So… The screenshot underneath this? That’s the power of the Xbox One.
I’m not going to act like after a year and a half of miserable waiting, Brendan Greene’s ugly child of unbelievable magnitude (when it comes to player density) deserves a fanfare. PUBG deserves nothing but to be looked at, to be scorned at, to wonder why on Earth something so despicably rubbish, so terrible in design get the publicity it did.
If you’ve somehow been unaware of what this game is, then welcome to Earth, I hope you enjoy Brexit. This is the fully released title from one Brendan Greene, AKA PlayerUnknown, who struck a lucky vein of gold with an ARMA 2 mod. After people got bored of it, he decided to go all out, making an entirely new game based around it, and now Bluehole seem to be doing some of the work for him. Fun times were had by most, but not people on the Xbox One version, which is what we’re going to be reviewing today.
It may feel like I’ve shown my hand too early, but what do you expect? It’s been a year now, and so far, PUBG has been outclassed, outmatched, and outgunned by everybody else out there. Like who? Well, there’s indie developers, the people Brendan Greene first looked at for inspiration, and a corporate mega-machine, just to name a few. All of these people have done battle royales better than him, and people will continue to do so.
Also, let’s get this stupid little factoid out of the way, he DIDN’T create the “Battle Royale” genre. It had been around for years, albeit not in a commercial format, save for Minecraft: Hunger Games, which came out around the same time as Brendan’s ARMA 2 mod. Shit, I remember making Modern Warfare 2 lobbies on Derail with the same settings as PUBG. Anything is possible.
Right, here’s the gist, you’ve got 100 people, all of them ready to shout their heads off or even send racial profanities down the headsets and messaging apps, making you wish natural selection was a bit more prevalent. You’re all bundled on a plane, you choose where to skydive onto the map, and after a while, the playing field becomes smaller and smaller until only one player remains. The winner gets an imaginative chicken dinner, with the only parts of the chicken left being the eyeballs and genitals.
PUBG’s objectively biggest issue, out of the 4,762 odd problems that are prominent throughout your playtime, is a lack of pacing. It’s a stroke of luck that you’ll get a game with good flow, as dead air surrounds you for at least one part of your time down on the island. The newest map, Sanhok, supposedly eliminates this problem by being insanely small, and it’s tough trying to figure out whether that’s the case.
Gameplay will consist of you spending an average of thirty minutes running around the map like you’re trying to find reasons why this game is supposed to be superior to other battle royales, or doing nothing. If you land in the circle already, and in an area where the only thing that passes by is the pissing wind, you’re going to be doing this a lot. Oh, who am I kidding… you’ll be doing this every game.
Gunplay is punchy, although it’s hampered by the performance, which we’ll get to. Every single gun in this game (Except the piss-poor P92) handles and feels well when equipped, with highlights being the SCAR-L and the UMP-45. These respective kingpins of their gun-class are brilliant to use, as are the other lowlier guns, like the accurate M416 or the buckshot blast of the S686.
That being said, the gunplay is still wonky. Guns don’t much stay still, as they do waver around in your puny little arms, with the SKS and AKM feeling like you’re holding them during a Class 5 Hurricane. There’s also a fantastically bullshit hit detection problem, especially when it comes to melee weapons. Heads and even full body models end up disappearing from the dimension PUBG is set in, giving the unknowing player a tactical advantage of invisibility and invulnerability.
The vehicles should also be inspected, as they did work before they became something that didn’t, before they did again. Vehicles have that Need for Speed: Prostreet problem, where they handle like they’re on a perpetual sheet of ice, as opposed to being stuck on the ground. Bikes suffer from this the most, with the chance of flipping over being phenomenally high, even at pedestrian speeds. It’s also exceptionally easy to get all of your health and the vehicle’s taken off just by going over a bump the wrong way.
Honestly, if there’s one thing that I will give Brendan Greene credit for, through gritted teeth that might break if they clenched any harder, it’s that he knows how to execute an atmosphere. PUBG is a game I’ll begrudgingly play for the rush of being in the Top 10 alone, something that I won’t even bother with in Fortnite or The Culling, and it’s addicting, I’ll admit.
When the stars align, and Bruce Lee has one inch punched an angel in Heaven, you can get a game that can be tense, exciting, a series of close calls and quick kills, and when you’ll more than likely fail? It doesn’t matter! You killed 6 people to get there, got some pathetic pennies in response, but dammit, you can’t stop. PUBG is the amphetamines of gaming right now, but just like how I feel with my dealer, I don’t know if waiting 30-45 minutes for it to happen is worth it.
PUBG’s two most popular maps, Erangel and Miramar, work well on their own points, but falter on others as well. Erangel was heavily peppered with small houses and loot for you to find everywhere, but it suffers from a lack of cover and some pretty shit trees. Miramar, on the other hand, is a thinly-spread wasteland with a good amount of natural cover, but a lack of life to anything due to how MASSIVE it is.
Sanhok is easily the best of the three, although that’s not saying much, since that’s like asking whether you want urine, faeces or pubic lice on top of your pizza. Sanhok is PUBG Corp’s answer to the Fortnite map, attempting to squash the complaints that Miramar and Erangel are too big, and too boring. A noble effort, but they’ve taken the piss with the size now.
It’s way too small, and the problem of pacing still comes up because every player knows there’s a risk of getting sniped from a different dimension if they exit the building. It’s the CoD problem again, streaks and wins only come to the kids who don’t try, and the whole “well, the circle’ll make ’em move!” counterpoint is worthless when the circle covers the whole of Sanhok anyway.
See, this is where other battles royales come into play. Obviously the biggest example is Fortnite, and even though Epic have no idea what to do with the battle royale mode’s mechanics in general, aside from the genius idea of creating your own cover, they know what players want: smooth, flowing gameplay, and the solitary map is has provides it in perfect spades.
Everything in Fortnite is a stones throw away, and whether it’s enemies, weapons or new areas to explore, you never have to wait long for something. Games are quick, clean and done, yet it still gives you enough elation at the end. It shows pitch-perfect pacing prowess, whereas PUBG is the OAP who takes 30 minutes to get ready for the session, two tugs and it’s over.
Loads of other battle royales have fixed the issues that still fester in the corpse of PUBG. The Darwin Project allows one player to pace the game appropriately, provided that said player isn’t a dickhead who joined his friends game. Vigor gives you one simple objective: Get loot. Out. Simple as that. PUBG on the other hand?
The loot in-game, and by extension the loot boxes themselves, are balanced as well as a match between the Harlem Globetrotters and a collection of catatonic patients at a hospital. You could find a three-story house belonging to Gunny The Gun Nut, and come out of it with nothing but a 7-shot revolver and some band-aids, but a broken-down shed lying by a T-Junction? Well, looks like you just found yourself an SKS! Celebrations! Make sure you get a good scope on it.
Well, you could land in Severney, or Impala, grab a weapon but– Oh! It’s over before you could reload your S686. Well, that’s annoying, but where’s the circle centered at anyway? Primorsk? Monte Nuevo? Well, hopefully I can find a car before– Hey, what’s that flashing in the background? BAM! Mini14, from a prick who entered one mud hut and found a Fort Knox-level depository.
I get that this is a point of battle royales, but this is an inherent problem Fortnite and PUBG has: a lack of an equal playing field, even as time goes on. Every once in a while, you’ll sprout an easy kill from some poor bastard running across the crop fields outside Pochinki, and all they have on their body is the clothes they came in with, and a pistol that couldn’t dent a piece of paper. You’ll feel bad, honestly.
I mean really, if you’re going to grab anything from the bloody incredible film Battle Royale, then at least add a randomized loadout. Yeah, that still vaguely ties into the “equal playing field” complaint, but a randomized loadout is better than throwing Angled Foregrips or Apples at the enemy. Shit, we saw how valuable items like a pot cover and binoculars can be in Battle Royale.
There’s another problem the game has, which is the non-existent variety. You run around, you shoot at trees that look like blotches resembling enemies, you get shot by a blotch that was an enemy, repeat. Fortnite has an unrivaled arsenal of weapons and gadgets, The Darwin Project has a sneaky set of abilities to help you with its barebones combat, and all PUBG has to offer is bog-standard gunplay in a low-tier world.
The loot boxes that you buy with in-game currency offer rewards that wouldn’t look out of place as a clothing item on a Shenmue NPC. Un-rendered shirts, low-quality shoes, stuff that looks like background material for games that look better and play better. If you want the good stuff however, then you need to buy the Event Pass.
Hey Brendan, remember when you and your lads wanted to sue Epic over apparently copying the Battle Royale formula? Well, what’s this in your game then, mate? An Event Pass that requires you to pay money via your premium currency, and gives you rewards the more you play? HA! That’s some bold intuitive thinking there, lad.
PUBG’s event pass works the exact same as Fortnite’s, except the seasons are shorter, and the items don’t look cool. The more you play, the more rewards you get that will be outshined because everyone else is wearing them. Y’know, the superficial bullshit that doesn’t mean anything, aside from the absolutely pathetic boosts of in-game currency. Five percent increase of BP for 28 days? Get bent – I’d rather watch 28 Days Later for 28 days.
Really, this is a problem that all Event Passes/Battle Passes/Rocket Passes/Ass Passes have. These rewards are going to be claimed by millions of other players, and all this pride you got from obtaining these items after hours of trying? What good is it going to get you? People aren’t going to be in awe of your skill, it’s just another reason you’re going to get called a sad sack for playing so much of it. Happened to me when I got “John Wick” on Fortnite, but I’unno, maybe it doesn’t bother other people.
Also, I don’t know if you can keep your items after the Battle Pass even ends. This is something that was revealed with its original inception, but that’s not even the worst part. Here you are, you’ve just spent 30 bucks on a game that offers as much as Fortnite does for free, the game coerces you to spend another 10 bucks on a digital piece of paper, and what do you get out of it? Items that allegedly disappear after the season ends, and some lackluster cosmetics that blend into the game’s ugly, ugly world, along with everyone else wearing them.
The second biggest issue is that you could be the greatest liar in the world, but no one is going to believe you when they say that this game looks good. Every single piece of grass and plantlife in this game looks like a 2-D sprite from a DOOM wad made by a blind man, and the game has a draw distance of about 40 feet, meaning that this beauty is only skin deep. Still, Sanhok is again saved by this complaint barely, but that’s because the skin can glitch sometimes.
Thus, we reach one of the other big problems, and my personal biggest gripe with the game, which is the fact that PUBG, on the Xbox One at least, runs about as well as the PC port of Quantum Break on launch day. Frame rate drops as the game chokes to render everything, maps failing to load if you manage to go faster than the average walking speed, bikes exploding because the speed bump you hit had a random indistinguishable wall blocking it. Xbox One users got the shit end of the stick, with what should be a “reason” to get the console.
The glitchy fun doesn’t stop there however! What about making an average of three different parties sometimes, just so you can attempt to play together? Oh, oh, let’s not forget the frequent crashes that happen if you so much as shoot a pistol in the wrong direction, which is something that PUBG Corp have truthfully attempted to stamp out, moving from “frequent crashes” to “AAA-Game frequency crashes”.
I know it’s not Bluehole’s fault either, or at least, it’s not completely their fault. They’re also responsible for the Xbox One port of TERA, a MMORPG that by all accounts should run worse than a battle royale game, which runs perfectly fine on “The World’s Most Powerful Console”. I know Bluehole develops the Xbox One port via an internal studio called PUBG Corp, but the more believable answer is that maybe PUBG is just poorly optimized on top of being generally bad.
There is hope, promise, maybe even perfection lying in wait underneath the slew of shit that is prevalent in PUBG. Connectivity issues, wonky hitboxes, a frame rate on par with Goldeneye N64, all of these problems could be, and indeed SHOULD HAVE BEEN FIXED AFTER ALMOST A YEAR, and make something worthy. It took eight months to fix a main menu glitch that reset your controls every time you started the game up, and now? It’s over.
PUBG’s the equivalent of that one kid in school who told a funny joke once, the whole class laughed wildly, and now they think that’s all they need to make them laugh again. The laughs subsided as months went by, and now all the other potential comedians have come out with better variations on the jokes, and the kids know who tells the joke better.
The point I’m trying with this pathetically strained metaphor, is that PUBG no longer has the edge to compete. As a genre-setter, it can keep its title and benchmark of what to do, and what not to do with a Battle Royale title. As a competitor to other titles in the same genre? It doesn’t stand to win in a farting competition against titles like Fortnite, Vigor, The Darwin Project, H1Z1, and Realm Royale. Even Totally Accurate Battlegrounds does a better job with more finesse, and that’s just the titles that are already out to the public, the future holds much more promise.
This isn’t a personal vendetta piece I’ve planned since Greene & Co. arrived on the scene, and attempted to monopolise on the battle royale genre single-handedly. I’m a paying customer who has seen bugger all progress from the title, while other games revel in the sunlight while raking in the cash. Ten months have been spent on this pisstake of a journey, and there is nothing to show for it, except maps that are visually different, and… that’s it. That’s what you get, no improvements, no attempts to fix the tens of glitches still prominent since day one.
The amount of people who endlessly defend this game, shower it with praise because “Oh, give it some time!”, “Oh, it was the first so it was allowed”. No, it being the first of anything means that it’s going to have to catch up at some point. It hasn’t even been two years, and already PUBG has come out of the fight against its competitors as well as a turd near a supernova.
“Oh, it’s got all of these problems, and it crashes a lot, and I think Brendan Greene called me a dickhead once, but it’s a 10/10 because it’s given me a rush I haven’t got since my wife left me!” Why is that a norm now? Last I checked, a 10/10 was based on perfection, not because it entered your life when The Void was about to take over.
At the end of the day? No, I’m not going to give PUBG a perfect 10/10 score just because it was the first of something, or just because it’s as addicting as a pack of Pink Wafer Biscuits. Times have already changed; it’s only been a year, and with whatever praises that could be applied buried under an avalanche of glitches, poor pacing, and barely any evolution. 400 hours wasted on this game, and what do I have to show for it?
A couple of salmonella-infested chickens that took too long to get.
This review of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
The king of battle royale has fallen victim to regicide.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.