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PUBG’s new map makes the game faster and more technical than ever

You had best bring your A game to Savage

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.

Last night the latest map for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds dropped on a new, invite-only test server. It’s smaller by far than either of the two maps already released for the game, but it sacrifices nothing. In fact, it’s a dense playground that will appeal to hardcore players and skilled teams alike.

The map is called Codename: Savage for now, and it’s Battlegrounds first 4 km by 4 km map. Both of the previous maps were 8 km on a side, but that’s not the only difference.

Savage has a tropical, Asian theme. While the jungle isn’t nearly as oppressive and dense as you might find portrayed in a film like Full Metal Jacket or Predator, it includes much more foliage than any of the game’s previous maps. It also features more dramatic changes in elevation. Rather than appearing to be placed on a flat table like a piece of miniature wargaming terrain, the towns and villages on Savage fit within the contours of the land. Overall, it’s a much more believable and authentic space to explore.

The map has many different kinds of spaces to explore as well.

PUBG Corp.

To the west is a small island with a military bootcamp and a densely built manufacturing area. In the center is an ancient mountain cut through with deep ravines running north to south. As the circle closes in on this area your movement is heavily restricted. Expect many desperate showdowns to take place as players confront one another directly with very little cover between them.

To the south is a slightly larger island with another military complex, but also an ancient temple complex. The temple is still in graybox, waiting for the team at PUBG Corp. to finish the final skin, but it’s already proving to be a deathtrap. Four entrances, one on each side of the building, funnel players into a central room. Its multiple levels are filled to bursting with high-quality loot. Expect many early confrontations to take place here as players jockey for the best loadouts before moving on.

Connecting that southern island to the larger island to the east is River Town, a built-up area that straddles the map’s massive central waterway. In this area it feels as though Battlegrounds has finally turned a corner with its design, making good use of its waterborne vehicles for the first time.

Dropping in over the larger island, facing west. You can see the large waterway that bisects the map. It’s a highway, allowing anyone with a boat to land virtually anywhere they want once the circle starts to close in.
PUBG Corp.

Jet skis are incredibly fast, but they have never been as useful as they are now. Savage is filled with little outcroppings that you can use to launch yourself into the air, landing in the water to continue your trip or planting yourself in cover on dry land. Because the map is so small, movement by water is incredibly useful. You’ll find that those players who were previously trapped along the edges of the map are now able to use boats to easily move around the islands, arriving at completely different areas in order to regroup.

Movement on land is a very different tactical experience. Elevated locations with good peripheral vision are hard to come by, making sniping a much less profitable endeavor. That means in order to score kills you’ll need to stay on the move. But the elevation changes mean there are many more blind corners to contend with.

PUBG Corp.

A useful strategy on Battlegrounds’ Erangel and Miramar maps was always to move quickly from town to town, using two and three-story buildings as fortresses, spotting the enemy and planning your next maneuver. But many of Savage’s towns are placed inside bowls with wooded hillsides rising up all around them. That negates much of the advantage to planting yourself inside a building and taking potshots from the windows, since other players can move around you and flank you by carefully using the cover found around the edge of the bowl.

This is where duo and squad-based play could be elevated to the next level. By working together and using good verbal communication, groups of players should be able to use suppressing fire, smoke and fragmentation grenades to aggressively assault towns. That’s going to lead to very dramatic finishes, and demand a higher level of expertise for both the attackers and the defenders.

Simply put, Savage lives up to the hype. It speeds the game up considerably. I’m looking forward to playing it more, and to seeing what professionals and other skilled players do with it going forward. Savage will be live on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ testing server until 4 a.m. PT on Thursday, April 5.

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