PUBG (Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds) has been a phenomenon on the PC for a number of months now, especially in the streamer bro, livestreaming space, resulting in it becoming one of the most popular games in the industry.
This means that naturally there’s been significant interest in PUBG’s Xbox One release, a project that has been pushed along with significant help from Microsoft.
The inherent concept of a 99 vs 1 battle royale is extremely compelling and has lead to some of my favourite multiplayer gaming moments of 2017 (more on this later). For the uninitiated, PUBG is essentially the video game version of the Hunger Games.
100 players are dropped onto an island after jumping from an aircraft. Everyone scrambles to grab guns and gear, while a blue energy field encroaches on the playable space, and continuous on-map circles designed to fuwinnel players to specific locations, repeatedly appear at timed intervals. There’s only ever one winner in PUBG — unless you’re playing on a team — that comes home with the coveted warm ‘Chicken Dinner,’ thanks to the title’s one life per round mechanic, which, arguably is the driving force behind the game’s appeal.
Make no mistake though, PUBG’s initial console outing is a colossal mess unlike its PC counterpart, which just left early-access. The problems can get so severe at times that some players will likely be surprised by the game’s rampant performance issues, especially given Microsoft is giving PUBG an official retail release even though it’s part of the company’s Xbox ‘Game Preview’ program.
Visually, Battlegrounds looks like an early Xbox 360 game at times. Frame rates often become an issue and textures are downright muddy across the board. Even Xbox One X Enhanced features like high dynamic range (HDR) do little to distract from the game’s lacklustre visuals. PUBG’s controls can also feel floaty, leading me to believe its developers ran into difficulty translating the title’s mouse and keyboard PC controls to a gamepad. Adding to the already growing pile of issues is the fact that the game even suffers from network-related issues, leading to frustrating in-game lag.
When PUBG on the Xbox actually works though, it’s an experience so compelling I’m willing to overlook the bulk of the above issues — I think this statement truly exemplifies the game’s appeal.
Let me paint a few scenes.
In one of my first PUBG matches, through a combination of carefully moving between various structures, scavenging weapons and more importantly, running rather than picking fights with other players, I found myself in the final 30 players of a solo match — you can also play on a team with friends, which is arguably more compelling.
As I was quickly deciding whether or not to move to the next circle on the map — this is how PUBG funnels players as the number of surviving combatants in a given match becomes increasingly smaller — I popped my head up from crouched position in order to peak out of a nearby window.
I was instantly spotted by a player driving in a motorcycle. They stopped their vehicle and turned it towards the small shack I was hiding in. I closed the structure’s front door and hid in the corner of the room, hoping that they’d simply drive away. For roughly the next 10 minutes, my opponent drove around the building on the motorcycle, menacingly revving their engine in an effort to scare me out of hiding.
It felt like I was in Mad Max or something.
In another situation, I somehow made it to the final five players, a feat I’ve only been able to replicate a couple of times. As sweat pooled on my forehead real-life — yes, the experience gets this intense — I rapidly moved my character towards what at least seemed poised to be the final play circle of this particular match.
Upon arrival, I quickly hid in the shadow of a large tree and dropped to a prone position almost immediately. A multi-player automatic weapon battle unfolded in front of me, with only one combatant surviving the ordeal. Still, I laid in the shadows of the tree with bated breath, hoping not to be seen.
As soon as the winner of the surprisingly lengthy gunfight turned his back, I popped up and filled his back with as many bullets as possible. I was eventually taken down by the only other player left in the game after a silly mistake — luck plays a significant role in having a successful PUBG match. You can make what feels like the right decision in various situations, only to inadvertently get caught in the crossfire of another group of more aggressive players.
For me, PUBG is less about killing as many other players as possible and instead, is an elaborate, tension-filled game of hide and seek. Others may aim to experience the critically acclaimed game with a more aggressive run-and-gun strategy in mind, especially if they’re playing on a team with a ground of friends — this mode makes the experience even more tactical.
The above examples are situations where PUBG’s compelling gameplay dwarfs its technical issue by a significant margin. On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve also been in matches where the lag was so bad the experience was nearly unplayable, leading to my character sliding across the ground like they’re running on ice, or bullets not hitting their intended mark.
Hopefully given that PUBG is still in early access, the game’s overall performance will improve drastically over the next few months, with it eventually coming close to matching the experience the much more stable PC version of the game offers.
It’s also worth nothing I played PUBG on Microsoft’s recently released Xbox One X. PUBG is available for 36.99 exclusively on the Xbox One.