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On the waves of the trending Twitch streams, battle royale games now feature prominently in the gaming community. Popular titles like H1Z1: King of the Kill, feature a wide pool of over a hundred players looking for weapons to survive against competitors for as long as they can. The foremost pioneer of this genre, Brendan Greene, now spearheads his own standalone game. Prior to this, Brendan Greene (also known as PlayerUnknown) developed battle royale game modes on third-party titles, like ARMA and H1Z1. The latter became officially licensed by Daybreak Games.
The latest entry in the battle royale is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Currently in early access, it stands as his original work, in collaboration with Bluehole. The game runs on the Unreal 4 engine and partly serves as a technology demonstrator. According to the official website, Battleground puts an emphasis on community-based development, custom games, and mod support.
Battle Royale games follow the same mold, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is no exception. After parachuting into the map, players quickly scavenge weapons, armor, and ammo to kill other players until only they survive. To expedite this process, the map grows smaller and smaller to keep the player density consistent as others are eliminated.
Though much of the basic goals and mechanics of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds remain the same from King of the Kill, early access testers not several improvements. King of the Kill, though still intensely popular, suffered from limitations inherent on the base game, H1Z1. Among these include hitscan instead of realistic bullet drop and better driving mechanics. In King of the Kill, common tactics include drive by drop-shots, where players in a team jump into cars and search for players to kill. As soon as an enemy team is located, then the team members drop out of the car, headshot the enemies before they can respond, and then drive off. Many label these as “cheesing the game,” and in large part lacks the skill of metagame found in most competitive shooters.
Additionally, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds enjoys more streamlined and accessible gameplay compared to ARMA. Unlike its predecessor, Battlegrounds feels more fast-paced, allowing players to get into the thick of the action sooner. By removing much of the simulator elements, Battlegrounds feels more polished and tailored to its target audience.
By nature of being a game still in development, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds suffers from a few shortcomings. This is to be expected from any prospective buyer. The most common but minor criticism of the game’s current release comes from its lack of optimization. Even cutting edge rigs often run into trouble running the game at higher graphical settings. This hinders much of the advertised visual appeal of Unreal 4. Various players also report conflicting impressions with the player’s hitboxes. Some praise the hitboxes as accurate and realistic, while others complain that cars run them over at unreasonable distances.
I attribute the growing popularity of this game to come not from its inherent qualities, but the personalities that play this game. Several popular Youtubers and Twitch streamers and their communities enjoy hectic and fast-paced, competitive fun on this platform. The battle royale genre works well for this environment; the blend of casual and competitive elements appeals to audiences of all kinds.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds‘s early access status leaves me to conclude a few final thoughts. The game’s price tag comes at a checkered comparison to the product’s current performance. With only the best of disk transfers speeds, processing power, RAM, and internet connection as the bare standard, prospective players ought to consider their rig before trying this game. Otherwise, it may be more prudent to wait until the game releases with full optimization for the hardware range of most PC gamers. I expect stability improvements and increased graphics processing efficiency in the near future.
Assuming optimizations to the game come into effect by its official launch, Battlegrounds should enjoy widespread success. Even after its release, it seems reasonable to expect further developments by both Greene and fans of the game. I look forward to seeing what the future bodes for this developing title.