Despite the name, PlayerUnknown (a.k.a. Brendan Greene) is currently one of the most well-known screen names in the world, and PLAYER UNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG) is one of the most popular games available across multiple platforms. The concept of Battle Royale isn’t new, but it’s still managing to take the gaming world by storm, with upstarts like Fortnite jumping on the bandwagon while the getting is good.
Regardless of PUBG’s widespread popularity, a lot of people aren’t in the loop, especially single-player junkies like myself. Those of us who are well aware that we’re semi-decent players who will be instantly owned in any PvP game tend to ignore skill-based games with so many people. However, PUBG is not your daddy’s FPS.
Counter-Strike (which, like PUBG, began life as a mod for a totally different game) was the introductory FPS for a lot of my generation, and it very much set the tone for FPS games to come. There’s a set map, opposing teams with opposing goals, and someone always has superior tactics to whatever you’ve got going on. If you don’t eat, sleep, and breathe the game in question, you never get anywhere near winning, and even your greatest victories feel more like you stumbled into success rather than properly earning it. Call of Duty, Battlefield, and the Medal of Honor games have mostly followed in this tradition, and if you’re not a total pro, your fun has a good chance of being cut short.
For those not in the know, PUBG is a Battle Royale style game, meaning everyone is out for themselves. Even if you decide to pull a Survivor-esque truce with someone, 98/99 players have to die for the game to end, so truces are both unlikely and extremely temporary.
One of the things that makes PUBG stand out from traditional FPS games is that it’s typically not an FPS – most people seem to use the third-person perspective, unless they’re doing finicky aiming, for which first-person view is better suited. While it may seem like a minor thing, altering the perspective can have a serious effect on the feel of the game.
Another key feature of PUBG is the realistic graphics, guns, architecture, etc. There’s a much more gritty feel than its primary competitor, Fortnite, which has a cartoony feel and doesn’t take itself the slightest bit seriously. PUBG, on the other hand, takes itself quite seriously. The buildings are abandoned, ramshackle things, and everything has a grungy, post-apocalyptic feel. Gun names are changed (AK47 = AKM), but are otherwise highly realistic, and ammo tends to be relatively sparse.
You’re dropped onto an island with nearly 100 other people, and your sole mission is to survive. Each match can have only one survivor, who is then awarded the fabled “Winner, winner, chicken dinner,” which has become synonymous with success. You’ll start in an airplane flying in a straight line over an island, and you’ll need to choose where and when to jump out. This is a major part of the game, as your starting area can make or break you.
If you play an aggressive game, you may want to start in the areas with the most buildings – large towns, military bases, schools, etc. These tend to have lots of loot, so you’re more likely to find the items you need to survive. The downside is that these areas attract a lot of people, so you may not survive long enough to get said loot. Of course, fortune favors the bold, and snagging a quick assault rifle can allow you to eliminate a handful of enemies right off the bat.
Another popular option is to find a shed or farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. These are dotted across the map, which means they’re easy to find, less likely to have other players in the immediate vicinity, and sadly low on loot odds. This approach lends itself to finding hiding spots and avoiding people as much as possible. It’s not uncommon for someone adopting this tactic to make it to the top 10 without a single decent item to their name.
For such a straightforward game, PUBG has quite a lot of nuance. For example, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from hiding in a bathtub or cowering in a bush, which makes it one of the few games in which “I’m going to hide in a shrubbery the whole time,” is a viable tactic. To keep the game from stagnating when everyone wusses out with the bush option, the play area continuously shrinks. You’re given a bit of warning and shown a circle on the map denoting the safe zone; a few minutes later a giant sphere of electricity will begin contracting around the safe zone. Cue the inevitable series of desperate sprints to stay inside the friendly white circle.
If you get caught outside the scary shrinking wall of doom, your health will steadily tick down until you make it to safety or die. Eventually, as the safety zone gets smaller and smaller, there will be a showdown between the last few remaining survivors, and one lucky participant will receive the fabled chicken dinner.
Because PUBG is as much about luck as skill, and because huddling in a garden shed miles from anywhere is a viable tactic, it may well appeal to people who wouldn’t normally play this sort of game. Due to the ever-dwindling safety zone, matches can’t go forever, and if you die early, you can immediately jump into another game. This gives PUBG the “just one more” mentality I usually connect with games like The Binding of Isaac and Hand of Fate.
At $30 on Steam, PUBG is a veritable bargain. Maps are limited, but that never stopped League of Legends, did it? Regardless of how samey the game should feel, every round is entirely unique, and the replayability is absolutely insane. I imagine the servers will be alive and well for many years to come, so this is the perfect time to join the party… by ditching parties and going solo.
Oh, the irony.
Have you played PUBG? Share your thoughts in the comments!