PUBG is the latest survival arena game to hit the market, and it might be the best "Battle Royale" game we've played yet.

PLAYERUNKNOWN’s BATTLEGROUNDS Review: Old Idea, Fresh Take

Jun 6, 2017
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If you’ve watched any popular Twitch streamers over the past couple months, you’ve heard of PLAYERUNKNOWN BATTLEGROUNDS. (We’ll be calling it PUBG from here on out, because we don’t hate you.) Here’s how the game works. You join a lobby with 99 other players, and you’re all put into a plane and flown over an island. You jump out of the plane and parachute to the ground, where you gather supplies and fight to the death. The last player or team alive wins.

Does It Matter That PUBG Isn’t a New Idea?

Let’s cut to the meat and potatoes, folks. If you mention PUBG to people, most of them will bring up the fact that it’s very similar to several games that already exist. And they’re right.

PUBG is undeniably derivative of popular titles like DayZ, Rust, The Culling, and, of course, H1Z1: King of the Kill. Popular books and movies like The Hunger Games brought the idea into popular media recent years, taking cues from Koushun Takami’s 1999 novel “Battle Royale” about Japanese schoolchildren forced to fight one another on an island. In fact, the PUBG website bears the following slogan: “Not just a game, this is Battle Royale.”

In other words, no, it’s not a new idea.

PUBG Banner

That being said, the budding ‘survival arena’ genre has also never been perfected. The other games that attempted this have hit many roadblocks along the way. PUBG isn’t perfect either, but even in its current Alpha state, PUBG is by far the best Battle Royale game on the market.

Foraging for Items in PUBG: Landing

We’re going to describe what it’s like to play a game of PUBG. It’s honestly the best way for you to decide if the game might be up your alley.

You’re in a plane, flying over an abandoned island.  You’re immediately faced with one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the game: where do you land? The plane approaches at a different angle every time, and loot is randomly generated, which means there is no ‘best area’ to land. There are, it’s worth noting, areas that have a higher concentration of loot, but nothing is guaranteed.

Do you jump to a town, knowing you’ll likely run into other players? Or do you make your way towards a small group of four houses? You could even try and aim for a car and drive far away from the plane’s route. There are many options, and all will shape the rest of your PUBG journey accordingly.

Screenshot of player landing after jumping from plane at the start of a PUBG match.
Remembering to release your parachute is an essential survival skill.

Once you’ve chosen a location, get to the ground fast and start looting. As you’re descending, keep an eye out for other parachutes. In most cases, you’ll want to have an area to yourself so you can grab weapons before trying to engage others. Make a beeline for the houses and start scavenging.

Looting: Guns, Medicine, and Cool Kid Backpacks

You can’t carry guns in your pack. You are limited to two primary weapons and one pistol or revolver. Depending on what’s available, you can sometimes afford to be picky. You’ll want a gun for long-range fighting, as well as something to deal with threats that are more up close and personal. After you’ve got a gun, you want a helmet and body armor, making you far more resistant to other player’s bullets.

PUBG has a variety of different guns, and the dev team over at Bluehole Studio are adding more as the Alpha goes on. The primary weapons fall into the tried-and-true categories of modern military equipment: submachine guns, shotguns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles. Primary weapons are fairly common, and you’ll be able to find one after looting one or two houses. Given the amount of open space in PUBG, sniper rifles are a more uncommon find, thankfully.

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In addition to picking up accessories for your guns, you’ll also find medical supplies scattered around the PUBG map. Energy Drinks and Painkillers heal you over a period of time, as well as provide a movement speed buff.

Got a gun? Check. Armor? Check. Mysteriously restorative beverages and pills? Check.

It’s time to fight.

Combat: The Best (and Worst) Part of PUBG

The combat is tense and exciting, but much like H1Z1, it’s possible to spend minutes at a time wandering around in PUBG without spotting another player. But once you spot them, the cat-and-mouse game begins. In a perfect world, you’ll be able to sneak up on your unsuspecting foe and kill them before they’re able to respond.

This brings me to one of my biggest gripes with the game. Sneaking up on an enemy and dispatching them from relative safety is fun, but being shot at and not knowing where it came from can be frustrating. There’s no kill cam, which means that it’s harder to figure out how your opponent got the upper hand. You simply die and get returned to the main menu, where you’ll try to solve the mystery of your own murder. It’s frustrating, and even though the match might be over, it doesn’t feel resolved.

While the combat in PUBG is tense and exciting, server issues have made the gunplay a sore point for many players.
Taking out an enemy in PUBG.

My other complaint lies with the handling of the weapons. You can scope in on a stationary target, hold your breath to steady your aim and line up the crosshair, fire, and you’ll still miss completely. The accuracy of each weapon seems inconsistent, and the frequent server lag means that you’ll often miss your target due to poor network conditions. As Bluehole Studios continue to upgrade their servers, the gunplay in PUBG has improved — I’ve noticed notable improvements over the last couple weeks.

Fast-Paced Gameplay

The pace of gameplay in PUBG does an excellent job of balancing structure and individual freedom. The island is huge. But every game there is a ‘playzone’, an area that is safe. A moving barrier, ‘the blue,’ collapses inwards towards the safe zone, slowly killing players who get stuck inside. This means players have to move around the map, which not only serves as powerful camping deterrent, but also forces them into engagements — you’re never too far away from a firefight.

There are strategic implications to all this, of course. You don’t want to be the person running towards your enemy with a wall of death on your heels. But you also don’t want to be surprised by someone willing to take some damage to get behind you. Due to the heavy importance of seeing your opponent first, there’s excellent potential for intricate mindgames and outsmarting other players. The moving playzone forces players to adapt on the fly, and it’s an excellent mechanic.

Final Verdict

The basics are deceptively simple, but there’s a level of mastery that can be attained in PUBG, and I can’t write that off. The more I play, the more I appreciate the depth of the game. It’s exhilarating to pick off an enemy running across a field, and it’s terrifying to be that person running across the field. There are a million different scenarios similar to this that unfold in every match of PUBG.

For a game that’s still in Alpha, it’s almost a pleasant surprise that server stability is one of the biggest issues facing the game. Desync is a bigger killer than any gun. Servers and netcode can be upgraded and improved, thankfully. It’s a pity that players have to butt heads with uncooperate internet tubes, but Bluehole Studios have made an immersive and energizing game that improves upon nearly every aspect of the budding survival arena genre.

You can purchase PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS on Steam for $29.99.

Score: 9/10

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Stephen Draper
377 POSTS
Stephen has a degree in English from Brock University. He grew up playing video games and card games, always having an affection for strategy. He picked up League of Legends in early Season One and has since achieved Diamond rank multiple times. He also picked up Hearthstone in Beta and has since achieved Legend consistently. When he isn’t reading, writing, or gaming, he’s probably watching other people game. x
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