Strange, but true: the most popular PC game of the moment is not been officially released yet. Recently, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds broke Dota 2’s “peak moment record” on Steam. Never before have so many people played the same game on Steam at the same time. An unprecedented success, especially when you consider that the game is still formally in Steam Early Access. There is still no official release date, not even for the Xbox One version. Because yes, it is coming too. Microsoft surprised the audience at E3 by announcing the then-popular PC game for its console, but the game was yet to be seen in action. The latter is now the case.
At least, that was the idea. In reality, it was a bit different. At an Xbox Showcase event in London, Microsoft had a specially prepared PC version ready. Yes, we played with a controller and yes, the graphics were scaled to be representative of what the Xbox One version will look like. But it wasn’t really the Xbox One version. It is therefore not yet clear where it is and how far Bluehole Studio and Microsoft are from it. Nevertheless, we want to briefly discuss our first gaming experience, because although it was a bit ‘fake’, we still got some interesting insights from it.
Let’s start with the graphics. What they look like in the final version is therefore still somewhat uncertain, because what we were presented with was a ‘this is how we currently see it’ view of the game. It is clear that the game looks less good than on the PC. What does that include? Especially in the resolution. As far as we could see now, the Xbox One version will not exceed full HD, which makes things less sharp than with the PC version. Striking, because the trailer that Microsoft released earlier this year did have a 4k resolution. The fact that the image of the version we played clearly looked less sharp than that of the PC version, suggests that the 4k resolution is not actually achieved. Furthermore, there are not many differences visible, if only because the game doesn’t look particularly good on the PC either. In addition, the version we played ‘under the hood’ was still the PC version. It remains to be seen whether the real Xbox One version will show any changes.
Too few buttons
Then the gameplay. It should be clear that playing with a controller is quite different from playing with a keyboard. The default Xbox One controller settings match how most shooters work on consoles. There is nothing wrong with that in itself. However, there is one problem. PUBG’s interface needs more buttons than there are on an Xbox One controller. Is that indeed a problem? We thought so. A simple example for illustration concerns picking up an attachment. Press the button to pick it up and you’ll have it in your inventory. Press that item again and it will automatically be placed on a gun it fits. No problem so far, but what if that part fits your first and second gun and you want it on your second gun? You don’t have that choice, because there is no button for that! The only solution is to put the first weapon down for a while, then hang the item in question on your only remaining gun, and then pick up your first weapon again. Then it eventually works, but it’s not very convenient.
No aim assist
Also in the gameplay, playing with a controller makes quite a difference. Of course it doesn’t help that we played with a controller connected to a normal PC server against 99 players with keyboard and mouse. We got some kills, but we weren’t part of exciting shoot-outs, because we probably couldn’t have won those anyway. The reason for that is that there is currently no aim assist in PUBG. Now you may think ‘yes, but you don’t want that, do you?’ Yes, you will. Practically every console shooter has some form of aim-assist, aim-snap, or whatever you want to call it. A system to slightly assist gamers so that they can hit faster. If that is completely missing, then you notice how difficult it actually is to hit the target just as quickly with a controller as with a mouse.
Despite the above reservations, we had a good time during the Xbox One-like play session. Assuming that the real Xbox One version gets a better thought-out interface and smoother controls, it’s almost inevitable that PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will also be a hit on Microsoft’s console. What may help is that Bluehole will hopefully have new content ready by then, and that the price level of the PC version will also be used for the Xbox One version. That would mean that the game costs thirty euros, which is not too bad compared to the ‘big’ games. Especially if you put as much time into PUBG as we did in recent months.