First Thoughts: PUBG (Xbox)

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds • Game Preview Program

Here’s an unpopular opinion. I don’t think PUBG is ‘all that.’ I know, I know. ‘Beta’ this, ‘Game Preview Program’ that, but frankly, it’s just an unnecessarily long game that yields very little time spent-to-reward gained.

Let’s start at the beginning. This week saw the launch of the titular Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, colloquially ‘PUBG’, on Xbox. The game itself has gained some notoriety, so buying into the hype to see what’s all about is almost mandatory. It’s a Battle Royale style game where you … oh, you know what, go read the Wikipedia entry on PUBG if you want to know more about it – the point is it’s big, and it’s now enjoying console exclusivity on Xbox for the time being.

At AU$30, it’s hovering around my maximum ‘happy place’ expenditure for a game that I’m going into untested and without any real knowledge about how to play – but given my initial experience, I’m also glad that’s all I played. The game starts off with everyone in a small lobby that waits to be filled as people collect weapons from tables and, well, they shoot each other. At best, it’s really only a couple of minutes wait, but it seems like eternity when you’re waiting to get ‘into the action’, but little do you know, that ‘action’ consists of something entirely different than what you thought it would.

After jumping from an airplane, you try and navigate to a semi-populated area, or at the very least, a farmhouse, and get yourself a weapon. In most cases, I was able to get myself at least a pistol, and all of the weapons had a handy pile of ammunition beside them. Some of the more ‘substantial’ areas, such as the military base, would often cause me to make a last minute parachute readjustment, as I saw other players ahead of me landing in the buildings I was going to – and because it’s still early days and I haven’t quite mastered the mechanics, I thought it best to avoid them.

Then … it’s essentially a waiting game. For a 100-player map, there sure is a limited number of people floating around to battle.

Even my ‘best’ output, which was reaching the top 10, doesn’t take into account that I spent the entire time trying to find another player to kill but instead just ended up running from point-to-point to make sure I was inside the playable area. Even in the final minutes, there was hardly anyone in-sight, and it was a sneaky shot to the back of the head which ultimately got me – but the net result is that this is not the fast paced shooter that it seems to be marketed as. Have people convinced themselves that this is the next big thing? Or am I just too old and jaded to be able to enjoy it thoroughly? There’s also a not-insignificant chance that having no achievements to strive towards somewhat coloured my experience, or at least the amount of time I was willing to spend working towards something.

A week or two back, when PUBG started to get some media traction, I remember seeing on one of the forums – perhaps MSPowerUser – a question from someone asking if PUBG would have a free trial mode. I suggested that something like Fortnite would tell him whether he enjoyed this style of game, and he said that he looked at Fortnite and it “was nothing like” PUBG. Well, having now played both, I can tell you that PUBG is quite like Fortnite, and – for my $0.02 – I actually think it’s a little better.

D’frent strokes and all that.

Look, depending on what the achievements ultimately end up being – I will ‘most likely’ give PUBG another go. I’m not necessarily going to make this my go-to game, I think Destiny 2 and Diablo III do a far better job holding my attention than PUBG does – and with a far greater emphasis on getting straight to the action. In two minutes I can go from game launch to 100+ kill streak in Diablo III, and that is satisfying.

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