It’s here! It’s finally here. PUBG is now out of beta and officially “full release” on Xbox. As such, it seems like it should be eligible for a proper review now. Right?
Beta to full release?
How different is the PUBG full release compared to the initial release at the back-end of last year?
Well, there’s a question and a half.
The gameplay, and the core of the game has remained the same throughout. And honestly, that’s the strength of it. You could add any skin/textures you wanted, the heart of PUBG is the gameplay, and it’s not changed at all.
Performance and shine is where the difference is, and I’ve talked about it multiple times over the past year, about the quality of the release and some of the subsequent patches.
As it stands now (as “full release”), it’s pretty solid. I couldn’t tell you the last time I got dropped out of a match, or even had play-doh houses and rubber banding.
Contrary to what subreddits and other online communities would have you believe, the game has come on in leaps and bounds since that initial ropey release, and while it isn’t triple-A in terms of sheen. It’s robust and it’s got that heart that makes it fun, even when suffering the old issues.
Graphically, you would be forgiven for thinking that PUBG was a home-made PC game from a few years ago (well…..it kind of is…..). It’s not going to outshine the new Spider-man game or Destiny 2, for instance.
What it does, though, is deliver a slightly grittier, dirtier kind of look, and to be honest, I think that’s part of it’s charm.
Sometimes, when the sun is shining between the trees, or you look out across a map, you can appreciate it and it’s decent enough.
Other times there are poorly loaded textures and questionable draw-distances.
Visuals alone, do not make a game, though, do they? It’s a part of the whole piece, and honestly, it’s more than serviceable. The whole aesthetic of the game works for the style and pace in which you play.
PUBG looks fine.
One of the big strengths of PUBG is the audio.
You know what vehicle is coming from the distance, you know where it’s coming from.
Distant gunfights can be heard, allowing you to judge distance and direction of your enemies (the loud, shooty ones at least).
Footsteps on the ground outside the building you’re in, or worse still, those footsteps of someone in the floor above you. The context and the quality of all the sounds are excellent.
Sure, the aeroplane used to be ridiculously loud, and the bombs dropping in the danger zone are loud. But they should be! Audio cues warning you of impending doom.
Bullets whizzing past your head, that wonderful “kachunk” should when your frying pan quite literally saves your ass.
The PUBG audio is immersive and excellent.h3>Choice
The best things to come from the updates are the new maps. I love Erangel. I’ve spent hours and hours of my life running and hiding around it.
But then along came Mirimar and changed the play-style (this is a good thing!), massive, long sight lines and lots of height. Not a lot of trees to hide behind, and more buildings and objects to climb on. It’s the same game, but yoou have to play in a different way.
Now, we have Sanhok. The smaller (half-sized) map, lush jungle environments and loads of huts and buildings in which to hide/loot-up. This means gun fights happen quicker (people are closer to each other straight away), and rounds end quicker. You’re having to change your play style yet again.
Having a range of maps is great, and knowing that you”ll need to better consider your approach, depending on the map you get, offers a variety whilst keeping the core of the game exactly the same.
PUBG is made up of a pretty solid core gameplay loop. Jump out of a plane, find items to help you survive (weapons, armor and medical items), kill or be killed. Moving in an ever-changing direction, avoiding the circle of death which closes tighter and tighter, forcing you all in a specific direction.
Simple as it is, it’s been the key to some massive titles in the past year (heard of Fortnite, right?).
Solo is great fun, and the tension of being in the final circles with a handful of people is unrivalled in a lot of games, if you ask me.
Where PUBG really shines, for me at least, is when you’re playing with friends. Sure team deathmatches with your friends have been a thing for years and years. Surviving and supporting each other like this, though, it’s wonderful.
Changes and additions
Something I’m not particularly keen on, is the addition of the “event pass”, a set of challenges, or an xp bar that lets you unlock new gear.
The “pass” concept is nothing new, but it usually comes in free-to-play games. Pay a bit of cash for the opportunity to earn new cosmetic gear.
Trouble here is, we already paid for a beta version of the game. We’ve been testing it and putting up with issues, at cost to us, and now they want to charge us more for the benefit of some new clothing and skins?
Sure, the items are non-incidental and have no bearing on gameplay, but the blatant cash grab doesn’t sit right with me. Especially after seeing how many millions of people bought the game in the first place….
At least wait until 1.0 had been a thing for six months or something?
The heart of PUBG is made-up of the core gameplay, and the fact that no game is ever the same. Those near-misses, that clutch revive that got your squad through a heated battle. Sure, this has been the same since the initial beta release, but it’s been polished and refined over the past few months.
Gone are the non-existent buildings when you land at a point on the map, or no textures when trying desperately to get into a building and find a weapon.
Rubber-banding and frequent disconnections are a thing of the past.
Honestly, the framerate is plenty good enough for the gunfights and the chaos. Sure, it isn’t super 60fps all the time. But what Xbox shooters are?
It used to dip excessively and become a slideshow of the action, but that’s not an issue now!
Bluehole have worked really hard (again, despite/contrary to the loud cries of online “fans”) to fix and improve.
Sure, they started off by communicating quite poorly, but they have proper staff liaising with Discord groups and Reddit, and the opened-up channels have made for a far less frustrating time when hoping something is going to be sorted.
This game no longer feels like a beta release, and well…….that’s kind of the point, right?
PUBG isn’t the prettiest game in the world, it has great audio and the improvements from initial beta release have been superb.
To play, the game is tense and exciting. No match is the same, and the moment to moment style of gameplay means you’re always thinking, planning and plotting.
PUBG and frankly most battle royale games are fun. It’s a great genre, albeit a little tired now.
I’d argue I’ve had some of my best squad-gaming moments here, comparable to raids on Destiny, and frankly that’s the kind of experience a developer can’t manufacture.
If there wasn’t such an obvious cash-grab with the event pass etc I’d be even more enamored with what PUBG on Xbox One has become, but it leaves a bitter taste seeing those of us that have been there for the highs and lows of the past months, simply being milked for no good reason.
Truth is, though, that the event pass doesn’t impact the gameplay at all. If someone wants to buy it, then so be it. It isn’t making a difference to the broader experience, and that’s what this is about, right?
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a solid game that’s been through significant change over the past year, and that change has left us with a refined version of something I already loved.
Based on the state of the game now and the fact that it has provided me with so many hours of “did you see that” and “Oh shit” moments, with my brothers and friends, I make no hesitation is giving PUBG the highest Ninja Refinery rating.
A game should be judged on your experiences with it, and PUBG creates so many one-time experiences. With a different game every time you drop. You’re always in for something new.
It ain’t perfect, but I love it.