It’s been six months since I shared my thoughts on the Xbox One version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and much has changed in that time due to a constant stream of updates. But despite that, there’s also much that is still the same which could continue to be a source of frustration for new and returning players.
The biggest addition to the game was of course having the second map from the PC version arrive back in May. Miramar is a desert themed map with vastly open spaces that gives it a very different feel to the original map (Erangel). Sharpshooters with knowledge of how to make best use of the limited cover will lap it up – the rest of us will feel VERY exposed and perhaps even frustrated when our tactics from Erangel don’t work as well.
Unfortunately it’s a map that has sharply divided opinions amongst the player base. Thankfully though Xbox players got to start with a version that had been tuned over the last few months on PC. I do still prefer Erangel but I really like the dispersement of vehicles on the new map as it feels like it is more oriented towards giving all players and opportunity to get into the safe zones no matter how far away they might be on the beginning. Sometimes on Erangel you could parachute into the wrong side of the map and have to run all the way across trying to survive on med-kits as the circle quickly overtakes you. That’s happened a lot less often on Miramar.
With the third map on PC (Sanhok) just released I’m hoping that we see it arrive a little sooner. Judging from videos the jungle theme will make it a much more comfortable fit for Erangel fans and it’s smaller size might appeal to Fortnite players too.
The UI has been given an overhaul and is now starting to look more like a game that’s nearing that point of exiting a beta. Joining a game is still only a short number of button clicks away and the interface clearly indicates what is happening – it lets you jump through other menus such as your character customisation while you wait for the game to start which is a nice touch.
There are still a few negatives in the game and some will be very familiar to players. Lag is a constant source of frustration and it can hit you at the worst times. I’m finding it happen at lot just as you are about to land via your parachute – those last few seconds might be where you steer yourself away from a crowded landing site so you don’t want your connection to be interrupted and have you dumped into the middle of a shooting gallery.
Performance can also be a bit of a mixed bag with texture pop in still present. My impression is that players on Xbox One X will have a much more consistent experience over their colleagues on the base consoles. There were times playing the game on my launch Xbox One where level geometry was still loading in and it was actually preventing me from entering buildings because the doors hadn’t drawn in yet. That wasn’t a great experience. Hopefully the continued optimisations to the game will eventually overcome these issues because it’s been a lot harder to recommend the game if you’re using a base Xbox One.
The lootcrate situation is still a bit of a frustrating mess. You can get a ton of duplicate cosmetic items and they are worth nothing when you cash them back in so you end up spending a lot of battle points for junk you already own. You can buy a couple of unique outfits now, but it’d be nice if this side were built out more as I’d imagine if you could simply buy the items you want straight away and be able to treat the lootcrates as bonuses. I don’t see as many players wearing the rarer items anymore so it makes me wonder if people have simply given up on it and are sticking with the default gear.
Gameplay itself has remained mostly unchanged but there’s been tweaks around the edges to try and distill the experience further. The one for me that immediately springs to mind is that clothes are no longer amongst the loot you find on the maps. That’s good for helping players quickly sort through the items they really need (ie. guns and ammo) but I do miss being able to change into gear that I didn’t own if I think they might offer a temporary advantage. Another small but useful addition is the plane seat indicator you see when you are in the plane about to jump – knowing how many players are left or when they are jumping can be a big help for planning out your own strategies.
Once you get on the ground though it’s those moments when you fight, sneak and claw your way forward in the hopes of getting that elusive chicken dinner that continue to be as thrilling as ever. The Miramar map requires new tactics and challenges that are a wake up call to all players and future maps will build on the randomised nature of the game giving everyone a fighting chance.
With games from both the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises intending to deliver their own takes on the Battle Royale formula the competition is going to get more intense for securing the player base necessary for making these kinds of games work well in the long term. On top of that Fortnite has overtaken PUBG in the popularity stakes thanks to its more crowd friendly design aesthetic, high levels of polish and developer Epic’s ability to iterate on their game at a relentless pace.
But PUBG has everything it needs to succeed. Developer Bluehole/PUBG Corp just need to keep up the pace and get more of their own polish into the game so that all these additions aren’t downing in the performance problems that have plagued many player’s experiences.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is out now for PC, Xbox One and Mobile.