In PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, that uber-popular Hunger Games-esque PC game, 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, especially since it’s still in Early Access, and will be for a while. We’ve gone over some of the basics, so you can 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 to take time to really familiarize yourself with the game’s many, not-too-obvious, fairly nuanced controls. PUBG uses a lot of standard first-person shooter controls on PC — WASD for steering your character, left-click for shooting, right-click for aiming down sights and holding Shift to sprint and Spacebar to jump — but it also allows for tighter control than a game like, say, Call of Duty. Other basic controls include C to crouch, which makes you move slower but makes you less noisy and visible. The Z key will take you to a fully prone position, for slow crawling but minimal visibility. If those two aren’t comfortable for you, you should change them as soon as possible because they’re essential to your survival.
Once you’ve got the basics down, there are a lot of quirks to learn to become a faster, more efficient player. Here’s a quick rundown of some hotkeys and control nuances you might not immediately notice:
- Right-clicking once when you’re carrying a gun in third-person mode will aim down its sights, but holding down the right mouse button will give you a tight, over-the-shoulder, scope-free aim.
- E and Q let you lean out from cover, a move that might save your life in a firefight.
- Holding ALT lets you look around without moving, which keeps you from making noise or changing direction while surveying your surroundings.
- CTRL, when held down, makes you walk, which is very slow but extremely helpful when you need to keep your noise profile down.
- Hitting B lets you change some weapons’ fire mode between single and automatic fire.
- V flips you from a third-person view to first-person. (Oh, and CTRL+T mutes the in-game chat. You’re going to want to do that.)
Once you have a feel for the keys (and you’ve changed the key bindings so you’re comfortable), 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 at a run and what you can’t. While we know updates are coming that will let you jump and vault over more stuff in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, 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.
Smart from the jump
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 want to be far from the action, picking your landing zone is essential. And 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 the mad dash grab a gun first and fight 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 also attract more players.
When jumping, you can control your descent with the W, A, S, and D keys the way you would when walking around, but there’s a bit of finesse involved. Pushing W causes you to lean into the fall, reducing 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, but if you tap the W key, you can get a sort of swimming motion going that will add distance to your fall.
If you need to cover lots of ground during your jump, you might want to pop your parachute early with the F key. You’ll fall more slowly but you’ll be able to sail farther. Using W in this case lets you angle your chute down to fall faster, but if you tap W, you can get a sort of rocking motion going that will add speed and allow you to drive yourself forward. You can cover about one and a half of the yellow grid square 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. Hold the Alt key and use the mouse to look around you without moving your character, and look for other parachutes. 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.
And of course, 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. Then hit B to change its firing mode if it’s an automatic weapon.
TAB is your friend
When you’re standing by a pile of loot, press Tab to open your inventory menu before picking anything up. Opening the menu will show you everything in your immediate vicinity, plus your own character inventory. Right-clicking items picks them up quickly, but you can also drag and drop things to their required 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 with a right click later. You can also get rid of items you don’t need by dragging them to the left side of the screen.
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 in these menus, assuredly, so maximize your efficiency when managing your gear.
The inventory menu is where you’ll likely access your healing items to start as well (they’re also hotkeyed to the high number keys like 9 and 0, so familiarize yourself with which button activates which healing item). Right-clicking on stuff uses it, but 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.
Checking houses for loot is key to Battlegrounds, 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 PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds 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 PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds 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 (by default, holding down the CTRL key lets you walk, which is slower but less noisy) 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 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 good 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.