Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games saga is a tragic dystopian horror in which children are forced to murder each other in a sci-fi battle royale. The wildly popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds wants you to assume the role of such a combatant in a more mature video game experience that’s also way more fun than anything Katniss Everdeen has ever done.
Sure, the story of that archer from District 12 was full of pathos and hard ethical questions, but who has time for all that when you’re customizing your own character, parachuting onto an island, and then scavenging for supplies while fending off 99 other enemies in the same predicament? Various weapons and vehicles are scattered about the decaying ruins of the island, and each match ends with only one survivor.
In every instance of the titular Hunger Games, the opening moments are perhaps the most stressful as each participant stands in a circle waiting for the opening buzzer to signal the start. Nearby weapons and supplies tease them, baiting out premature confrontations and death. It’s often the cooler heads that prevail, retreating to another part of the arena to focus on forging alliances and surviving.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is no different.
Anecdotally stories of past Battlegrounds matches claim around 40 percent of players in a match die within the first 5 minutes of gameplay, in the mad scramble to find their footage. They might mess up their parachute landing and attract too much attention to themselves. They might spot an enemy too early and engage in a fist fight to the death. Or maybe they’ll head into a building with a great gun in it only to find that someone has gotten their first.
Each match opens with players queueing up aboard a plane, which also serves as the game’s lobby. The first action players take is choosing when to skydive out of the plane onto the island of Erangel, an abandoned Russian military island with wooded areas, mountains, towns, and underground tunnels. The map itself is 8 by 8 km, or 64 square kilometers, which works out to almost 40 square miles. That’s a lot of space to hide and scavenge in, which is why the playable area of the map shrinks over time.
Remember when The Hunger Games got a bit boring, and the Gamemakers triggered violent obstacles to force confrontations? Yeah, the mechanic is a bit like that.
As such, players can’t just find a spot to hide out in to wait for everyone else to kill each other. It’s necessary to keep moving to find the weapons you need to fend off attackers. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds successfully manufactures an intensely harrowing and stressful gaming experience where the player is in a constant state of fear. You can’t step outside without fear of a sniper killing you instantly, and you can’t drive a vehicle whatsoever without attracting attention from multiple directions. It’s a highly tactical experience that relies more on strategy than it does raw skill.
An entire match can last anywhere between 20 and 50 minutes, and hardcore tales of survival and insane gameplay are status quo for the widely beloved experience.
Team-ups between players can and do happen, but they’re always temporary alliances as they’ll eventually be forced to kill one another. There are no suicide pacts to end the game (The Hunger Games) or any way to break out of the arena (Catching Fire). This battle royale is to the death.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is already an overwhelming success on PC through Steam with its Early Access version, and owes a large portion of its sales success — 4 million copies sold — to its massive presence on streaming platforms.
The game’s creator, Brendan Greene, told New York Magazine, “The heart and soul of battle royale — the idea of looting, then fighting with other players — is good for streamers, especially the starting part. It’s a bit slower, gives streamers a chance to interact with their chat [audience members], and then there’s action later.” The epic stories of crazy stunts and crazier kills, and their accompanying videos, are at the cornerstone of the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds community.
“PubG,” as its players call it, is slated for Xbox One release later this year and PlayStation 4 at a future date.
For anybody that’s every wished there might be a Hunger Games-style battle royale experience on consoles, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will be their best bet, and they might even get it before the end of the year.
The only way to play PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds currently is on Steam.