“We’re surrounded and I’ve got no ammo, what are we going to do?” My teammate is breathless over his mic. We’ve been stuck in a two-story farmhouse for over ten minutes, taking fire while occasionally executing whatever random, unlucky soul sprints up to our staircase amidst the gunfire.
My four-man squad has been ripped to shreds over the last half hour. After dropping from an airplane holding 100 players divided into 25 teams with only one goal — be the last standing — we’ve sprinted our way across Miramar, the sprawling brand-new Mexico-inspired map Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds just rolled out for its official release. We know there are at least two snipers that have a bead on us, and we just heard the footsteps of another squad around the corner. I pop an energy drink and count my ammo as shots echo in the distance. “We’ve gotta move now. The circle is closing. We stay here for another two minutes and we’re dead.”
“We go out that door and we’re dead,” my teammate replies.
We pull out our map and consider our options as quickly as possible. In PUBG,the map randomly gets smaller and smaller inside of a safe zone every three minutes. Get stuck outside of it, and you’re slowly killed via deadly poison. In our particular situation, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
The plan: We decide to make use of PUBG‘s new vaulting techniques introduced in the 1.0 update and crash through a second story window. From there, we’ll sprint in a serpentine pattern, throw our only smoke grenade for some cover, and, god-willing, survive.
As soon as our boots hit the dirt I’m shot directly in the chest and drop down to my knees, bleeding out. “Just go!” I scream as a chorus of gunfire erupts around us. The squad that was stalking us has made their presence known to the snipers on the hill that have been calmly staking out our little safehouse.
I’m crawling aimlessly under a crossfire as my health bar ticks down trying to relay what I can see to my lone, surviving friend. He’s sprinting like he’s trying to qualify for the Olympics, only he is either going to die or win a chicken dinner. The circle is closing, and the snipers are caught outside of it. I see one of them drop as the other hustles down the hill. We might just do this. “Keep running!”
“I’m hit! I’m being shot!” My teammate is bellowing, cracking the levels in his mic and causing me to take off my headset and bury my head in my hands. “I’m dead,” he says quietly. There were 12 players left. We survived when 84 other people couldn’t. We almost had it.
So goes PUBG, one of the most addictive and infuriating shooters in modern gaming history. The hardcore nature of the game combines the best parts of cult-classic movie Battle Royale and the hardcore nature of zombie survival granddaddy DayZ into a concise and focused experience that now, with its full release, is a delight to play.
And when it comes to white-knuckles and the fury of a play gone wrong, sometimes the shoe is on the other foot. The randomness of the game is a natural balancing act that combines skill, luck, and tactics into one of the most satisfying experiences available to gamers today, and the industry has taken notice. PUBG is a smash hit, selling tens of millions of copies and single-handedly kickstarting the Battle Royale genre in ways the clunky H1Z1 or Arma only wish they could’ve.
Since PUBG‘s incomprehensible rise in popularity, Grand Theft Auto V, Fortnite and a host of copycats have made their own Battle Royale modes, and with PUBG‘s early access release on Xbox, over one million people bought the game in 48 hours. Gaming in 2017 might just be defined by two things: Battle Royales and loot boxes.
Over the last six months of early access development on Steam, PC gamers have seen PUBG turn into a premiere title with feature and optimization upgrades, while word of mouth and Twitch streams have sent the game’s popularity into the stratosphere. Its release on Xbox One has been less than stellar, however. As we noted before, the core experience of PUBG is still available on the home consoles, and the controls are novel, but this is a PC game through and through.
The XBox version’s visuals are barely passable as a modern game, and the sluggish, 30 frames per second make the high-intensity shootouts less active overall. On Xbox, it’s more of a game of hide and go seek, or hunting for the most dangerous game, rather than a sick game show in which the best (or luckiest) usually emerge from the smoking ruins of its chaos.
Ultimately, the game deserves to be played by everyone. The excitement, the horror, the beauty and the frustration of trying to survive along with 99 other players in a kill or be killed hellscape is now fully-realized for PC gamers, while the Xbox version has a long way to go. Sadly, it’s to the point of wondering if it ever should’ve seen the light of day on consoles at all.
But Xbox players seem to be enjoying themselves, and the sales speak for themselves. This is one of the must-play experiences in gaming, and is shifting the landscape of shooters that once only belonged in claustrophobic corridors.
Across the PC and the Xbox release, there are bugs here, frustrating moments with cheaters there, but when it comes to teamwork and the ability for gamers to create their own stories within a Petri dish of violence, nothing compares to Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, which for all of its faults, offers the most satisfying victory in gaming. That’s what makes people come back: the delicious chicken dinner.