Tuesday, August 03, 2021
In March 2017, there was a fundamental shift in the games industry. A fundamental shift we’ve not seen the likes of in quite some time. A shift that saw so many multiplayer-focused studios re-evaluate their entire approach to multiplayer games and modes. We are, of course, talking about the launch of PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS, aka PUBG, and the birth of battle royale into the zeitgeist. It was a game that broke Steam records, became an instant hit overnight, and as a result, forged a path for the newly created battle royale genre. Fortnite, Warzone, Apex Legends, and countless others followed, but without PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS, who knows what would have happened. PUBG was the catalyst.
Admittedly, we were pretty obsessed with the game when it launched, playing whenever humanly possible. But working in the games press we unfortunately had to bow out in early 2018 to cover the slew of games that were dropping around that time. To put that into perspective: PUBG was still a single-map game then, with no achievements, and still in early access. Admittedly, we did return, albeit briefly, at the start of 2019, right before the fourth map, the more compact Vikendi, dropped, but like a social butterfly, that return was brief.
With patch 12.2 dropping in July, introducing the eighth map (and third 8x8 map), Taego, in South Korea, plus a whole host of game-changing additions, we thought that now would be the perfect time to delve back into the tactical shooter and see how much has really changed between Now & Then.
It’s amazing a difference a few years makes, right? And by a few, we mean three. Jumping back into PUBG after three years was an eye-opening experience, to see how much has really changed since the last time we booted the game up. In 2018, when I was knee-deep in PUBG, the game had its issues on consoles, there was even a temporary FPS restriction rolled out consoles at one point to address a technical issue in the game. In 2021, PUBG has a new lease of life on a new console generation, is running smooth as butter, and it now has a total of eight maps, various modes, loads more vehicles and weapons, and it’s even got a battle pass - the list goes on.
Taego feels like a return to the glory days of the original, 8x8 Erangel map, which spawned the PUBG / battle-royale phenomenon. There are choke points, plenty of farmland and thickets to hide in, there’s familiar-sounding but completely revamped areas like Ho San prison, a school, military base, and so on. There are your usual large towns to battle in, small encampments - whatever your fancy, there’s an area of engagement for you to get comfortable in. Taego toes the line between feeling fresh and feeling instantly recognisable. It feels like a warm blanket on a winter’s day, a map to signify the return of the good ol’ days: the days when a genre was birthed.
Competition in every industry promotes innovation and iteration, and, thanks to the games that spawned in its wake, PUBG has improved its ground game as well. Not only does PUBG now have a rare world Self AED item (AKA a self-revive stim), inspired by games like Warzone; heck, even the ping system has been drastically improved since launch, probably due to the likes of Apex Legends. But one of the more significant additions is the new comeback system – i.e. basically the PUBG version of Warzone’s second-chance Gulag system, allowing for players who go out early to return to the action should they survive a mini battle royale on another part of the island. Sure, it’s not as frenetic and frequent as the Gulag in Warzone, and you do have to wait a short time to get into it, but it works for PUBG. With some refinements in terms of timings, it could definitely be a staple for the PUBG franchise, that’s for sure.
On the whole, the core PUBG experience hasn't changed all that much, which for the most part is a good thing. And thanks to a ton of quality-of-life additions, it’s definitely a more accessible game than it was when it originally launched. Since its initial release, the aforementioned and much-improved ping system has been implemented, there are flare guns to call in airdrops (or even a large armoured truck), you can now even auto-equip attachments – can you tell how long ago we last played it?
That said, PUBG still isn’t the most intuitive and accessible battle royale on the market, but that feels like it’s kind of the point: to offer a more simulation-based, and less arcade-focussed battle royale experience. However, if you did play the game at launch, because each game is still a level playing field when everyone drops in, it won’t be long until you hit your stride again.
For us, the best improvement in PUBG since the 2017 launch comes with patch 12.2, which is the improved spawn rates for the game’s loot. Compared to 2017, loot is now plentiful, which means you can actually spend less time looting and more time shooting, which is an incredibly welcome addition to the franchise. Fear not, though: thankfully, that does not mean everyone is running around with level-3 helmets and armour on these days - those items are still incredibly rare, as is the self-revive AED. We’re also big fans of the new weapons, the K2 and the MK12 - the latter especially formidable – which dropped with 12.2.
In all, though, it’s clear that PUBG, thanks to numerous iterative changes made over the years, is in a much better place now than it was way back when. The changes made via the 12.2 Update from a loot perspective, and in adding the Comeback BR alongside self-revives, most definitely combine in enhancing the experience, while ensuring that PUBG feels fresh. On top of that, the new Taego map means that PUBG is definitely worth another look. Plus, if you have an Xbox, it's on Game Pass, so you have no excuse not to venture forth and attempt to bag yourself a chicken dinner.
PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS Season 13.1 will be rolling out on 12th August.
Tuesday, August 03, 2021 @ 12:51 PM