I’m playing a lot of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds lately; One of the best yet most frustrating games ever created.

You’ve all seen the gameplay videos, the famous Twitch streamers and the news stories about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds dominating the world. Most of you probably even own the game already. So you know that this is a game that is getting under people’s skin. It’s starting conversations, it’s bringing friends together for long gaming sessions and turning them into bloodthirsty lunatics. But if you don’t know, and you’re curious about what makes this game so darned good, then I’ll try my best to enlighten you.

It all begins on that island. The starter island; a toxic piece of land where the world’s nastiest trolls, millennials, memes and racial slurs all collide and go into critical mass. If anyone has any experience of abusive chatter coming through your headset, imagine that and times that by one thousand. It really is a barrage of noise and bad language.

It’s bringing friends together for long gaming sessions and turning them into bloodthirsty lunatics

This is all OK because I always I know what’s coming. After a few seconds of waiting on the island, all the 100 or so players are packed like sardines into an already airborne plane. Anticipation and nervousness build as I stare the emotionless player avatars in the face. All wearing their mismatching clothing, some donning a ginger afro, some wearing ridiculous hats. Some still on fire, having had a Molotov thrown at them back on the island. And all but one of these characters are going to die in one way or another, and I always aim to facilitate that. Only one person can win.

Then comes the jump. Where and how you dive out of that flying death tube will determine what kind of game you’re going to have. Dive straight down to hit the ground before anyone else, or deploy your chute early to travel a further distance to a more safe location away from players. The latter will give you much needed time to gather loot and plan your attack in peace. But I personally like to get stuck in and land in some of the most dangerous locations.

The school is a good choice for this, it’s a big building with three stories if you include the roof. Many players will land there if the aircraft’s flight path is anywhere fairly central on the map. The school then pretty much becomes a deathmatch arena, with anywhere from 2 – 99 players. An arena where you start with nothing but your bare hands and menacing hairstyle.

Of course, there are other options for a landing zone, or where to move onto next. The current map is vast; basically what Russia would look like if it was condensed into an 8×8 km island. It has mountains, seaside towns and docks, factories, military bases, industrial areas, underground tunnels, quarries, forests, the list goes on. Each area changes up the gameplay a bit.

The scramble to find gear is phase 2. It’s like a lottery; run through the nearest doorway and you could find an awesome AK-47, or you could find some sunglasses… Medical items are an auto-pickup, and a helmet or armour is just as important. Grabbing the gear starts to become an art form, hitting the tab key and dragging gear from one window to another (pressing F to pick up the item is too slow you’ll come to realise). It’s exhilarating and bloody frustrating.

As soon as I get a gun, the hunt begins. Listening out for footsteps nearby; above or below. Footsteps actually sound different if they are on the same level as you or one storey above. Then comes the inevitable gunfight, on which your chances of success will vary. Success is dependant on what gun you have, what attachments, what armour and whether you’ve caught the opponent unaware or not. Whether the server is lagging at the time is also something to bear in mind, maybe a little too often. What ensues, however, is amazingly fun; it either results in you perma-dying for the match or killing the other player and bagging a tonne of loot.

If you die, then you get to start all over again, with a bigger lust for that top spot. You learn from your mistakes, you think about what you’ll do differently the next time around. Land somewhere safer, prioritise getting certain gear before fighting people. Maybe even improve your aim. Maybe buy a gaming mouse. The list is endless, it’s a game of infinite possibilities.

If you bag that loot from a dead player, two things happen. You get more powerful through just having better gear, but you’ve also given yourself a lot more to lose. This adds to the thrill of staying alive, and the satisfaction of successfully taking down another opponent.

You’ll want to keep moving because there’s an ever-shrinking circle of exclusion on the map. A relentless blue forcefield that moves every few minutes. You can survive outside the circle for quite some time early on, but in the last few minutes of the game, it can kill you almost instantly. This always brings the games to a conclusion, it brings the players closer together and it forces you to make tactical decisions about which building to move into, or what hill to perch on with your newly acquired sniper rifle.

What I’ve learned is that you should play this game experimentally, just try and have fun. Winning is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but if you fancy driving into a busy town full of people, guns blazing then do it. It could work out really well for you, or you could end up in a total shit storm. Either way, it’s fun. If you take winning too seriously you’ll find yourself crawling around in bushes for the entire game, trying not to get killed.

This is actually what the last 5 minutes of each game are like. The encroaching blue circle of death is usually upon you, maybe only a few hundred meters in diameter, and there’s 10 of you left alive. At this point, you’re usually lying down in some grass or hiding in a building. Move and someone will likely spot you. If you’re the first to shoot at a guy, then you’ve just given away your position. In the final moments, my blood is pumping, and it’s all because everything could go south with one wrong step, or you could win the game with one well-placed headshot.

The feeling of knowing you just won out against 99 other players is truly awesome

Winning is a nice feeling. You don’t get much for it other than a massive message on the screen in yellow text saying “WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER”. But the feeling of knowing you just won out against 99 other players is truly awesome. “One more?”, the guys say over chat. I look at the clock and it’s 3 am, “Yeah go on then!” Honestly, this is seriously bad for my health.

Oddly, it’s the most successful game of the year but one of the most unoptimised and buggy. To play at any level of competitiveness, you’ll need to tone down those settings to achieve a solid 60fps. This framerate is mandatory for those at pro level, hence why the streams that are out there definitely aren’t showing off any fancy graphics. But if you’re not too fussed about framerates, then you can really crank things up and make the game look pretty nice. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but still pretty awesome for a game of its scale.

The new map and official release of the game on PC are going to be on Dec 20 this year. It’s also coming out on Xbox One on Dec 12. Who knows whether it will be a buggy unoptimised mess or no, it’s certainly not perfect in its current state on PC so it will be interesting to see what it looks like an official release. Be sure to keep an eye out for some hilarious streams from the guys at PoweredOn when the game releases over the next few days, and watch out for our full review.

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