PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Alpha Impressions – There’s a New Sheriff in Town

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Bluehole, Inc.

I’d dropped over a sprawling complex of warehouses and office buildings, knowing that the areas containing buildings held the most valuable weapons and survival equipment. As I sliced through the air downwards towards one of the larger warehouses, I scanned to my left and right but couldn’t tell if anyone else had dropped from the plane with me.

As soon as I got to around two hundred feet above the warehouse, my parachute deployed. That’s when I saw just how many of my fellow survivalists had gotten the same idea. The skies were so full of parachutes they almost blotted out the sun. This would be interesting…

Fortunately, I was one of the first people to land on the ground. I quickly took off sprinting in the direction of my chosen warehouse objective. As I entered its open bay, I saw an enemy enter through a back door, then another behind him. I scanned the warehouse floor for any sort of weapon I could get my grubby little hands on.

Just as I located an AKM assault rifle I heard sounds of a scuffle nearby and saw that my two enemies were engaged in a desperate fistfight for survival. Just as one of them knocked the other to the ground, I picked up the AKM and leveled it at him. He turned and looked at me for a moment, then apparently said “F it” and charged me with his bare fists.

Click—was the sound my AKM made as I pulled the trigger. Since I was playing my first-ever game, I was unaware that weapons that you find on the ground come unloaded by default. Damn it! I quickly glanced down and saw several 7.62mm magazines at my feet. I quickly grabbed one and chugged it into my AKM’s magazine well, and just then my assailant began slugging me in the face. I switched my assault rifle to full auto, and flashes began illuminating the dimly lit warehouse as I perforated my outmatched foe with large caliber AKM rounds. As my enemy fell to my feet in a bloody heap, I began to hear the distant reports of other firearms—many of the other 97 or so people left had also armed themselves. It was now official on…

Yes, battle royale games are hot right now, and Bluehole, Inc.’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has quickly turned out to be the cream of the crop. A subgenre of the more mainline survival genre, battle royale games pit a bunch of “contestants” against each other over sprawling maps, with one objective in mind: To be the last person standing.

After the demise of Day Z, H1Z1: King of the Kill more or less seized the reigns of the battle royale scene, with Arma 3’s Battle Royale Mod as a distant (and as usual, clunky) contender. Then just a week or so ago, after a rather rocky yearlong testing phase, Bluehole released PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and rocked the scene to its core. If you’re a gamer, there is literally no where you can go these days without hearing something or other about this new upstart to the battle royale crown. Indeed, it has quickly climbed TwitchTV’s charts and shows no signs of abating.

So what exactly is so special about Battlegrounds? Well, to start with its single map is gigantic. Coming in at 18X18km, the large island features a perfect balance of deep woods, rolling hills, a few mountains here and there, waterways, bridges, both large and small towns, as well as industrial complexes and military bases.

Battlegrounds also features more weapons to play with than H1Z1: KOTK and they all handle better to boot. More importantly, bullet physics and hit box detection actually count for something in this game. For example, if someone were wearing a protective helmet and I shot them in the head, depending on the level of helmet (there are three levels for equipment), the weapon I was using, and the caliber of bullet that struck them, would determine whether they lived, died, or became downed. I’ve even shot a couple of enemies in the head which knocked their helmets right off.

Vehicles also play a more prominent role in Battlegrounds, since not only can you hang out of the vehicle’s seats and fire at foes (if you’re a passenger of course), but the driver can actually run people over quite easily. That was something that was darn near impossible to do in H1Z1: KOTK. All of the vehicles also feel more responsive and easier to control (and there’s even boats!).

There are a large variety of firearms to choose from for all of the gun nuts out there. From M16s, M4s, AKMs, to micro-Uzis, and the classic M1911 pistol, there’s a lot to play with here. Some of the more close-in areas of the game’s map actually make melee combat a viable option. Luckily, Battlegrounds also features lots of fun melee weapons to try out too, such as machetes (ouch!), baseball bats, and even large, cast iron frying pans. Seeing someone getting beaten down with a freaking skillet is definitely one of those rare gaming moments, believe me, granted it’s not you of course.

Bluehole has also imbued their new game with a plethora of little touches that help each game flow much more smoothly. For instance, you can access not only your map while on the run, but you can even go to you inventory while moving. So, instead of having to stop dead in your tracks, jump into your inventory to look for an item that you desperately need, and then have to click on it to activate it, you can just pop open your inventory screen as you say, sprint into a nearby building for cover. How’s that for intuitive thinking?

Graphically speaking, Battlegrounds also doesn’t disappoint. The landscapes are realistic and beautifully rendered, as are the weapon and character models. The game’s vehicles still need a little work done but for an Alpha build, are still well done (and sure to be improved). The game looks so good that I just had to show it off to my gamer friends while playing it on my souped-up gaming laptop. You can play the game solo, with a partner, or as part of a full 4-man squad. It’s the perfect game to play with friends.

Overall, I’m very impressed by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds so far, and think it holds immense promise. Once they work out the nagging server lag issues, I can see it being the go-to battle royale gaming experience. Heck, I can even see it pulling droves of Rust players into its fold (toxic as they may be) because of its heavy emphasis on PvP-style play. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this stellar game progresses.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds offers some excellent visuals that suit its gritty kill-or-be-killed theme. However, you have to have a fast gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:

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