The year 2016 has some nice memories, DOOM and Titanfall 2 provided some of the best singleplayer campaigns we had seen in years having spectacular but opposite approaches. However, 2017 didn’t live up to the expectations set by the previous year.
Prey did experiment with some interesting gameplay mechanics inspired by System Shock and Deus Ex but without delivering a good shooting experience. I wish I could say that Wolfenstein: The New Colossus did better, but apparently the sequel went on to erase many of the elements that made The New Order such a hit. I skipped over Destiny 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and knowing how things turned out I can’t say that I have any regrets.
Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds or PUBG for short is 2017’s smash hit game selling over 26 million copies on PC at the time I’m writing this article. Going through a successful Early Access stage that didn’t hold the game into the state known as development hell, PUBG pretty much ticked all the boxes when it comes to promises made to the players. But more importantly it has set a new trend for the Battle Royale subgenre with new games springing like mushrooms after the rain. We have seen this before with certain MMOs and most recently with survival games. But while this means we’ll get to see a lot of copycats or half assed games, this competition can only push the Battle Royale games forward.
As a game, PUBG follows the standard Battle Royale concepts popularized by ARMA 2’s mod. It’s a thrilling experience where 100 players are parachuted into a deserted island where they scavenge for loot to kill each other until only one survives. The game provides a platform for both frenetic and tactical play with a map big enough for players to avoid each other for as long as possible if they choose to do so. But confrontation is unavoidable as the playzone gets smaller and smaller as time passes by, forcing players to kill each other. The gameplay can be exhilarating with the whole focus being the match at hand. There is no progression or a system of unlockable items, so what matters is the victory which might get you higher the leaderboard. While a lot of effort has been put into adjusting the game to properly support 100 players online simultaneously, PUBG doesn’t shy away from the mechanics that define a shooter. The gun play is solid; a blend of arcade and simulation where scopes have zeroing and air drag is a coefficient for bullet speed and damage. The arsenal and loot is quite varied prompting a real time sense of progression greatly benefiting the gameplay. This derives into a sense of exploration as the need or greed for loot pushes players into moving across the map on foot or with the thematic vehicles available. The ability to camouflage into the environment, an impressive system of animations which allows vaulting and a small level of destructibility add even more depth to an already solid gameplay experience.
PUBG isn’t without problems as the sketchy optimization and the unreliable netcode can turn a good experience into an exercise in frustration. However, when drawing the line, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds comes on top, pushing for innovation while showing the market power of PC gaming.