The most popular PC shooter of the year, and one of the most streamed games online, is finally available on consoles and wow, the devs can take this one back. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds released on the Xbox One family of consoles yesterday as part of the Game Preview (early access) program and it's awkwardly bad, a result of an extremely rushed production by the developers with the help of Microsoft so Xbox could have a notable exclusive out just in time for the holidays.
For the unaware, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds or PUBG as it's also referred to as, is the king of the battle royale genre, a game type where 100 players drop into a massive open environment and must loot, shoot, and survive. Players can play solo, with a friend, or in a squad of four as they collect gear, weapons, and armor and attempt to outlast the opposition any way they can as the map gradually forces players into increasingly confined spaces.
PUBG is not the first game to offer this experience. Its titular "PlayerUnknown" (real name: Brendan Greene) even worked on battle royales previously, helping develop similar modes as a mod for ARMA 2, for DayZ, and then as a standalone H1Z1 game before becoming creative director at South Korea's Bluehole Entertainment who made PUBG in less than year - a game that's gone on to win 'Best Multiplayer Game' of 2017 at The Game Awards. What makes PUBG special is that it offers the best version of this experience, even as an incomplete game in early access on PC.
The core concept transfers to the Xbox version, where players still play on 100-person servers and parachute in on the same main map (called Erangel). Currently the Xbox version is strictly third-person (players can change their perspective in-game though), and the gear and vehicles are the same. This version also already has the much anticipated vaulting/climbing mechanics (yes, this is a thing in 2017 we have to get excited about) and a pair of new weapons.
That's good. The bad involves actually playing the game.
Battle Royale first-timers will hopefully enjoy the novelty of the large-scale experience and the intricacies of how encounters can play out differently every single time, and how much there is to explore in the game's world. But for anyone who appreciates quality shooters or knows the genre well, PUBG on Xbox One is now the clear winner of a few other awards we're going to make up now: the worst shooter controls on a console, the worst inventory management system on a console, and the worst performing action game on consoles.
Remember when there was talk about the Xbox One X enhanced version of PUBG hitting 60 fps before it was corrected and stated that it'd only run at 30? Maybe someone misheard "16." You'd be lucky to get that at the start of a match. It's unbelievable that this game was allowed to be released in this state on consoles, no matter how many disclaimers are built into the menu.
Performance aside, PUBG is simply a bad "shooter" with an awful control scheme on Xbox. Reloading a weapon for instance in the heat of battle requires players to hold down the 'X' button instead of just pressing it quickly. Aiming down sites isn't holding down the left trigger, it's tapping it. Inexplicable, holding down the trigger instead just slightly tightens the crosshair (it does the same on PC). Sometimes it won't even work unless it's tapped perfectly. Getting in and out of vehicles are two separate buttons and if you want to pick up a specific item from a pile of loot on the ground or move mods from one weapon to another, you better hide yourself for a few minutes. PUBG does not work well on consoles at all in its current state and needs another year in the oven. Even the little things, like basic matchmaking problems with friends or typos in the menus, aren't addressed. It's the sloppiest award-winning game, and the poorest performing shooter we've seen on current generation consoles.
Instead of transferring the PC experience as closely as possible to console, since this isn't working as is, a new control scheme and some changes to the map perhaps could have helped alongside the obviously much-needed optimization. PUBG is a large, complex beast of a game mode, and as something relatively poorly coded even in its prime version, it's not an easy thing that should be rushed as an Xbox exclusive. I'd take Minecraft graphics if this thing just ran well and played well.
Still, for a sample understanding of why the game has been all the rage on PC, the Xbox version does at least show what it's like to drop in amongst so many other players with nothing but your wits, skills, and ability to manage the worst shooter mechanics imaginable. If you're okay with most aspects of the game being sub-par, you can still get in on a big battle royale experience, we just can't recommend it in its current state. Fortnite, although a very different kind of 100-person battle royale, is not only polished, but free-to-play as an alternative.
We tested on an Xbox One X and Xbox One S.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is currently available on early access for PC and Xbox One.