Is ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ worth your time?

If you’re a gamer and haven’t been living under a rock for the past six months, there’s a good chance you are familiar with the sudden and explosive success of Bluehole’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). Launched into Early Access on March 23, 2017, the game has sold 10 million copies. It has also claimed the title of the most concurrent players in any game on Steam, exceeding 1 million players.  This is an incredible feat for an unfinished game that began its life as a mod.

With numbers like that, this has to be one of, if not, the best game of 2017. Right?

Well, let’s see.

If you’re like me, you may have been holding off on buying the game. I personally have always been wary of Early Access titles, especially when PUBG’s Steam reviews as of late paint a dark picture. As of right now, out of the 25 “Most Helpful” reviews of the game in the last month, only two of them are positive. On the surface, this looks to be signs of yet another Early Access title that’s heading toward a bitter crash. For those of us who bought into the Early Access of DayZ, ARK: Survival Evolved or especially H1Z1: King of the Kill, we have suffered too much to be cursed again by development hell.  Even so, I took the gamble and have spent the past few days feeling it out.

After playing nine hours in just two days, I know that I’m going to waste many hours playing it in the weeks ahead. The game plays off of the idea of the 2000 Japanese dystopian action film, “Battle Royale.” The objective is simple: parachute onto a deserted island that is littered with guns, cars and 100 other players all aiming to be the last one alive. Compared to most other online multiplayer shooters, PUBG is actually a very accessible game for newcomers. The controls are not terribly complex, the game is simple to understand and you learn quickly through trial and error. That’s not to say, however, that it isn’t punishingly difficult at times.

The beginning of every round has just as much to do with your experience as your luck. As you drop into the map, you are surrounded by other players parachuting in around you. As soon as you land, it’s a race of who’s the first to stumble upon a weapon. This is exhilarating every time. Since no two rounds are the same, you will last anywhere from two minutes to half an hour. It all depends on being ruthless, but more importantly, intelligent. The learning curve of the game is all about figuring out what works and what doesn’t. The latter usually ends with an unceremonious death and some sneaky pest helping himself to your hard scavenged loot. This can be extremely frustrating. Luckily, thanks to the massive player base, you can find a new game almost instantly every time.

However, I do have my gripes. The game is very buggy — it’s getting better, but still I run into my fair share. There is also the pretty much constant lag spikes. While most are nothing but a hiccup, some ruin your whole match. And, when your death is caused by these bugs that are out of your control, it can be pretty infuriating. I still don’t think that this is the greatest game of the year, but it’s a ton of fun.

So then why are the reviews so negative?

As of right now, few of the comments are actually stating that the game isn’t fun. In fact, their dip in reviews is the result of players review bombing the game. Their complaints focus on the developer’s transgressions to the community. Recently, one of the more visible complaints is that the developers have been banning players for “stream sniping,” which has given rise to a totally deserved PR nightmare. Stream sniping is apparently a problem for Twitch steamers who are hunted down in-game by a player watching their stream. This is a recent problem for the gaming industry, and PUBG has not tackled it properly. This ban wave has been criticized widely by not only the players but also by big gaming industry names like Totalbiscuit and Garry Newman.  I agree entirely with Garry Newman’s response.

“We shouldn’t be banning people for stream sniping, it’s not our job to babysit streamers — they should live in the same terrible online world that everyone else does,” Newman said.

The second major criticism is the broken promise of microtransactions. Players are understandably upset that before the game is even finished, purchasable loot crates and cosmetics have been added to the game. We as gamers are no strangers to this industry practice, but the community took it particularly hard. This is because early on in the game’s development, Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene promised that this feature wouldn’t appear in the game.

“However, until the game is out of Early Access, our development resources will be focused entirely on improving the Battle Royale game mode,” he said. “Only then will we consider the addition of in-game purchases.”

I am not all that surprised or annoyed by this news. I mean, he did say this before the game was even available. Seven months and 10 million copies later, it would be crazy to think that his original plan hasn’t changed slightly. I myself have no plans to purchase them, because, thankfully, all they really are is cosmetics.

From what I have seen so far, I believe that they can sort out these issues in due time. They have been decently involved with the community and have shown through regular patches that they haven’t yet cashed out. PUBG will likely remain a PC gaming staple for years to come, and if you are still interested in it after reading this, I highly recommend picking it up.

Contact CU Independent Arts Staff Writer Chris Koehler at Christopher.J.Koehler@colorado.edu.

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