PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a game many consider as the catalyst for skyrocketing battle royale from a fun mod to a full on genre. Fast forward to today and arguably the biggest game in the world is Fortnite, with other heavy weights joining the genre such as Call of Duty and Battlefield. Not even CSGO can ignore the call and they too have released their own take on the genre.

I’ve put ample hours into Fortnite as well as Call of Duty’s Blackout when I reviewed Black Ops 4, so it was with interest that I dove into the newly released PS4 version of PUBG. I walked away from the experience with delight and awe.

Slow paced at times, but always intense

PUBG is a game that takes a little time to get into. At first the game feels rather sluggish, largely because the maps are enormous. For the early matches I played, I would rarely find people for long stretches at a time, but as you play more and more, you learn the hotspots that people like to jump in and the action picks up.

The large maps can be tiresome at times as you have to traverse large swathes of ground to race to a circle. Whilst that can feel slow paced in what is meant to be an action packed genre, it does mean it adds its on sort of pressure in the game. The number of times I was scrambling to find a vehicle to avoid dying in an oncoming storm was numerous and made for hilarious memories. Having to thank a little Darcia for saving you from the electrical danger is amusing.

The larger maps also mean that zoom scopes are king in this game. I’d often be running around with a 4x scope on an assault rifle because aside from the initial drop zone, you’d spot players from far away. It also leads to you being sniped from far away and dying without having a clue where you were shot from.

Overall, it makes PUBG arguably the more intense of the BR games out there. The slower pace, larger maps and higher threat of the storm due to the distances needed to be covered creates a high pressure game that is just so enjoyable to experience. What takes the intensity of the game to a level unsurpassed by other rivals is not just the gameplay and map design, but the acoustics of the game.

PUBG is unrivalled in its acoustics and sets the bar for all shooters

There is something about hearing a gunshot echo through the air as you race to dive behind an idle tractor. This level of audio-immersion is so common in PUBG, you may almost take it for granted. The sounds of gunfights in the distance feel so realistic, the sense of danger in the game rises and creates a level of tension PUBG’s rivals cannot emulate.

The acoustics of this game alone pull the quality of PUBG to such great heights. It’s not just the intensity of the sounds, but how accurate sound is in the game directionally. And with how large the maps are, when you do hear someone nearby, it becomes an intense game of cat and mouse as you try to outmanoeuvre one another.

One would hope that the rest of the gaming industry will look at how well sound is engineered in PUBG and learn from that. Since playing the game, I have a whole new outlook on sound design in games. It can really take a good game and make it great when it is correctly implemented.

Inventory and weapons – everything is calculated

One of the most interesting aspects of PUBG is how well you have to manage your inventory in game. This habit of picking up every item you find won’t cut it in PUBG. The backpacks, even when you pick up a level 3 one, have limited space and you have to be deliberate with everything you collect.

30 9mm bullets for your pistol is enough. Do you use two rifles that both use 7.62mm bullets so that you can use the extra space to stock more first aid kits? Do you hold on to that 6x scope even though you’re only equipped with a shotgun and SMG for now? These are the thoughts you have as you traverse the map looting areas.

The need to manage your inventory so carefully and be deliberate in what you collect brings a depth to the game that adds to the overall experience, as opposed to being tedious or annoying.

Weapons also add a stimulating level of tactics. Do you equip your assault rifle to single or burst/auto? Which mod do you equip with your rifle and which rifle works best with which scope? Do you have a rifle and shotgun combo or do you go for a rifle and SMG? These are not particularly new deliberations to have in a BR game, but with the fact that PUBG cycles through different maps as opposed to having one static map, these decisions are constantly changing.

I’ve mentioned before how important vehicles in the game can become when the maps are so large and the circle can sometimes catch you unaware. The variety of vehicles, especially since different vehicles spawn in different maps, is fairly large. Driving feels rather sluggish in the game – the handling on all the vehicles isn’t great – but getting from point A to B is simple enough that it’s not too frustrating.

The sluggish feeling of the game isn’t helped by the fact that as a South African, you have to play on the European server. After enough time though, you grow accustomed to the high ping and whilst to-the-wire gunfights won’t often go your way, it doesn’t detract too much from the overall experience.

Microtransactions & progression system

The game doesn’t shy away from implementing a microtransaction system along with a rewards system. The microtransaction system allows you to buy items with in-game currency that can be bought with real-world money. You can either purchase actual items or you can opt to buy loot boxes.

There is also a rewards system where you earn another in-game currency that can be used to purchase cosmetics. The reward system works by completing various daily and weekly missions. As you play the game itself, you also earn this in-game currency through high standings as well as getting kills. Overall, it’s nothing intrusive and whilst many have gripes around loot boxes and microtransactions, this is easy to ignore in PUBG and continue on your way.

The future looks bright for PUBG

PUBG had a slow start, despite being the early catalyst. Fortnite has surpassed it fairly easily & Blackout has its own legion of fans but with this release on PS4, hopefully PUBG can take back some pieces of the BR pie. It’s a pity it took so long to release on console, and that wasn’t helped with the bug-filled launch on Xbox, but now that it’s here it’ll have to work hard to make up ground. After spending significant time with this game, however, I think they’re on the right track.

Last Updated: December 11, 2018

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a game many consider as the catalyst for skyrocketing battle royale from a fun mod to a full on genre. They've had a slow start to catch up to rivals but after spending significant time with the PS4 release, they're on the right track
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was reviewed on PlayStation 4
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