Game: PlayerUnknown’s BATTLEGROUNDS
Genre: Multiplayer Battle Royale
Developer: Bluehole, Inc.
Publisher: Bluehole, Inc.
1999: Japanese writer Koushun Takami publishes Battle Royale, the story of high school students who are forced to fight each other to death. The following year, a feature film adaptation directed by Kinji Fukasaku and starring Takeshi Kitano was released to great worldwide acclaim. With the success of the movie, there have been multiple directors and writers who have been influenced by it (Quentin Tarantino, The Hunger Games, The Belko Experiment, Gamer, etc.). The influence can also be found in the realm of video games, with a couple of hits (Fallout: New Vegas – Dead Money, H1Z1) and plenty of misses (The Culling, Last Man Standing, DayZ, etc.).
Enter PlayerUnknown’s BATTLEGROUNDS: at first, it might seem like any other quick cash-grab ArmA clone that is exploiting a recent trend. But, if you look closer, you will see that it is breaking all sorts of records on Steam, it is actually getting updated by the developers based on player’s feedback, and it is made by someone who has quite the experience in this type of games. Brendan Greene (a.k.a. PlayerUnknown) has been working on mods for quite some time, and he created a Battle Royale mod for ArmA 3, as well as working as a consultant to develop H1Z1.
The game is quite straight-forward: 100 players parachute on an island, and they have to kill each other till only one player is left. As time moves forward, the play area becomes smaller and smaller, so that you are bound to find other players. As of right now, the game can be played either Solo, Duo, or in a 4-player Squad. Graphically, it looks very similar to the ArmA games, with more action-y movements and animations. The island is vast, and at first you are gonna get lost very easily, but the more you play, the more familiar you become with the cities and bases, sometimes reliving glorious victories or painful defeats.
The placement of weapons and vehicles is randomized. You start off with your bare hands, and you can find guns and melee weapons of all kinds: pistols, shotguns, crossbows, assault rifles, grenades, molotov cocktails, frying pans, crowbars… There are also multiple attachments that improve the quality of your weapons, as well as police vests and helmets that can protect you, and medkits and bandages to heal you up. You can also find some loot crates that are dropped from the sky, which have better weapons and tons of ammos. But beware of entering a red zone: once there, a 1-minute bombardment will take place, and running through an open field with giant explosions all around you is both memorable and terrifying at the same time.
What makes the game truly unique and replayable is the combat: unlike other games of this subgenre, the shooting is quite fluid and natural both in 1st and 3rd person. Encountering another player gives you an adrenaline rush and it makes you scared for your life, knowing that a few well placed bullets could mean the end for you. Both hiding and running into battle are valuable strategies, with many players crouching near a toilet in an abandoned building, pointing their double-barreled shotgun at the door, hoping that no one opens it. Can you really blame the fear of dying? Knowing that you won’t respawn, there are more instances when players decide not to kill someone just out of fear of being noticed by a third, better equipped player.
Sound design is a huge aspect of the game, and it truly sells the experience: hearing footsteps inside a house means that someone is exploring it; hearing a door open up means that an intruder is on his way; listening to gunshots in the distance can tell you which areas are more dangerous and populated than others; the sound of a car approaching gives you both hope (that you can use it to run away) and fear (that the driver has noticed you).
Overall, even though it is still in Early Access, PlayerUnknown’s BATTLEGROUNDS deserves its status as THE multiplayer game to play this year. Thanks to responsive controls, enjoyable combat, high replayability, and constant updates and patches, this is a survival game that those who want a quick adrenaline rush have to pick up as soon as possible. There is a reason why it has the highest number of players for a non-Valve game.