PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the survival shooter that brought the battle royale genre to prominence on Windows PC, is now available for iOS and Android devices here in the United States. After around 100 hours with the original title, I’m here to tell you that this version of the game is surprisingly good. It’s a full-featured port with a clever user interface, and it runs astonishingly well even on my older iPhone.
When I downloaded Battlegrounds for my iPhone 6S, the first thing I had to do was connect it to Facebook. Only then would the game allow me to create a profile and lock in the look of my avatar. After that, the program scanned my device and recommended low graphical settings. There was very little information on what would be needed to bump things up to medium or high settings, so hopefully we’ll be getting more guidance as the release rolls out.
Then, it was off to the starting island where I was joined by 100 other players in short order. From there, dropping into the map was fairly straightforward. There’s a button on screen to jump, and once in the air the game plays like any 3D twin-stick shooter on consoles, it’s just that the buttons are embedded right there on the screen.
If you’ve spent any time with Minecraft on your iPhone or Android device you’ll be good to go.
The left stick lets you move forward and back, and strafe left and right while the right stick changes the direction that the camera is facing. Push that left stick far enough forward and you’ll lock yourself in auto-run. It’s of course handy for covering a lot of distance in a short period of time, but it also allows you to take your finger off the screen and get a better view of your surroundings.
If I have one complaint it’s that running in one direction and looking in the other is a bit fiddly right now and takes some getting used to.
From an unarmed state, picking up weapons is far simpler than in the PC or Xbox One version of the game. Just run over a weapon on the ground and your avatar will automatically pick it up, along with any nearby ammunition, and chamber a round. Once you’ve got that first weapon, however, interactions are more challenging. Attachments and other items on the ground flash up on the screen in a grid and you have to pick the ones you want individually, which can be tedious with a smaller touch screen and a long list of items to choose from. I definitely recommend an iPad or Android tablet if you want to spend time fine tuning your loadout.
Otherwise, switching between your two primary weapons is pretty straightforward and accomplished with the help of two big friendly buttons at the bottom of the screen. Medical equipment is also easy to use, located to the right of the left-hand stick, as are grenades which are located to the left of the right-hand stick.
Using an attached optic is also really nice and acts as a handy toggle while auto-running. The zoom button is located above the right-hand stick, so you just tap it to change your view and tap it again to change back. Early on I equipped a four-times ACOG to an M-16 and was able to scout ahead before exposing myself to sniper fire from nearby buildings. Overall, everything is in its place. It’s quite a feat, considering how small the real-estate is on an iPhone and leaps and bounds better than the bizarre accomodations needed to play with an Xbox controller.
More than anything, though, I am surprised how much of the tactical pace and tension the mobile version keeps from the original. With headphones on I was able to locate another player firing on the other side of a hill, so I crouched down and moved cautiously from cover to cover to try and get some eyes on them. Before I could locate the source of the fire, however, another player snuck up behind me and killed me at range. It’s exactly the kind of cat-and-mouse engagements that made me fall in love with the original.
Best of all, the game is free-to-play. Basically, if you have a smartphone or a tablet there is no reason not to pick this up and give it a try.