I love battle royale style games. Where players are let loose in an environment to their own strategies, where the only objective is to be the last man standing. Or the group of doubles, or a full squad left standing. But for me, I enjoy these sort of games the most when I'm on my own with the odds stacked against me. I play for blood (virtual although it may be). My latest addiction is the Steam Early Access title PLAYERUNKOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS. I'd been stuck on H1Z1: King of the Kill off and on for the last few months, but never had a problem setting it down. I never had a moment of addiction to it. That's not the case with BATTLEGROUNDS, as I've even been putting off some of the latest Triple A titles to play this every single chance I get. My most recent match I felt captured the essence of what the game is currently, and where it has to go, so I thought I'd take it as an opportunity to write about it.
The First Few Minutes
Loading into a game, players will first sit through a pre-game lobby giving the map and players time to load in. A hundred players on a small island punching each other and shooting each other (despite no pre-game damage) and just overall dishing out the disrespect. When the countdown finishes, all of the players are loaded up onto a transport plane that sets off at one of several preset approaches to the 8x8km island. Dotted with towns, farms, an airbase and a power plant, the setting itself is pretty par for the course for a battle royale setup. As you fly over the island, you're prompted to jump before it has finished its flyover. While many people jump out over the larger settlements, eager to get into the action quickly, I aim for a moderate sized town along with a handful of other players. Before any of us hit the ground in our location, the count has dropped from 100 players alive to 88.
Boots On The Ground
Phase one is always about getting geared, and doing it discretely. I made landing on a three story house with a door on the roof and began looting the premises immediately. King of the Kill and some other battle royale style games have a tendency to be pretty selfish with the gear that's dropped. Thus far, Battlegrounds seems to be going against that notion. Nearly every structure will offer a promise of at least a decent starting weapon, and a large amount of them will even offer up rifles and the like so that your focus can move to armor, ammo, and first aid. The pickings from the first structure offered up a pump action 12 gauge shotgun and a 9mm pistol with a decent amount of ammo for each. I was also fortunate enough to find a level 2 Helmet (military styled) and a backpack to carry more gear. Slowly searching the town, I ended up with a kevlar vest, an AKM, and enough ammo to make a small militant nation break into a cold sweat of envy.
By this point, the "safe-zone" had already narrowed down once, and since the town I landed in was still well within safe boundaries I found a defendable position and set up shop on a balcony. Minutes went by as the safe zone narrowed down again, the player count kept dropping more rapidly, and the remaining players were being forced closer and closer to my location. Finally, some action. I watched as three players endured a grueling house-to-house firefight and then waited until the gunfire from them came to a silence. A few moments later, movement from a doorway as an unsuspecting player came walking right towards me. I popped up and put him down swiftly. The game was just beginning for me.
Then There Were 33
The zone had narrowed down considerably now, the gunfire all around me signaled just how near enemy players and firefights had drawn. At this point I'd come up with three kills, then a fourth as someone spilled out into the same alley of death where I earned my first four marks. Hunter would become hunted as the final movement of the zone forced me from my nest on the balcony. Camping, would no longer be a viable option. With 33 people left, all of us running for the final zone, there was about to be chaos unlike any I'd seen in a solo match before. It all happened so fast, I'm not even sure who was shooting who all I know is the player count was dropping quickly. By me, by other players, and then came judgement. My streak ended as an SKS shot rang out and finished off my dwindling health bar. I placed #12 out of a hundred, not bad but I didn't take home the win.
So early on in it's life cycle, it's hard to determine exactly where things will end up. At the moment, I can say it's mostly functional. Barring a few to-be-expected glitches such as wall clipping, the occasional infinite-parachute loop, and weapons unloading ammo when you put them down, I'm actually surprised at just how well the game plays already. Firearms all feel viable for both offense and defense, with hit detection not seeming to be an issue except when the servers are experiencing issues.
That's probably the biggest draw pulling me from H1Z1: King of the Kill over to BATTLEGROUNDS even so early in the life cycle. Last I played H1Z1, it seemed like nearly all of the weapons were useless except for the assault rifles. I have yet to feel cheated in a gun battle on this title, as opposed to several times I had to step away from H1Z1 in particular as someone took a shotgun blast to the chest and jaw and still kept coming.
Looking ahead, I'm thinking what the game can benefit from the most is better server optimization and perhaps toning down the loot table only slightly. I mentioned how easy it is to get armed, and while that's all fine and well, I do think some of the higher end weapons appear a bit too often. I don't think we should consistently be seeing players with a bolt action rifle picking people off from a hilltop, or a player raining hellfire with an LMG from a window. But I suppose it's better to have too much of a good thing, than too little of a good thing.
I apologize if a lot of this piece seems like off the cuff rambling, I acknowledge there's a high possibility of it. My adrenaline is still pumping and I got right to work on the article; check back in next week for a more calm and composed piece on an in depth look at the doubles and squads game types, and how they compare against the solo experience. As long as the gang here hasn't decided to lock me away for a bit for being so long winded!