and create your own rules. Tons of players across Twitch, YouTube,
and Reddit have taken it upon themselves to create custom experiences and gameplays using
PUBG as the basis.
PUBG uses a relative Elo-based ranking system, named for Arpad Elo whose original chess-ranking
methods have been widely adopted across video games and board games alike. You are placed in
matches with players that have a similar Elo ranking. PUBG has unranked servers, which you can
use to test out new strategies or plan out new routes. Either way, you will probably die early and
often when you are just starting out, which could become frustrating.
Survive or Die
Once in a match, you can roam around the starting area in a minute-long pre-drop lobby and
experience the chaos of 99 other concurrent players. Afterwards, you commence a flyover
of the map. You get to choose the location you drop in, and it's usually a good idea to try to
target an empty area, so you can stock up on weapons, ammunition, and provisions before
taking on other players. You get some time during the flight to study the map, so you can
even plan out a drop route beforehand. Choosing the same drop location is especially important
if you are playing any of the multiplayer modes.
There are two primary strategies you can use to reach the end of a round. You can strategically
raid building after building and confront other players directly, or you can stake out a good
spot within the safe zone and hide. I was most successful when I chose the latter and waited
out the clock, though this wasn't particularly entertaining.
Theoretically, you could still be the last person standing without firing a single bullet, if you
hide well enough and other players are reckless.
In any case, you need to keep moving towards a gradually shrinking playable area. The in-game
map outlines the circular zone that you need to reach from the offset, and the HUD shows a useful
graph of the remaining distance you have to cover and how much time you have left to get there.
As the match goes on, the size of the circle decreases, as does the amount of time you have to enter
its boundaries and the amount of health that drains from being outside of it. On top of that, red zones
pop up in random locations on the map, which are subject to intense bombings from above.
I've accidentally driven through one such zone and came out unscathed, but I wouldn't test my luck
a second time.
There are a few main ways to die in PUBG. Either another player kills you, the circle or red zones
kill you, or you end up dying from incompetence. Not that I've done this, but prematurely jumping
out of a moving vehicle counts toward the latter category. Still, the slow health drain from being
caught outside of the closing circle is probably the most demoralizing way to die in PUBG.
Obviously, it can be difficult to get a kill based on how many other factors you need to keep in mind,
but tracking down and engaging other players is when PUBG feels most complete. However, moment-to-moment
gameplay can get boring, as interactions with other players are infrequent and can end very quickly,
especially if someone has you in their sights before you see them.
With the official release, PUBG now has a kill cam and game replays. So now, after you die,
you can actually go back and reflect on all the mistakes you made. The latter feature has a delay,
as a counter-cheating method.
Currently, there are two playable maps, the Russia-based Erangel and a new desert map,
called Miramar. Both are massive in size (effectively 8 by 8 kilometers) and are fully detailed.
You'll also find dense urban areas, sprawling landscapes, and water features to explore in each
map. The view from the airplane before dropping out onto the ground is impressive, but I
marveled most at the weather effects and the wide-open skybox.
The natural and constructed features combine naturally with each other, which makes for
a consistent and enticing atmosphere. It's a technical marvel that all of the buildings are
fully built inside and out and that you can enter or leave any of them without additional
The biggest disappointment I had with the maps had to do with their graphical details.
There's a significant amount of object "pop-in," especially when looking at open areas,
which is annoying since you sometimes can't tell if a shrub or another player just appeared in
front of you. Further, a lot of textures lack sharpness, which degrades the overall presentation
considerably. The outside of houses and buildings, rocky areas, and non-playable vehicles are
among the worst offenders. Compared to the bright and colorful environment and backdrop,
the buildings also look dull and washed out, although Miramar does a better job of making
buildings look visually interesting.
I'm on the fence about the maps' massive scale. In some matches, I either ended up having
to sprint for the circle for a full few minutes or was so isolated that I didn't see other players
until late in the match.
If it is PUBG's goal to engage players against each other, I think that cutting the playable land
area by about a third would force more frequent confrontations. At the same time, I appreciated
the vast amount of strategic possibilities that this scale offers players and how complete it feels.