The best game of 2017 -“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” or “PUBG” for short – isn’t technically complete just yet, and it’s only been available on PC. (The game will enter its “1.0” phase on December 20.)
But perhaps you’d prefer to play it on a game console, from the comfort of your barcalounger? Good news: Late on Monday night, “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” went live – also in so-called “Early Access” – on the Xbox One.
Sorry PlayStation 4 owners, but the game is an Xbox One console exclusive for the foreseeable future.
That’s a pretty big deal: The only living room console that can play “PUBG” is the Xbox One. So what’s it like? It’s pretty great!
Before anything else, beware: “PUBG” on Xbox One is very much an unfinished game.
The very first screen the game shows players on the Xbox One is a warning about the fact that “PUBG” isn’t finished. It even goes so far as to warn players that the game “may not release as a final product.” That is indeed a necessary caution, but it’s very unlikely the game won’t arrive as a finished release.
That said, you should know what you’re getting into here: “PUBG” isn’t finished, and it feels unfinished. That comes across in the gameplay, in the visuals, and even in the menus. You’re going to encounter stuff that feels rough around the edges – that’s because it is rough around the edges. Again, this game hasn’t reached “1.0” yet. Think of buying an “Early Access” game like paying for a work-in-progress.
That said, let’s dive in.
If you’re not already familiar with “PUBG,” the concept is simple: You’re one of 100 people parachuting down to an abandoned island. You’re unarmed, as is everyone else, and your goal is survival. Upon landing, the first thing you’ll do is scrounge for weaponry. The second thing you’ll do? Attempt to survive.
That’s the whole game, essentially – a massive, 100-person free-for-all on a massive, deserted island. You’ve got one life, as does everyone else.
As the game proceeds, the area you can occupy on said island gets smaller and smaller. This forces players together, and results in a lot of murder.
At the end of the round, if you’re the last person alive, you win. That’s it! It’s simple and very effective.
To this end, “PUBG” on Xbox One feels a lot like “PUBG” on PC did about six months ago. There’s a good reason for that: The Xbox One version is about six months behind the PC version in development.
Xbox One players expecting to pick up “PUBG” on console as a finished product will be disappointed. That’s because the console version of the game feels distinctly less polished than the PC version.
The biggest problem I regularly encountered involves the game’s framerate – the speed at which “frames” of video are rendered by the game console. The game often drops to sub-15 frames-per-second, resulting in choppy gameplay. I mean that literally – the game seemingly stutters in an attempt to keep up, resulting in major gameplay problems.
Imagine you’re carefully lining up a sniper shot, and the minute you pull the trigger – boom! – the game stutters. The player who was perfectly lined up is suddenly five feet ahead, and you’ve just revealed your position to anyone within earshot. It’s a non-ideal situation to say the least.
This doesn’t happen with enough regularity that the game is unplayable as a result, but it’s frustrating regardless.
OF NOTE: I’m playing “PUBG” on an Xbox One X, and I’m told that performance issues are worse on the standard Xbox One/Xbox One S consoles.
Performance issues aside, actually playing “PUBG” on Xbox One is a revelation.
I have a gaming PC that can power “PUBG,” and I’ve been playing it since April or so. We streamed the game with “PlayerUnknown” himself – the game’s creative director, Brendan Greene – way, way back. I put the game in the number one spot in our list of 2017’s 10 best games.
I really like “PUBG.”
But you know what’s way better than playing “PUBG” on a computer, with a mouse and keyboard at a desk? Playing “PUBG” on a game console, with a gamepad, on a couch.
Sure, the game isn’t as polished, and it’s harder to aim using a gamepad than a mouse. That’s all true and, if you really care about that stuff, you should pick up the PC version.
But I really value being able to play “PUBG” from my couch, on my TV – in 4K, with HDR support, no less. It’s just nice being able to play the game more comfortably, and the trade-offs are more than worth it for that comfort.
Unbelievably, the gamepad controls work.
There’s a surprising amount of nuance to the controls of “PUBG” on PC. You can lean out from behind cover, for instance – something that many console shooters don’t bother with.
Given all that nuance, and the fact that PC gamers have an entire keyboard to work with for inputs, it’s a major surprise that the gamepad controls work as well as they do.
To be clear: If you’ve never played “PUBG” before, you’re in for a hefty learning curve. And since there’s no training mode in “PUBG,” you’ll need to just spend some time in game trying to figure out how everything works (while trying to survive). Microsoft even published instructions, knowing that it’d be a challenge for new players.
There are some limitations to the Xbox version, content-wise, that you may want to wait for.
The sprawling map you see here is named “Miramar” – it’s the second map available for “PUBG,” and it just launched on PC. Unfortunately, there’s only one map in the Xbox One version of the game (“Erangel,” a Soviet-style, fictional island).
Content-wise, that’s the big difference between the PC and the Xbox One versions of “PUBG.”
That said, the game looks much better on PC. It performs much better on PC as well, with a more stable framerate.
That’s no surprise: The game has been in active development on PC for far longer than the console version. The plan has always been for “PUBG” to reach “1.0” on PC by the end of 2017, and for the Xbox One version to launch in early access (with a “1.0” version on Xbox some time in 2018). That plan remains in place.
But in general, “PUBG” on Xbox One is the same excellent game you’ve been hearing about all year — only now you can play it from your couch.
If you have a gaming PC in your living room, you are the exception, friend. For the vast majority of people, “PUBG” on Xbox One is the first time the game has been accessible.
In this regard, it delivers. “PUBG” on Xbox One, currently, is very similar to the game that initially exploded in popularity back in late March/April. It’s simple to understand, kind of clunky to play, but amazingly addictive and clever.
Players used to more smooth console experiences may balk at the rough, unpolished gem that is “PUBG.” But for those of you willing to put up with some jagged edges, the best game of 2017 is your reward.