A Pan, a Crossbow and a Whole Lotta Luck | The Unpredictability of PUBG
Organised chaos is an acquired taste. It exists in many games in many forms. Sometimes scripted, other times player controlled organised shit shows are often the most fun or most irritating part of a game. When a Call of Duty mission plops you dead centre in a firefight or the Dungeon Master throws a goblin raiding party sized wrench in your Dungeons and Dragons campaign that’s manageable but it’s other moments in other games like Dishonored, Hitman or the increasingly popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds that often lead to score reductions or even total restarts.
On an ever-shrinking map anywhere up to a hundred players are parachuted in to kill each other. I’ve talked about the echoing loneliness and sweat-inducing firefights of PUBG in HeadStuff’s games of the year list briefly but I’ll discuss it more here. The environments of PUBG’s two maps – Erangel and Miramar – are static but their contents are not. Weapons, gear and vehicles are randomly generated meaning that luck is as much a factor as skill is. Often I’ve found myself cowering in a little hut as sniper fire cracks all around me with only a frying pan and a crossbow for protection. Needless to say I don’t survive long after exiting my hidey-hole. But the lone sniper or even the elite four man squad are as prone to quick deaths as some under-equipped luckless bastards are.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds began life as an ARMA 2 mod. A battle royale style take on the military simulator gameplay. Developed by Irishman Brendan Greene under his more common moniker of PlayerUnknown PUBG released in March 2017 in an early access stage before getting a full release in December the same year. It quickly became known for its tension-laden gear gathering, frenetic shootouts and severely broken features. Despite poor texture loading, rubber-banding issues and downright crappy server problems players kept returning to the battlegrounds. It’s easy to see why. The chances of victory are slim but the prestige that comes with the iconic ‘Chicken Dinner’ winning screen is something prized more than Olympic gold by some players.
Jumping out of the plane at the beginning of a match is exhilarating. Newcomers may find themselves quickly blown away by shotgun blasts, ripped apart by rifle fire or even battered to death by the now infamously overpowered frying pan. Soon however the decision of when and where to jump becomes as important as avoiding the death-dealing blue circle. Do you jump with the majority of players over the blood bath the Shooting Range often becomes or go solo over a small caravan park hidden on all sides by sand dunes. The bigger towns will often have more items but the smaller individual houses offer a brief reprieve and perhaps a coveted weapon. But the notorious unpredictability of PUBG comes into play more than most players will care for.
Not me though. To say I thrive on the organised chaos of the game would be wrong. I’ve only ever won a single match. But it is one of PUBG’s most exciting features. The thrill of the chase, the rush to get to the safe zone or the muttered curses at having only found a pistol and energy drink in an abandoned house all factor into PUBG’s frantic hunter-gatherer mentality. Often you’ll only need the two boxes of ammunition found beside the guns they usually spawn beside but what if a protracted firefight breaks out? What if you plan on playing The Most Dangerous Game and actively hunting down your fellow players with the crossbow? In that case searching every nook and cranny becomes paramount. Anything to give yourself an edge in a game where the odds are constantly stacked against you.
With nearly 30 million copies sold and numerous copycats in the last year from GTA V’s Motor Wars to Fortnite: Battle Royale PUBG has assured itself it’s place in the canon of genre-defining games. With plans to fashion the game into an e-sport the sky’s the limit for it and it’s developer/publisher PUBG Corporation. But disregarding its influence for a moment PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds understands what a game of its kind needs to be. That is: frantic, maddening and, finally, euphoric. Many games have tried the battle royale formula before but none have done it as well as PUBG.
Well, that’s it from me, I’ve to go jump out of a plane and smoke some fools.