In many ways, the concept and the idea of Battle Royale shooter Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is more attractive than its execution. The game is capable of delivering high-octane experiences that wouldn’t be out of place in a Fast and Furious film, but these moments happen nowhere near often enough and the appalling technical state of the game makes the decision to leave Early Access a puzzling one.
While the game has now seen an official release, PUBG has been available for months on Steam in beta format. The game immediately grabbed the attention of prominent streamers and YouTubers for its Battle Royale themed gameplay; 100 players parachute out of an airplane onto an expansive island and then have to find weapons and equipment with the aim of killing other players and becoming the last one standing. While PUBG is far from the first Battle Royale shooter it is absolutely the most popular, with Early Access sales allowing for a massively increased scope for the game, including a release on console.
This popularity also creates an issue with reviewing it; support and additional content has been promised for months to come, leading to the very real possibility that most of the criticisms listed here (largely technical in nature) could be rectified by the developer. However, given that the game has been officially released in this state, the fairest option is to take into account the issues it has now while acknowledging the potential for improvement down the line.
Many fans will already be familiar with the host of technical issues that plagued the Early Access version and still go unfixed. Hackers and cheaters have been present since the earliest release and BattlEye (the anti-cheating software) is woefully inadequate for the game’s issues. Aimbots and solo-teams are still far too common, allowing a few people to ruin the fun for everyone else.
Many of the game’s bugs have also gone unfixed since the Early Access stage with poor hit registration standing out in a game where tight-shooting controls should be prioritised.
While this may all seem overly critical and nit-picky, these technical issues only stand out so much because of the incredibly fun base experience. The initial rush to find a gun upon landing and hunt out the nearest players is what I want to remember the game for, not having a Jeep get stuck in the wall for most of the match.
However, PUBG certainly has an extensive list of positives that will convince many to overlook these flaws. In a sense, the game attempts to replicate the loot-focused style of Diablo or World of Warcraft, except the hunt for gear begins anew with each match. The sense of excitement at finding an LMP9 with ammo and a tactical vest lying nearby never truly diminishes and the desire to constantly look for new gear encourages players to stay on the move.
This system also offers a welcome break to the progression systems that have become a staple in most modern shooters. Items that affect gameplay never carry over between matches so the only thing you can really bring over is skill.
While the official release may not have added a huge amount of new content, it has given players the long-awaited replay feature, finally allowing for an accurate recap of kills and making death less of a frustration and more of a learning experience.
Ultimately, it is easy to see the Early Access roots of the game with long-standing issues that were visible in the earliest builds of the game still being “worked on” by the developers. In spite of this, for those willing to persevere, PUBG offers an unparalleled Battle Royale experience that is likely to only get bigger and better in the months to come.