*This review is in-progress as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is currently available through the Xbox Preview Program and is a work in progress due to see updates as development progresses.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is one of the most successful games of 2017 on PC. The premise is simple, 100 players parachute onto a sprawling map and the last man (or team) standing wins. Along the way, players pick-up weapons and armor to help them in making it to the end of the match, with the constant threat of other players and an ever-closing circle shrinking the battlefield. This is Battle Royale. There have been many games to come to both console and PC in the last year that have tried to capture the excitement that this premise holds, but none have done it better than PUBG.
For those that haven’t been paying attention to Twitch or other streaming sites over the past year, and don’t understand the mechanics of the game, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds creates constant tension for the player. The rush of parachuting out of a cargo plane, scavenging for gear, and hoping to stay alive through any means necessary is a thrill of the level that few contemporary shooters offer. The large and varied land mass coupled with the freedom for players to go anywhere on the map means that firefights can spring up out of nowhere, and have the player (or teams) constantly on the lookout for threats or opportunities to take down other players. It’s a game of survival of the fittest. Players can play entirely as a pacifist. They can hide and crawl their way to the final circle if they choose. They can also seek out combat, but most games contain a mixture of well planned movements and getting the best of your opponents in gunfights if you want the prize Chicken Dinner at the end of a match.
When Microsoft announced that they’d be working with Bluehole to bring the game to their console, Xbox One owners got something to be incredibly excited about. It turns out that this excitement was well deserved. Even in its developmental state, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the Xbox One is a lot of fun to play, and every bit as exciting as its PC counterpart. After putting the game through its paces on the console, I can say two things. The first is that there is still a lot of work ahead of the developers for PUBG on Xbox One. It’s a game that’s rough around the edges in some spots. It’s by no means perfect, but what game is these days? The second is that while it doesn’t have all of the features of the PC version just yet, it doesn’t feel incredibly far behind. It’s a good spot for PUBG. Those who choose to purchase PUBG now, should know that the game isn’t complete. There will be hiccups. You’ll see things like texture pop-in, network issues, difficulty in accessing certain content like cosmetic items and customization features, but the base of something great is here… just like the PC.
While PC players might turn their noses up at the idea of playing PUBG with a controller, it works quite well on the Xbox One. Microsoft and Bluehole have nailed the feel of shooting on PUBG without giving it the same sort of aim assists that other shooters have on consoles. Trying to get an idea of what PUBG would play like on consoles I played the PC version with a handful of community created controller layouts for the game, but none rivaled what’s been put together for the Xbox One version. While getting the shooting aspects right was certainly important, there’s plenty more options that needed to be crammed into the controller. The game also has a very prominent inventory management aspect, and they’ve dialed in a control scheme that works well for the Xbox One controller, allowing players to quickly manage their inventories, cycle through weapons, and stay engaged in the fight at hand. In many ways, the ability to make a sensible control scheme for this game rivals that which we saw when Ensemble did in the RTS genre with the original Halo Wars. The job done here is commendable, and it’s just one of the things that needed to be perfect for PUBG to succeed on consoles.
There are quite a few options in PUBG for PC, and most, if not all of them carry over to the Xbox One version. Surprisingly, the game hasn’t been cut off at the knees by either the limitations of the Xbox One console or its controller. While the decision for 30FPS regardless of whether you own an Xbox One or Xbox One X is a little disappointing, the game plays well and feels stable at this frame rate. While we’ve seen some network instability during our time with the game, it’s felt good far more often than it’s felt bad in this regard. For a game that’s technically in a preview state, it delivers the excitement and fun of a full-priced “finished” game and it’s exciting to see what the future holds for PUBG on both consoles and PC.
While every person’s tolerance is going to be different when it comes to bugs, it’s hard to recommend staying on the sidelines even with the preview tag on this game. Whether you enjoy the solo experience or want to team-up for duos or squad matches, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for Xbox One might be the last must play release on consoles this year for multiplayer shooter fans. As the game continues in development we’ll be adding to this review and when it does finally come out of its preview state we’ll issue a score for the game. Right now, it’s certainly living up to all the hype.