There’s nothing I loathe more than Early Access games. The entire system is a plague on Game Development; an excuse for Developers to release unfinished (sometimes barely begun) games with a price tag and the promise of more to come. Whilst there are definitely success stories that flaunt the positive side to Early Access, it seems the majority are doomed to languish in the depths of the Steam store and never reach a complete state. It is the virtual equivalent of Highwaymen. Stand and deliver, your money and your life. That being said, occasionally a game comes along and defies expectations. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is one such game.
It’s hard to know what exactly fuelled the hype train at the beginning of PUBG’s run, but it’s fair to say it’s been completely derailed over the last few weeks having topped pretty much every chart it can think of including Most Watched Game on Twitch and Most Concurrent Players on Steam; as well as having sold over 10 million copies. Not bad at all for a game that’s only been available since the end of March. What is it about PUBG that has made it such a runaway success so early in its development? And more importantly, is the hype train worth riding?
The first question on many peoples lips after hearing the title of the game is “Who is PlayerUnknown and why is his name in the title?” For good reason dear people. Brendan Greene AKA PlayerUnknown first shot to fame after creating the much loved Battle Royale mod for ARMA. Loosely based on the 2000 movie by the same name, the ARMA mod saw a bunch of people dropped into a map and made to scavenge for weapons and supplies with one goal; survive. Sound familiar? After Battle Royale blew up, he was contacted by John Smedley, then President of Sony Online Entertainment, now Daybreak Games who wanted him to come work on a Battle Royale mode for their upcoming zombie extravaganza H1Z1; and thus H1Z1: King of the Hill was born. About a year later he was contacted by Bluehole Inc. the South Korean company behind MMO TERA, about creating an original Battle Royale IP, and that resulted in PUBG. One of the big contributors to PUBG’s success is Brendan himself. Not only does he have a wealth of experience creating games of this style, but he originally created them because it was something he wanted to play. Add to that his activity on Twitter and presence in gaming media and you have the perfect advert for the game in the story of the rags-to-riches creator.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
One of the most impressive things about PUBG is just how well it plays for being in Early Access a relatively short time. Gameplay is spot on; the choice to focus on the long game of survival rather than creating a massive, fast-paced deathmatch was a smart one. Weapons feel varied and responsive. Movement, while a little shoddy at moments, for the most part, is also quick and responsive. The graphics are stunning for a game of this size if you have the computer to run them. My middle of the road PC does experience a fair amount of graphical pop-in, especially during the crucial first moments of a round which can result in frame rate drops and input lag. But lowering the graphics slightly and installing an SSD would more than take care of that. Bugs and glitches while not rife, are there, but given the Early Access disclaimer, those are to be expected. The game is regularly patched, however, and bug fixes are implemented with some degree of speed. The game shows no sign of slowing down either, with an eagerly awaited patch adding a new weapon and map variant.
The game is just a load of fun. From the pre-match lobby where 100 people are screaming obscenities at each other through the built-in voice chat and throwing Molotov’s left, right and center, to the final exhilarating moments where it’s you and one other person confined to a tiny patch of land. There’s enough variation in each game to keep it feeling fresh as well. Weapons, vehicles, armour and the plane’s flight pattern are all randomly generated each game, and map variants such as rain, stormy and the soon-to-be released foggy are more than just aesthetic differences, with clouds and fog reducing view distance and thunder and lightning making it much harder to keep an ear open for the muffled footsteps of potential enemies. The only way to make it more enjoyable is to play it with friends.
Grab A Buddy
PUBG has options to queue solo, and in teams of 2 or 4, which radically changes the way you play and the strategies you devise, as well as the laughs you’ll have, and the amount of raging you’ll potentially have to listen to. In a perfect world, I would love an option to have games where everyone uses the actual in-game voice chat to communicate rather than their private discord channels, but realistically there is no way to achieve this.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is one of the rare games to be fully deserving the attention of The Hype Train, and I think it’s only going to continue. Some would argue that the only way to go is down, they’d also point to the recent microtransaction controversy as an omen. Whilst I understand that doing something they said they wouldn’t do way back whenever might annoy some of the die-hards out there, I think it’s also fair to say that when they said that, they had no idea of the critical success they would have in the future. As long as crates stay purely cosmetic and have no effect on gameplay, it shouldn’t really be that big a deal.
I feel as though we are in an area of unchartered territory. I don’t think a game has ever been so successful whilst still in early access, and it will be interesting to see how things play out as development continues. There is a cynical part of me wants to think that eventually there will be a crash and burn, adding yet another title to Early Access development hell, but PUBG is quickly becoming a pop culture phenomenon and I think we’ll be hearing about it for a long time to come.
All aboard the PUBG Hype Train, full steam ahead!
All images used in this article are taken directly PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds website.