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PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds beginner’s guide

In PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the uber-popular Hunger Games-esque game for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, your goal isn’t to get the most kills or be the best: Your goal is to be the last one standing (unless, that is, you play in peace). Every match opens with 100 players jumping out of a cargo plane onto a giant, abandoned island with nothing but the shirts on their backs. As soon as you hit the ground, it’s a mad dash to find weapons and outlive everyone else.


It sounds straightforward, but PUBG is filled with detailed mechanics and nuances that may keep you alive just a little bit longer. The play area is so huge that you spend much of the time alone, wondering when and where you’ll stumble across other players. Staying alive is all about preparation and making good choices, so you have every advantage possible before you pull the trigger.

If you’re new to PUBG, jumping off that plane for the first time may seem a little daunting. We’ve gone over some of the basics to help you go from rookie to veteran as quickly as possible.

Before all else: Mess with the controls

The best thing you can do when you first start playing PUBG is take time to really familiarize yourself with the game’s many, not-too-obvious, fairly nuanced controlsPUBG uses a lot of standard first person shooter controls regardless of the platform you’re on, but it also allows for tighter control than a game like, say, Call of Duty. In addition to running around and shooting, you can also crouch and enter into a fully prone position for slow crawling with minimal visibility.

Once you’ve got the basics down, there are a lot of quirks to learn to become a faster, more efficient player. For instance, when you’re in third person mode, you’ll aim down your sights. You can also go into a tight, over-the-shoulder, scope-free aim. Want to lean out from cover? Go for it. Also, be sure to consider walking instead of running to reduce your noise profile. Controls also let you quickly change your fire mode between single and automatic fire, and you can quickly switch from a third person view to a first person view whenever you want.

Perhaps most importantly, you can customize your controls by choosing different button layouts in the Settings menu to match your desired player profile.

Once you have a feel for the controls, you’re ready to actually play. Use the pre-game lobby to get familiar with how your character moves, and, in particular, what you can jump over and what you can’t. While we know updates are coming that will let you jump and vault over more stuff, we’re still waiting on them, so learn your limitations. Mobility is often a key concern in PUBG, and the quicker you know exactly what you’re capable of doing (and how loud you are doing it), the better.

Be smart from the jump

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Every PUBG battle starts with hopping out of a cargo plane over the island. As you fly over the island, every player hops out and tries to hit the ground as fast as they can. Whether you want to dive right into combat or you want to be far from the action, picking your landing zone is essential. Don’t worry about popping your chute — when you hit a certain altitude, your parachute will deploy automatically.

The best real strategy for long-term survival is to avoid players right out of the gate. Making a mad dash to grab a gun first and fighting a bunch of other just-landed folks is a losing proposition. Look for a landing zone without other people, but with enough buildings that you’ll get a decent haul of gear as quickly as possible. Denser areas usually yield better loot, but they also attract more players.

When jumping, you can control your descent the way you would when walking around, but there’s a bit of finesse involved. If you lean into the fall, you’ll reduce drag and falling faster. If you aim at the ground, you can fall extremely fast — but if you aim toward the distance, you’ll go horizontally more than vertically. Still, free-falling will take you down faster than it will take you over land.

If you need to cover lots of ground during your jump, you might want to pop your parachute early. You’ll fall more slowly, but you’ll be able to sail farther. You can also angle your chute down to fall faster, but use a rocking motion that will add speed and allow you to drive yourself forward. You can cover about one and a half of the yellow grid squares on your map this way once you get good at it, allowing you to distance yourself from other players.

Once you’ve jumped, make sure to watch out for other players falling to the same place as you. You’ll need to know if you’re jumping to a place where you’re going to be in an immediate fight or not.

The first few seconds

Once you hit the ground, you’ll want to outfit yourself as best you can, so run to the nearest building and grab whatever you find. Look for helmets and body armor (“vests,” as they’re called), as well as backpacks to store more gear. They come in three levels, with Level 3 being the best, so be on the lookout for upgrades to whatever you’re carrying. First aid kits, bandages, medkits, energy drinks, and painkillers are healing items you’ll also want to grab. Adrenaline syringes and painkillers that give you a 100% full boost are great things to find, but they can take longer to use than energy drinks.

Also, pick up guns and the appropriate ammo, which usually spawns beside them. Every gun is empty when you pick it up, so make sure to reload it.

Menus are your friends

When you’re standing by a pile of loot, open your Inventory menu before picking anything up. Opening the menu will show you everything in your immediate vicinity, plus your own character inventory. You might also want to move items you collect to their desired slots in your inventory. That’s handy when you find weapon attachments and you want to add them to your gun instead of putting them in your inventory (where they temporarily take up space) and then attaching them later.

Spend some time getting acquainted with the inventory screen. That sounds dumb, but play isn’t paused when you’re digging around in your backpack, so you’re extremely vulnerable any time you look at your map or at your inventory. You want to get into that screen, find what you want, and get the hell out of it as quickly as possible.  You’ll die spending too much time in these menus, so maximize your efficiency when managing your gear.

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The inventory menu is where you’ll likely access your healing items, and they’re also hotkeyed to some of the number keys, like 9 and 0, so familiarize yourself with which button activates which healing item. On consoles, however, there are no hotkeys, so you’ll need to rotate through heals and weapons manually. Every healing item comes with an activation timer. While the timer’s running, you can’t do much of anything else, or you’ll cancel it.

Door discipline

Checking houses for loot is key to PUBG, but there’s more to prepping for action than just grabbing what you need to survive. Checking houses for open doors can give you information about whether people are inside, and leaving doors open (or closed) can help you control what other players know about a location.

In short, closing doors behind you is a good habit to develop early on, especially if you think there are other players near your location. If you’re checking a house to see if other people are inside, try to look through the windows to see if any interior doors have been opened since by default, most doors in PUBG are closed. Use closed doors to set up ambushes for other players, or leave them open to try to lay down misinformation. Just be aware that other players will use doors the same way.

Your greatest weapon is sound

The size of the island in PUBG means you’ll spend a lot of time alone (or with your squad), and you’ll often be trying to figure out where other players are located. Seeing players in the distance is unreliable — there’s a lot of ground to cover, and smart players will stay low whenever possible to minimize their visual profiles. Sound is often a much more reliable way to find players — you should definitely play with headphones.

Listen for nearby footsteps and gunshots to figure out where players are. On the other hand, be aware that loud actions, like firing a gun or driving a car, broadcast your location across a huge area. Even running around produces a lot of noise and can be used to pinpoint your location if you’re in or around a structure.

You can minimize the sound you make by moving more slowly or crawling. Whether you’re making a racket or slinking in stealth mode, always use sound to your advantage.

Avoiding conflict is almost always a good idea

Picking your battles is key to PUBG because winning isn’t about having the most kills; it’s just about surviving the longest. Avoiding a fight is almost always a better strategy than winning it. When you shoot at other players, specifically with unsuppressed weapons, you make your rough location known to anyone in a huge area. Lots of players maraud the game looking to find and bring down other players for the possible loot they’re carrying. Even if you open fire on an enemy and kill them, you’re risking an ambush by someone else nearby.

If you don’t have to fight, you might want to stay put and minimize your risk. At the very least, pick your battles whenever you can. If you’re about to shoot at someone, do you have decent cover? Will they be able to pinpoint you quickly? Do you know if other people are in the area? Do you have a good escape if things go bad? Whenever possible in PUBG, have plans in place before you act. If you’re not in a perfect position to ambush your prey, just leave ’em be.

Keep moving and stay inside the circle

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As time goes on in PUBG, a white circle begins to close in on the island, restricting the play area to force players together and into conflicts. A timer in the bottom-right corner of the screen shows you how long you have until the next restriction, which is when a blue circle will start to close the distance between the outsides of the map and the white circle. That blue circle is death — it’s an electrified force field that will slowly kill you if you get caught in it. Familiarize yourself with how the circle operates, how quickly it closes, and what you can survive by using healing items if you get caught outside of it. This is a huge part of the game, and you’ll spend lots of time sprinting across the island, trying to make your way to the next play area. Knowing how far you can travel and how quickly, and what you can survive and what you can’t, will allow you to hunt for loot longer and more effectively outside the play area.

While it’s never good, getting trapped outside the circle isn’t always certain death. The blue ring has varying degrees of lethality at different times during the game. The first circle will give you ample time to make a run for it, for instance, while toward the endgame, you’ll die much more quickly. The circle also does less damage as it’s retracting toward the white play area than when it reaches its stopping point. In fact, if you’re caught outside the white play area when the blue circle reaches it, you’ll start suffering double damage.

You’ll learn to keep pace with the blue circle as you play more, but it should always be on your mind. If you can get deep in the circle early, that’s great, but don’t rest easy. Just because you’re safe from the circle doesn’t mean you should stay put in the first building you happen across. Other players are constantly hunting for the best gear — if you get to the top 10 with Level 1 junk, you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.

How to heal

It’s not immediately obvious how healing items work in PUBG, so here’s a crash course. Medkits will fully heal you, but they’re rare. The same goes for the adrenaline syringe, which is far more effective than energy drinks and painkillers and will give you a 100% boost. First aid kits can heal you up to 75% of your max health, as can bandages. Everything requires time to activate, so make sure you’re safe before hitting the Heal button.

Painkillers and energy drinks heal you in a different way. When you activate them, they activate a “boost” state that heals you over time. If you use more than one set of drinks or painkillers, you can increase your boost more and activate additional bonuses, as indicated by the orange bar above your health bar. Healing over time is your first bonus, but you can also get a slightly speedier run and slightly better weapon accuracy if you increase your boost more. During the last few seconds of play, when there are five or fewer people in the game, boosting can be seriously helpful.

Try to keep yourself fully healed at all times. You don’t want to run around at less than full health if you can avoid it, because you never know when you might be in someone’s sights. Even a stray bullet can finish you.

More quick tips

Don’t avoid vehicles. When you’re new to the game, caution suggests you might want to keep the lowest possible profile, and driving vehicles raises your profile to the highest it can be. However, a vehicle can be extremely useful, especially early in the game. Use it to quickly cover a lot of area and get to the center of the play area, which is almost always the best place to be as circles continue to shrink. It will also provide you some cover from gunfire (although vehicle tires are vulnerable, and you can still get shot in the cab). That said, you’ll want to be on the lookout for spike traps, which will render your vehicle useless and increase the likelihood that wily competitors will ambush you. Be aware of the cons, but note that mobility and active play are almost always pluses in PUBG.

Don’t jump out of moving cars. Chances are extremely good you’ll die or at least take a lot of damage.

Never forget your fire mode. Every gun is set to single action by default, which means even M16s or AK47s will only shoot one bullet per click when you pick one up. Change the fire mode on your weapons, and make sure you have them set the way you want them before you go into a structure or start driving a car.

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Rifles are generally best. The Kar98 bolt action rifle is a well-loved sniper because it can kill players with one headshot through anything but a Level 3 helmet, and the AKM seems to be the strongest assault rifle. The OTs-14 Groza is an extremely powerful assault rifle, but it’s hard to find and generally only available in airdrop crates. The M24 sniper gun is a must-have in most cases, but if you can get your hands on an AWM found at an airdrop, go with that instead. Go with personal preference overall, though, and try a variety of guns to figure out what’s most effective for you. Generally, most players try to find sniper rifles and assault rifles to be deadly at a variety of ranges.

Prioritize your inventory. It’s tempting to pick up everything you see, but you don’t need bullets and attachments for guns you’re not carrying. You also don’t need more than 10 or 15 bandages, as bandages are generally pretty worthless. Overfilling your backpack with junk you’re not using just means you’ll have to mess around with your inventory later when you find something you do want.

Put your guns away to run faster. You get a slight bump in your run speed if you shoulder your guns. It can be handy when you’re running for your life to get into the play zone.

Freeze. Movement will often give you away, but freezing can render you largely invisible under a lot of circumstances. Let other players give their positions away; patience will often save your life. You might also consider going prone behind a bush.

Check out the Wiki. There’s plenty more to learn about PUBG, and its Wiki is a great place to start.

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Phil Hornshaw
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Phil Hornshaw is an author, freelance writer and journalist living in Los Angeles. He is the co-author of The Space Hero's…
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