PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on mobile could be a winner
Fans of sensationally popular PC and Xbox One shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – or PUBG – will have noticed that a mobile version of the game recently cropped up on the Chinese App Store.
This curious game is an officially endorsed version of the all-conquering PUBG, albeit one that’s been completely rebuilt for mobile by a different developer.
We’ve been playing the game a fair bit between us through the magical means of a Chinese App Store account. It involves negotiating a fair old ream of Chinese text, but anyone who’s ever watched a game of PUBG being played on YouTube or Twitch (which isn’t as niche a pastime as you might think) will be able to follow what’s going on.
Rather than simply run through my general impressions of the game (our own Dave Aubrey has already done that), I thought I’d highlight some of the key things it does right.
In the interest of balance, I’ll be following this up with some of the main things it gets wrong in a separate piece.
Erangel is there in full
PUBG mobile only has the one level at present in Erangel. But the important thing to note is that it’s more or less the same level as the one that launched with the original game.
Why is that important? Because Erangel is simply a brilliant video game level. It’s a great size and has a nice balance of terrain and landmark buildings. It’s so good that PUBG‘s reputation was essentially built on it, with the original game only fairly recently receiving the second level.
It’s also telling that this second level, despite being richer and prettier and more varied than Erangel, is generally less favored by prominent PUBG players.
One of the crucial skills in the original PUBG is inventory management. There’s a rather unwieldy menu for picking up and discarding the many weapon attachments, armor variants, and weapon types that you encounter in Erangel.
Suffice to say, this had the potential to make or break the mobile version of PUBG. As it turns out, we reckon Tencent has taken just about the ideal approach.
In PUBG mobile you don’t really need to worry about inventory management for the basics. If you run over a weapon or a piece of loot that’s obviously beneficial to you and you have space to carry it, you’ll automatically pick it up.
What’s more, any attachments for your three held weapons will instantly slot into the appropriate places.
You will need to dive into your backpack to really micromanage your stuff, and to attain the optimal loadout, but PUBG mobile does a fair amount of the tedious stuff for you.
Visual sound direction
If you watch a proficient PUBG player doing their thing online, you’ll realise that sound plays an enormous role in the game. Figuring out where gunfire is coming from using your ears is essential to high level play.
What to do in a mobile version where many players won’t be playing with earphones on, and where a sizeable chunk of iOS devices aren’t even equipped with stereo speakers?
Tencent has hit upon a solid solution by briefly showing where gunshots are coming from on the mini-map. No, it’s not as nuanced or skilful as true audio tracking, but it enables a vital rule in PUBG to be carried across – that there’s a sizeable cost to opening fire and giving away your position.
There’s a great deal of running in PUBG, owing to the huge map and the encroaching death cloud and the pinpoint ranged weapons and the oh-my-god-I’m-in-a-red-zone.
In fact, there’s so much running that even the original PC version has an autorun button.
Thankfully, so does PUBG mobile. It’s pretty well executed, too. You touch and drag up to set your avatar running, and if you release your thumb over the yellow run prompt you’ll keep on going until you touch that portion of the screen again.
Alternatively, there’s a small outrun toggle at the top right of the screen.
The thrill of the hunt
t’s going to take a lot more play before we’re comfortable with PUBG mobile’s controls, and even longer until we can judge whether the experience is truly up to scratch.
But what I could have told you after just a single game is that it nails the heart-pounding adrenaline rush that has been a core part of PUBG‘s massive success and the popularisation of the so-called Battle Royale genre.
After the aforementioned opening game, in which I finished second with four kills, it took a good twenty minutes to compose myself. I found that my hands and voice had gone all shakey and wobbly. I had to get up and go for a walk.
It was ridiculous, quite frankly, but also quite reassuring. It told me that Tencent was onto something with PUBG mobile.
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