The latest major update to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) not only gave the Vikendi map a major face lift with improvements to landmarks and a train running through the map but also introduced bots into games on console (now for Stadia too!) for the first time. Details of the changes can be found here. Bots (ie. computer controlled players) are not exactly new to the game as they’ve been in the mobile edition since launch but it’s big step to move them over to Xbox and PlayStation. At least during my time playing the game it does change the experience dramatically.
At least with my time playing solos on Xbox the one good thing initially about having bots in the game is that it does help get you into a game faster, an average of two minutes for me, instead of having to rely on waiting for the lobby to get as close to 100 players as possible. Duos and especially squads appear to be where most players go to so this does help to fill the gap for anyone wanting a quiet game by themselves. At the start of the game you can usually spot the bots prior to the plane jump; I don’t think they take part in the parachuting either as the skies look pretty empty in the beginning but I could be wrong. The intelligence of the bots isn’t great but it’s also not a whole lot different to other games out there like Fortnite. You can tell them from humans as they’re not as dynamic in their movement and tend to root themselves to a spot once they start shooting but even with that level of predictability if one catches you by surprise you’re still going to get hurt badly. The bots do seem to be bad at getting into the circle and I’ve seen quite a few die because of that. They also always end up carrying the same inventory items too – a good player could potentially “bot farm” for health, boosts and ammo.
In terms of playing the game what it does mean for players is that early on there’s a greater chance of getting some easy kills. That really changes the feeling of the game’s opening minutes where previously the tension was previously high because you were at risk of a quick death from skilled players. It also greatly increases your odds of reaching the end game which will likely put you up against the remaining human players. At that point if you’ve been tackling bots for most of the game you might be unprepared due to the massive change in skill. Many of these players have also been smart enough to chase up the supply crates as well to access the high tier weapons and armour which I’ve yet to see bots acquire. In other words whoever reaches the end is probably VERY well equipped which increases the difficulty spike. That aspect may remind you quickly that PUBG is still a very punishing game.
Does adding bots change the atmosphere of the game? I think it does when you know there’s a good chance of getting some cheap kills in the game. Does it open the game to more people? For a player who’s on the wrong side of “average skill” it’s welcoming and will increase your chances on getting that chicken dinner (ie. win) but skill matching may have helped solve that too by pitting you against similarly skilled players. Fortnite does a combination of those which I feel levels out the experience from start to finish and avoids that difficulty spike at the end when you’re suddenly up against walking armouries. Personally it’s at least convinced me to jump back into the game to test my skill again in my never ending pursuit of a solo chicken dinner. And this is while I’m also playing a lot of Warzone so that it’s able to accomplish that is a big positive.