PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds brought battle royale games into the mainstream with its ridiculous amount of success, but Fortnite seems to be getting all the buzz for its own aggressive growth, pop culture buzz and constantly iterating take on the genre. Epic is moving fast when it comes to bringing new ideas and hooks to Fortnite, and it’s an advantage that PUBG hasn’t been able to match.
Until now, at least. The pace of interesting, borderline risky stuff coming to PUBG seems to have picked up, and it may be re-energizing a game that had begun to feel set in its ways. PUBG had been moving away from its earlier silliness and toward a more serious tone, but things have been getting weird lately. It’s wonderful.
What PUBG is doing right
I spent a good chunk of last night playing PUBG’s latest event, Tequila Sunrise. You can see the first circle before you even drop, which means players concentrate themselves to a smaller area on the map much earlier in each round. You’re limited to shotguns and melee weapons, and level 3 armor and helmets drop three times as often as the standard configuration. The mode will run for 72 hours.
Tequila Sunrise is a distraction, but it’s a glorious one. Every drop is hot, and watching players fall the sky by the dozens before the steady “pop pop pop” of shotguns begins is mesmerizing. Visual contact of other players in general is much less important, because it’s not like you can pick anyone off at a distance. You need to get close to other players for the shotgun to be lethal, which dramatically changes squad tactics. You have to play in a four-person squad in this mode, which means that everyone is at least hypothetically working with a crew that’s nearby.
The event is tense but silly, and it will be over before the meta has a chance to really evolve. Right now no one seems to know the best way to tackle these situations, which leads to a fresh feeling on the servers as everyone tries new things.
PUBG’s new experimental test server, which itself gives the developers a whole new way to experiment with the game, is now home to the tiny Codename: Savage map, which also forces early gunfights and a more frantic feeling to play. The map is early in development — complete with structures that are little more than gray boxes — but Savage is another way PUBG may be trying to improve on its competitive scene. It’s also a useful tool for players who want to get better at the game as quickly as possible.
PUBG has also added weapon skins, a move that was probably inevitable. A deathmatch-style game mode called “War,” which puts players into a tiny area with a standardized starting loadout, was recently added as an option for custom games.
These updates, tests and new modes have all been added in the past few weeks — to the PC version at least, the Xbox One updates are much more standard — and they all seem to be focused on making the game a bit faster and more immediately “fun.” The slower, more tactical game modes are all still available, but now players have a reason to return if they’ve been taking a break from the game or were just tired of everything seeming so damned serious.
This absolutely feels like a return shot at Fortnite, which was doing a much better job keeping its game fresh and exciting. PUBG feels like it’s an era of experimentation, and it’s hard to know what’s going to be added next. There are plenty of excuses to get online to play, and that has to be by design.