The popular battle royale game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds continues to attract millions of players daily since its 1.0 release earlier this year. In this review we analyze the good and bad to unravel why the game has become so successful.
In PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds players compete to become the #1 player of matches set in large open-world environments typically roamed by 100 players.
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As the game continues players are forced to move to a specific area of the environment to avoid being killed by the game. The end game is an intense firefight where the last remaining players go head to head.
The gameplay is similar to many other open-world shooter games and can be compared to the multiplayer component of Grand Theft Auto V. Once players land at a location of their choosing they can spend the next 4 minutes gathering loot. Weapons, armor vests, helmets, health regeneration items and backpacks are the essential items to start off a successful game.
The loot you gather spawns randomly on the map. This means that you never know what you're going to end up with before the start of a match. Because some weapons and items are better than others random loot ends up having a significant impact on the result of a match. Those who acquired the best loot generally win more often versus those who weren't able to find these items.
After this short period of time the game's blue zone circle comes into play as it will slowly force players to move to a certain area of the environment. Those who wish to remain in the blue zone will slowly lose health until they eventually die.
Sometimes your picked location will be well within the initial safe zone while other times you will be desperately searching for a vehicle to get you there.
The game's latest map Miramar seems to cater well to this type of gameplay as it features a decent amount of vehicles scattered all over, while the game's original Erangel map features noticeably fewer vehicles.
Driving vehicles is also where most first-time players will start encountering bugs and glitches. Vehicles sometimes turn, flip or barrel roll because of the tiniest bumps in the road. If you are really unfortunate you will find your vehicle flying in the sky easily hitting 10 rotations per second until it eventually explodes on impact.
Some games become popular despite featuring a large amount of bugs and glitches and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is certainly one of them. Some of these bugs and glitches will hinder gameplay while others are weird enough to laugh about with your friends or are minor enough to be overlooked.
Other issues players will notice straight away are very unstable frame rates even on high-end video cards, game crashes, parachute landings resulting in significant health loss, not being able to pick up weapons or items and a buggy multiplayer lobby system where the ready button doesn't always function.
However, despite these issues gameplay is surprisingly enjoyable as long as you don't take it too seriously. Crawling in bushes or hiding between buildings or behind walls or fences to take out that one enemy you've been tracking for ten minutes is incredibly fun and nerve wracking.
The actual weapon combat is fun and engaging and is without any major issues. Many weapons support attachments and enhancements such as scopes, extended magazines and grip handles to enhance the overall experience.
Picking safe hideout locations as the game progresses is even providing a level of strategy. The wrong choice can get you killed because the location you picked didn't provide enough cover or because enemies were hiding inside buildings waiting for you.
The game is by far the most enjoyable when played with a group of friends and the game supports this by featuring a squad based multiplayer system. Critics know every game has this one iconic feature that makes or breaks it and this is it. Driving around the environment and confronting enemies together is what makes it fun.
The game's major selling point is its battle royale experience in which players fight to become the last man standing.
If anything battle royale neatly plays on the narcissistic nature of a significant portion of the current generation of gamers and Twitch streamers. This is evident from the total number of streamers who broadcast their matches. The streaming website currently displays it being in the top 10 of most streamed video games.
The game's high number of streamers is what powered its initial growth. This is why many major video game publishers are more worried about the number of views their game gets than the review scores it receives. Streams are also where a significant chunk of the game's subpar memes came from.
However, what drives its current popularity is not its streamers but the game's squad based multiplayer system that allows friends to team up. This is what keeps players returning to the game, allowing it to hit 3 million concurrent players earlier this year.
Because the game's battle royale experience is essentially just a glorified last-man-standing mode it can be so easily implemented by competitors that it is likely also the game's biggest issue preventing long-term success.
Several other games have already implemented their own version of battle royale in hopes of becoming the next big thing, including Epic Games' Fortnite and Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto V. This means it will only be a matter of time until another game comes along that pulls it off better with fewer technical issues to steal PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds thunder.
Epic Games' Fortnite seems to be the prime contender at the time of writing as the game is already ranking well above PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds in Twitch's top 10 most streamed video games. Another could be The Darwin Project that we previewed last year.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds features good graphics considering it is powered by Unreal Engine 4. All the expected features are there: Screen Scale, Anti-Aliasing, Shadows, Textures, Foliage, View Distance, V-Sync and Motion Blur with the only major disappointment being the game's extremely poor anti-aliasing capabilities to get rid of sharp edges.
However, despite using Unreal Engine 4, the game's frame rate is very unstable even on high-end video cards. Those playing the game on anything lower than a NVIDIA GTX 970 or equivalent will generally have a bad time as they see frame rates between 10 and 40.
The game also loves to hog up RAM even when setting the Texture Quality and View Distance options to very low. So much so that we recommend playing it on a machine featuring at least 16 GB of RAM to prevent issues.
There is no denying that PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a surprise hit. It does many things well despite featuring bugs and glitches. The game's squad based multiplayer mode is what will keep you playing as it is infinitely more enjoyable to play with friends than it is playing alone.
However, the game certainly isn't for everyone. The game's random loot has a significant impact on the result of a match up to the point where skill becomes far less important. The game's unstable frame rates, vehicle physics issues and other random glitches can also be considered a frequent source of frustration.
Despite all of this the game is able to provide an enjoyable experience for its $29.99 US price tag. Those who pick up the title will easily get 50 hours of gameplay out of it as they master its mechanics to become the last man standing and there is a good chance the game's free updates will continue to introduce new content to keep you invested.
PC, Xbox One
Squad based multiplayer system
Enjoyable combat and weapon systems
Large open-world environments to explore
Large environments power varied firefights and tactics
Battle royale is a fun experience in a market oversaturated with generic shooters
Unstable frame rates
Broken physics engine will result in weird vehicle crashes
The quality of random loot has a significant impact
Contains various bugs and glitches that hinder gameplay