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PUBG’s first person-only mode is absolutely brutal

It feels faster and more deadly than ever before

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds latest update, which dropped just yesterday, added a first person-only mode for solo players and pairs. It makes the game faster and more challenging than ever before, and it is absolutely not for everyone.

It also has the effect of making the game’s weaknesses all the more apparent.

Battlegrounds’ default third-person camera means that it’s easy for players to game the system. The high angle makes it simple to see around corners and inside the windows of houses. Lying prone in the middle of a muddy ditch, you can still see all around you for 100 meters or more. First person-only mode puts an end to all of that nonsense, but it also makes Battlegrounds a very different game.

Your one saving grace is that you have a neck. Hold down the alt key and you can look in one direction while running in another. That, plus the new HUD element that shows off your stance (whether your avatar is standing, crouched or prone), makes the game feel more than ever like the hardcore military simulation Arma 3 played in first-person.

And that makes sense, to a point. Brendan “Playerunknown” Greene first made the Battle Royale mod for Arma 3 before contracting to create a similar mode for H1Z1 and, later, creating Battlegrounds. But the first person-only mode here also brings to the fore all of the things that Battlegrounds is lacking.

The stamina system is immature, and players can run forever without getting winded. The ballistics are a bit wonky, and seeing where your shots have landed — especially at ranges over 300 meters — is a crapshoot. Arma 3 also has a tremendous stance adjustment system, meaning that leaning out around corners and inching up just a hair to shoot over a windowsill is no problem. More than anything, first person-only shows off how immature Battlegrounds’ map design is. There’s no logical flow to it, no way to move from cover to cover and retain concealment, and few naturally occurring avenues of advance. It has the feeling of a flat tabletop where you’re constantly sprinting from one piece of scenery to another.

New HUD elements show the player stance (lower left), armor (middle) and weapons (right).

The biggest thing missing from first-person Battlegrounds though, in my opinion, is binoculars. Other than an open door and a parked car, there’s almost no way to tell if a building or a compound is occupied. You just rush in and hope for the best, and limiting your perspective makes that all the more dangerous. With so much open ground to cover between settlements, it’s very frustrating to get plinked at range after you’ve spent 15 minutes looting, never having fired a shot and with no way to know where your killer was hiding out.

Where first person-only mode succeeds is in making each round of Battlegrounds even more intense than it was before.

In my first game, I stumbled onto a firefight between two other players. As the gunfire subsided, I moved in, ready to finish off the surviving, wounded player. Storming into the building, I rounded a corner and then opened the door of an interior room with my gun up. I turned left to begin clearing the corners, and as I did, I noticed the wounded player crouched behind the door I had just opened. It was too late for me to turn around, and he unloaded into my back with a full clip from him 9 mm UMP.

Expect fewer kills and more frustration than ever with Battlegrounds’ first person-only mode. But also get ready for more adrenaline than you’ve had coursing through your body for quite some time.

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