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Watch the Twitch Livestream highlights of PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS above and read my thoughts about the experience below.
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS(PUBG) is an upstart juggernaut taking the gaming world by storm. Since its early access release in March, the game hosts over 500,000 players daily. What kind of game can gather that kind of interest so quickly? A game with a simple premise, surprising depth, and near unlimited replayability: Battle Royalle.
I’ve never been one to jump on a popular bandwagon. Games like DOTA, Day Z, and H1Z1 didn’t interest me partly because of their popularity(and sometimes toxic community). But PUBG piqued my curiosity thanks to some similarities to one of my favorite films, the Japanese cult classic Battle Royalle. My friend and fellow Twitch streamer, Health Rowell, played regularly and shared some fun moments from his games. So, I started asking questions about the game and what he liked about it. Eventually, he tired of my questions and sent me a copy of the game with the message, “Let’s play and you can figure it out for yourself.” So I did.
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS offers little to no initial context or tutorial leaving new players, like myself, to figure things out on their own. My first impression of the game was the lobby, a barren airstrip populated by all 100 players in the match. The scene was a shocking one with players engaging in a cacophonous discourse that my friends affectionately refer to as “Ear Cancer.” It is a curious phenomenon where many players simply scream profanities in no particular direction. Others take the opportunity to issue challenges to other players for the upcoming match. A Minority do try and hold a coherent conversation. Then there’s Heath, who tries to speak to people in Esperanto. Mercifully, this pre staging scene only lasts for 60 seconds. Once that time elapses the players are instantly transported into a cargo plane flying over the island and players must choose where parachute down.
This is the first of many risk-and-gain decisions presented to the player. You can drop into a dense urban area with good loot but high player concentration or a remote location with low tier gear and low player density. In my first games, I tried being cautious, aiming for remote villages and obscure buildings.
Scavenging is an important part of the early game. Players drop into the island with little to nothing, many don’t even have clothes! All buildings have items scattered within them including weapons, armor, mods, ammo, clothes, and first aid kits. This need to scavenge and loot is what drives much of the early combat. Fights over these equipment deposits cull more than half the starting players in the first few minutes of every match.
The White and The Blue
At ten-minutes, the game area becomes restricted. A large white circle(The White) is generated on the map indicating the new play area and players must reach it quickly. As further encouragement, a shimmering blue circle(The Blue) contracts around the white and anyone caught outside the blue slowly takes damage. I like this aspect of the game, it builds tension for all players, offensive and defensive(like me). Again players must the weigh risk vs gain dilemma, make a break for the white too soon and expose yourself, or wait and risk getting caught outside the blue. In my first games, I made my way to the white as soon as it was defined. This proved more difficult later on as the white became ever smaller and more restrictive. The play area narrows with diminishing returns at faster intervals as the game progresses, corralling players into a narrower and narrower field.
In the last minutes of the game, stealth is almost impossible in the narrower and narrower white. The final fights are frantic, pitched, and desperate until the last player stands and the cheer of “winner, winner, chicken dinner” resonates in chat. This is an experience I have not yet felt. The closest I’ve been is in the top ten while fighting with a squad of friends. Most often I get killed in the mid game with 30 or so players remaining.
My Final Impressions
I’m having a lot of fun in PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS. Its simple premise makes the game accessible to almost anyone and its current popularity means you won’t wait long for the next match. So taking a loss, which happens often, is not a big deal. The initial learning curve is steep but it’s mitigated by an ever expanding community of players ready to ease in newcomers.
I haven’t won any games yet, but that doesn’t color the game negatively for me. I’ve enjoyed exploring the island and speculating about its origins. It’s a curious setting, clearly Soviet-era Russian, with many landmarks, structures, and hidden areas. I often found myself imagining what normal life looked like on this island before it was abandoned as I duck between buildings and sprint across open fields taking fire. Did people actually live in a place like this or is it one of the fabled Soviet ghost cities built by residents of a Gulag to keep them busy.
I also found myself wondering about the people participating in this battle royale. Who are they? Why are they here? Who is running this lethal competition? I may be overthinking the PUBG, but it’s one of the things that add to my enjoyment.
In all, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is a fun experience with a great potential to grow. It is an impressive achievement for a game in early access for only 5 months. Currently, there is only one game map and one game mode available but, at time of writing, there are new improvements and features still on the way. The developer, Bluehole Inc, recently announced a partnership with Microsoft Game Studios. With that kind of backing and a port to the XBOX One, the future looks bright for PUBG
Is it Worth it?
PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is absolutely worth its cost, $29.99 on Steam, and is best enjoyed with friends in squad mode. I will definitely continue playing this game for myself and live on Twitch.
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