Coming back to PUBG in 2021 was a mistake

The thought entered my head when I heard that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was getting a new 8×8 map this month: “Wow, when was the last time I played PUBG?” I don’t hear much about the Battle Royale game that started the trend in 2017, but it’s still one of the most played games on Steam every day. “I should check out this new map and see how PUBG is doing!”

Yes, that was a big mistake.

I clocked around 55 hours in PUBG in its first year. My friends and I weren’t a winner every night, but we had our fair share of chicken dinners. During its first few months, I remember being excited about PUBG’s potential as a competitive sim-adjacent shooter. After playing PlayerUnknown’s original Battle Royale Arma 3 mod, I liked PUBG’s streamlined weapon handling and more stable shooting base on Unreal Engine 4. At the time, PUBG had both DayZ and Arma 3, mechanically obtuse and ultra sim-y, resemble bedroom dinosaurs. Nowadays, PUBG is more outdated than either.

PUBG is only four years old, but it already looks like a relic of a genre that has moved on to bigger and better things. Jumping back last week, I was immediately surprised at how little changed. The movement is still floating and slightly delayed, the vehicles roll like butt, the character models are ugly, the cosmetics are bland, and the waiting period before a match actually starts is heinous as hell.

PUBG combat is still a lot of tactical bush shooting, for better or for worse.

Ugly booty

Seriously, I thought Battle Royale games already figured this out: give me something to do or just show me a list of players. I don’t want to wait two or three minutes to find a game just to spend another 60 seconds standing in an empty street while hikes throw apples at my head. At least Call of Duty: Warzone’s pre-game lobby gives you a random weapon to practice or let off steam. I would appreciate a similar mini-for-all in the PUBG lobby, at least so I don’t have to spend that pre-game minute hovering over the “Quit” button, thinking about why I’m plays royal boomer.

There are so many 2017 design choices here that look outdated and unappealing now, most of which stem from a terrible looting experience. Equipping a rifle with a few accessories I found in a dingy garage is always a chore.

PUBG is only four years old, but it already looks like a relic of a genre that has moved on to bigger and better things.

After countless hours in Apex Legends and Warzone, PUBG’s loot pool seems bloated with the same SMGs, guns, and attachments. Loot spawns in messy clusters that make something as simple as picking up an individual item from the maddening ground (good luck picking up that little compensator instead of the med kit running through it). You are strongly encouraged to use the inventory interface for every interaction with the world, which means spending ten minutes sorting through the trash in a ripped menu from early access 2013 DayZ until you have it. equipment needed to be competitive.

This painstaking and prolonged looting phase of the survival games that preceded PUBG is what originally killed my battle royale buzz. In the years that followed, the biggest battle royale games either accelerated the looting process or downplayed its importance in favor of the good part of battle royale: tight, coordinated team fights.

Apex Legends has a simplistic loot hierarchy with readable and spaced pickups, pocketed effortlessly from the ground. To make sure you have virtually nothing to micro-manage, attachments are automatically transferred between guns (PUBG eventually borrowed this feature in late 2019). Warzone took it a step further in 2020 by ditching looted attachments for preconfigured weapon blueprints that rely on the strong customization of Modern Warfare’s armorer. Instead of rummaging through dusty rooms hoping for 4X range, I can call up the equipped M4 of my dreams within minutes.

Hindsight in PUBG is no joke, a fact that I relearned in this fight.

A quiet death

Once I started moving around and filming stuff in PUBG, I still didn’t feel good. Jumping and climbing simply only works if you hit your target ledge at the right angle (a technique more experienced players are probably used to). Basic inputs like running, crouching, and jumping have a noticeable moment of animation before your character does anything – something I enjoy in Arma’s mock PvE operations, but not so much in a Competitive FPS.

The lack of a natural vibe started to happen to me as I sprinted past some non-swaying trees and non-flowing water.

It’s in the mid-range shootout that PUBG starts to feel good. I’ve had a few good “hot in one town and all-around” games that I’ve won and lost at times for the most part. In these scenarios, PUBG is a slow but functional FPS, but its lack of easy-to-read feedback becomes more frustrating during routine clashes with snipers 100 yards away. From this distance you have to watch each bullet move and look for a blood spatter on the target. With proven features like hit markers and “thwoop” indicator sounds in all other popular first person shooters, PUBG stands out with its more realistic (and less satisfying) impacts. The plus you get is an aggressively un-exciting notification that “YOU’VE DOWNED HILL_SNIPER47.”

I don’t remember thinking about this in 2017, but PUBG is a weirdly quiet game. Notifications don’t have sound effects and the characters don’t speak. The song that plays in the main menu goes mute as soon as you enter a match, instead of continuing the start of a match like Apex Legends’ customizable intro tracks.

pubg corp

PUBG got really stupid while I was gone. (Image credit: Pubg Corp)

In a way, the stillness is exactly what you want – I am able to detect the sound of guns and footsteps around me in PUBG no matter what – but the lack of natural ambience has started to show. touching myself as I sprinted past non-swaying trees and non-flowing water. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the rich, vivid soundscapes of the Louisiana bayou maps from Hunt: Showdown, but Hunt proves that a responsive world can add a lot to a game that’s mostly set in the world. grass.

It’s not like a single thing about PUBG is extremely bad, I just don’t see a good reason to play it these days when there are so many better games out there. Looking at the last few years of updates – new maps, a few destructible walls, a small plane, more guns – nothing really moves for me. Taego, the new 8×8 map added in the latest update, is its best location yet.

It’s also encouraging to see Bluepoint embrace the good ideas of its competitors, like Warzone’s Gulag and Self-Resuscitation Kits. But PUBG remains cumbersome. If that hasn’t changed now, I shouldn’t be holding my breath. There is clearly still a huge slice of Battle Royale fans who love the game (mostly in Asia, and mostly on the mobile version). It’s pretty good that, even though other big companies like Epic, EA, and Activision have taken over the battle royale in the West, PUBG has always created its own corner of the genre it popularized. Good for them, but I’ll uninstall it as soon as you can read this.

About Dorie Castro

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