Two years ago, PlayerUnknown made his mark with a Battle Royale mod for Arma 3. It quickly became popular within the community and soon entered development as its own standalone title – much like its precursor DayZ. Yet that game went on to become something of a lame duck, stalling in development and causing huge amounts of frustration in the community. With that debacle still fresh in gamers minds, can PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds buck the trend and stick the landing?
Bluehole Studios Battlegrounds sees you (and a heap of other players) thrown into a large map. Here you’re told to survive as long as possible – with the opposition team tasked with hunting you down mercilessly. Against all this is the tension of working with teammates, commanding and assisting each other as the situation unfolds. Working together is crucial, but that’s only if you really want too.
Starting off in a plane, you can choose when to parachute out onto the map below. This gives the first idea of how smart and tactical Battlegrounds can be, affording the player a huge hand in how they get to experience the game. Jump too early or to near a city and you risk dropping into a cluster of players. Jump too late and you could be stranded at the wrong end of the map when the gas is released, signalling a quick demise for you. Choosing how to play is what makes this game amazing and gripping.
What I appreciated most of all though is how balanced the game is. Unlike H1Z1 or DayZ, the initial rush for weapons never feels unfair. Should you choose badly and land in the middle of nowhere, the game is balanced enough that you can survive and make it to a weapons stash. There are enough tricks at your disposal to outrun opponents and make a decent stab at survival. It’s something games like this need if they’re to be fun for everyone – and it’s here where the game really stands above its competition.
It’s also worth mentioning that the graphics of Battlegrounds are perfectly serviceable. The island paradise covers a lot of ground, from build up urban arenas to wide open wilderness. You’ll never be left wanting when it comes to variety. There are also plenty of places to get weapons and gear; affording you better chance of survival. The introduction of duos and teams add to the fight for survival and give more tactical options for you and your friends to explore. The numerous areas of the map where an ambush or lookout can be set up truly makes this game a fight for survival. Repeat plays make you more tactically aware, giving you the edge when it comes to survival.
The games core mechanics are also very solid for the most part. Controls are tight and work well in fire fights, although I’m not so sure about the vehicle mechanics (Which are somewhat hit and miss). Personally I’ve avoided being the one behind the wheel, as things can get a touch hairy in this situation and usually end badly if you’re not quick to learn. Likewise swimming is arguably too slow, leaving you something of a sitting duck if you find yourself in need of a splash.
Likewise I feel that the game is still in need of a few tweaks. Optimisation grumbles aside, the core gameplay never really move beyond “shoot the opponent”. In free-for-all in particular, you’ll be doing a lot of that and little of much else. The problem with the Battle Royale genre as a whole is that it’s still very committed to its core ideals – with little attempt to push you in new directions. There’s no bigger goal or branching quest to keep things interesting – you’re just expected to shoot until you get bored. That’s fine if you’re in for a game like that, but if you need a little substance on the bone – this might not be the new experience you were hoping for.
This being said though, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds makes a good play for being the best addition to the Battle Royale genre. The sheer amount of weaponry and loot in-game and the character customisation are astounding, and I am sure things will only get better with a dedicated team working on the project with care and attention. There’s a lot of ideas and promises floating around this game right now, so it’s hard to say whether non-fans of the genre should dive in.
It’s certainly fun and if you’re a fan of these kind of games, you’ll be right at home. but if you’re looking for something deeper, this might not be the one for you.