This is an island on uncharted waters, for both the real world and figuratively myself. Never since MAG did I think we would see another decent shot at having a widescale battleground of this magnitude, and in some indescribable way, it fits together like a worn down puzzle.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has been sweeping the globe since its launch in March of 2017, selling well over ten million copies for PC players to beat each other senseless on an uninhabited island, with occasional spikes of up to a million concurrent players through Valve’s Steam platform. With its anticipated release for Microsoft’s Xbox One X later this year, people who never would have batted an eye for shooters, let alone a multiplayer arena, are now casting curious glances and wondering what the big ol’ hoopla is.
I was one of those people, and I have seen the light.
First off, I am going to lay this fact bare: I despise most shooters. Never liked them a bit. I was raised by friends and family playing Call of Duty and Halo, and every time the controller came my way I would stiffen my nose and wave it on. It’s not because they’re terrible, necessarily, but more that I completely sucked at them. That’s all there is to it. I’ve tried to play and power through and ‘get gud’ and to some success, I became better. It was never enough though, and I felt constantly inferior to everyone else thanks to my subpar aiming or lack of location awareness.
Who wants to play a game where you go with three kills and sixteen deaths every round, anyways? There’s no fun to be had there.
Apparently, some guy called Brendan Greene had cultivated the wills and whinings of the less coordinated and forged yet another arena game known as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. That’s right, Mr. Greene here is the famous PlayerUnknown, and after making and working on stuff like DayZ: Battle Royale, and H1Z1, he came from the heavens (see: South Korea) and with the power of his dev team, Bluehole, made what is one of the hottest games today.
So, that’s where I come in as a small-time evangelicalist slash video game journalist. Having scorn nearly the entire genre for most of my conscious life, why go back to what I’ve determined long ago to be an undesired portion of video gaming? Well A.) this is what the chiefs told me to play, if we’re gonna be honest here, B.) there’s more buzz than a peed on wasp hive, and C.) people have streaming this game so much that I have made the mistake of watching it during my dinner.
So, I made the jump and for the first time in years, I bought a game where the goal in mind is to aim a gun and smoke someone in the face. I kept telling myself that this is a game that I’d want to watch rather than play; who wants to lose their round three minutes in when you can watch cool dudes take on the world and constantly get first place?
Guess what? I was both right and wrong. When I launched from a bomber, fell a few thousand feet, arrived at a random abandoned house like a Fedex worker with a late delivery, and almost immediately was shot to death by some grunt with a shotgun, I felt like an imbecile and wanted to slink back into my couch and watch some top dog do things masterfully on Twitch. I believe that means I was right to begin with, self-fulfilling prophecy and all.
I was wrong, however, because I immediately played again, and again, and found that the atmosphere of the game never fully translates to what you see in a stream. A sense of panic, paranoia, and desperation as you enter each house or run through each field gives you an adrenaline rush no streamer can offer you. Each sound foreign to your own, every suppressed shot and enemy footstep gives a whole new meaning to the fight and flight response. This game gives the sensation that you are alone and no one is coming to save you, and sheer luck and wit is the only key to getting to that top ten, maybe even that number one.
THE THRILL OF THE KILL AND CHILL
So played your fair share of Call of Duty, Borderlands, Battlefront, and ARMA 2. That’s great, good for you. I’m sorry to say, but that alone will give you a dull butter knife blade of an advantage here on the island of Erangel. Heresy, you may cry! The talk of scrubs, some may bellow at their screens! Nay, brothers and sisters, I warn you; coming to PUBG is a different ballpark as if you would go from baseball to tennis. You may be there to shoot folks, but these guns don’t drop into your hands and are ready to fire. You don’t spawn on some predetermined spot, ready with perks and bonus qualities. You are naked, deficient of all weaponry, and launched to the skies like a newborn serial killer. Given the wildly different scenarios, you have two methods of winning the game of a hundred: fight, or hide.
Fighting is the more obvious and natural response; if you have a gun, and you hear gunshots, instinctively you want to go in, guns blazing noisily, and plow down the nearest sorry fellow you find, and you can! That is the beauty of this game, as your story to victory may be that you mow down a dozen folks with the M16 you found in your first room as you travel the lands, laying waste to noobs and pros alike. It can happen, and it does more often than you think; many people who play this competitively say that “in order to win the game, you cannot think on how to ‘survive’… only to hunt and kill”.
Although brutally said, sneaking and hiding can get you so far, as it will eventually come down to a small open field littered with trees and a dozen armed combatants. Getting used the jenky controls and methods of shooting others can often be tricky, leaving a lot of room for error and misjudged shots. That being said, constantly bull rushing populated areas and having skirmishes prepares you for when you should shoot, and when you should ambush.
Holing up in a house isn’t dishonorable, though; in fact, the notion that you conserve yourself in a safe spot while others barbarically blast each other is a very wise decision in my opinion. Why kill that guy you can’t even see when you can tuck yourself into a house and organize your loot, and then nail him with a shotgun when the victor strolls along? Every naturally spawned door in this game is closed, and all it takes is to close every entry you opened, and any would be never-do-well would be none the wiser that you’re lurking inside with a present for him or her.
The same goes to you approaching a threshold as well, too! A wide open door to a house with one odd door suspiciously closed is a rookie’s trap, but an easy one to fall prey to. Many of times I’d rush from combat, all relieved that my nightmare is over for a minute, only to try looting an already scoured house with someone lying in wait, having heard my footsteps. Then I died. It wasn’t very glorious, but that dude did get all of my stuff, so who’s the real winner here?
IN RETROSPECT, IT’S PRETTY DARN GOOD.
I probably don’t need to parrot what the masses are reiterating to those who are interested, but this game is smoking hot, even for a scrub goon like me. In an arena where you can face newcomers and LCS level players alike, with random chances of getting the worst or best outcome in a hundred different scenarios each game, I believe this is one of the most revolutionary game I’ve seen in quite some while. Not the best, mind you; Breath of the Wild still holds my heart on that. For a game that can convince a stubborn old goat that despises shooters to fall in love with getting the number one spot, and getting that chicken dinner that’s promised at the end, I give this game a full approved recommendation to both non-shooters and gun blazers alike; just hope that when you do play, you don’t run into me.
I will punch you to the afterlife and take your shoes.
I’m not even kidding. I steal other player’s shoes.