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‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ on Xbox One: Hands-on preview

‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ on Xbox is ecstasy, except when it’s agony

‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ on Xbox One: Hands-on preview
MSRP $29.99
“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is fun on Xbox One, but technical problems nearly ruin it.”
  • Streamlined controls
  • Intense gameplay
  • Large multiplayer map leads to crazy situations
  • Has vaulting mechanic ahead of PC version
  • Horrible pop-in
  • Some hitching and crashing
  • No tutorials
  • Not quite feature complete

It’s finally time. After months and months of hearing about the magic of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Xbox One players can experience the phenomenon now that a beta version of the game has launched on the Xbox One Game Preview program, Microsoft’s answer to Steam Early Access.

In case you aren’t among the 20 million players who’ve picked up the game since it launched on Steam Early Access in March, here’s the quick pitch. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a highly competitive first- or third-person shooter that focuses exclusively on a single game mode, “Battle Royale.” Each PUBG match opens with 100 unarmed players jumping out of a plane onto a large, open map. Once they land, it’s up to them to find weapons and take everybody else out. The last person standing gets the win, or as the game likes to say, “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!”

Let’s just get this out of the way. The Xbox One port of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is an inferior version of the game. It doesn’t have key features found in the PC version, and doesn’t run well on any version of Xbox hardware. Despite that, the core PUBG experience remains intact. Its still feels creates intense yet tactical, frantic yet fun. Win or lose, every encounter will get your adrenaline pumping.

Dark, mushy Clouds

While the “finished” version of PUBG  launches on PC this week, the Xbox One version will likely stay in beta for the foreseeable future. On a technical level, the Xbox One version of PUBG feels like a much earlier, rough-hewn version of the game. Network issues lead to occasional hitching and crashing. While some effects, like explosions, look excellent, many basic elements look muddied.

Worst of all, the game has trouble loading the game map quickly, especially right at the start of each match. In a match’s opening moments, you’ll see topographical features pop in as the plane flies in overhead. Once you’ve jumped, you often land to find that the textures on the surrounding buildings have not loaded yet. The world is, for a time, dotted with interactive piles of mush.

Every encounter will get your adrenaline pumping.

These issues can have a practical impact on how you play. Bumping into another player in the opening moments of a match becomes tricky if you can’t sprint to the nearest house (and presumably the nearest gun). Savvy players would be wise to adjust their strategies to account for these potential hang-ups early on.

Though the game is in “preview” mode, and clearly marked as unfinished, the technical issues come as a bit of a shock. Neither Microsoft nor the PUBG Corporation indicated that the game would be in such rough shape, and a locked 30 frames per second should be possible. The game doesn’t look good enough to justify performance issues.

What does this button do?

Once you get past the technical hang-ups, the biggest difference between playing on PC and Xbox is the controller. Like many games designed specifically for PC, PUBG requires too many inputs for a controller to handle naturally. To condense things into a controller-friendly format, the game relies on the full set of inputs, including the D-Pad, and certain buttons work differently depending on whether you tap or hold them. For example, tapping the left trigger enables aim mode, which lets you look through your scope, but holding the trigger in third-person mode switches to an over-the-shoulder view that steadies your aim.

Similarly, some aspects of the original game were designed specifically to work with a mouse. PUBG uses menus to manage equipment and use contextual items, and players must do so quickly. There is no “time out” in multiplayer games, and players who linger in menus tend to get their heads blown off.

Most of the changes work well, once you learn the ropes.

On Xbox One, PUBG streamlines the process of equipping and swapping attachments. Rather than moving back and forth between your equipment and your inventory with the LB and RB shoulder buttons, you can simply tap A to highlight an item you want to equip, and the game automatically toggles between the specific item slots you can select. Two quick taps, and you’re good to go. That’s a trick we’re sure PC players wouldn’t mind having.

Most of the changes work well, once you learn the ropes, but getting to that point can be difficult. The game has no introduction or tutorials, so it’s on you to read up and figure things out. On PC, leaving players to teach themselves how to play is fairly common practice, but it’s a poor choice on console. PUBG’s advanced controls are anything but intuitive.

Silver Lining

While PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds doesn’t work well on Xbox One right now, there are signs the game’s technical issues are improving. Even after one week, there’s a lot less hitching, and fewer performance hiccups. Though the texture pop-in we described earlier is still present at the start of each match, the map loads more quickly than at launch.

We also found that the extra power in the Xbox One X makes a noticeable impact on performance in PUBG, at least for now. Playing on an Xbox One X prompts you to choose between boosting framerate or resolution. We found that prioritizing framerate keeps the game running smoothly. Regardless of your choice, the pop-in issues at the outset of each match seem to resolve a faster on One X, and are less likely to impact your game.

These are caveats, and do not excuse the game’s performance issues, or suggest you should buy a game that isn’t finished. That said, we’ve enjoyed spending time with the Xbox One version of PUBG, which is testament to the game itself.

PUBG has was never a visual spectacle or a technical marvel on PC. Its success lies in its ability to suck you in with intense, unique gameplay. So long as Microsoft and the PUBG developers put in the time to optimize the game, there’s no reason the Xbox One version of PUBG can’t be every bit as captivating as the original.

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