After spending twenty hours in this new last-man-standing shooter from the pioneer of the original Battle Royale mod for Arma 2, let's pick out some positives and negatives from Irishman PlayerUnknown and Bluehole's Battlegrounds.
Developer: Bluehole, Inc.
Publisher: Bluehole, Inc.
Platforms: PC (tested).
Tested on: i7-4790k @4.0GHz, GTX 1070 8GB @1.6GHz, 16GB RAM.
Despite my prior knowledge of the Battle Royale culture in games such as Arma 3 and H1Z1: King of the Kill, I had never once played a single second of any of the numerous iterations of this interesting game mode that began its life as a modification on Bohemia Interactive's 2009 military sim, Arma 2. Now, Irish developer Brendan Greene has partnered with Bluehole, previously known for their work on the free-to-play MMO TERA, to create what many are calling the game that will kill off all existing competitors.
PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS pits up to 100 players on a massive loot-ridden island in a battle for the ultimate glory of being the last man standing. Whilst I've played similar titles that do clearly share similar mechanics and animations such as DayZ and Arma 3, I'm intrigued by the sheer scale and proportions of the game in Battlegrounds. Weapons and equipment can be found in abundance, quite the contrary to DayZ, which make for relatively fast but frantic rounds of gameplay that should last no longer than 30 minutes.
Gunfights can be deadly for more reasons than you might expect, too. During the course of a single round, the zone in which players are allowed to fight in will slowly be reduced to the point of an intense, almost claustrophobic final melee. To discourage people from overstaying their welcome beyond the enforced perimeters, a dome that shimmers an electric blue will gradually close in, dealing health damage to your character over a period of time. As the zone becomes ever smaller, the dome becomes even more of a threat. There have been a couple of occasions I can recall where my character gave up the ghost just as I was about to get to safety; a painful lesson in how to bide my time and take care to ensure I know where I'm moving next and how to get there.
I suppose I should address the game's performance early on, as Bluehole are one of the first developers to commercially release a game on Unreal Engine 4. Most of the games using this engine are as yet unreleased, but if Battlegrounds is anything to go by, we should be seeing a lot of visually striking and smooth titles; depending, of course, on the effort invested by developers to make them that way. It's by no means perfect as it stands, but you wouldn't expect that from a game that has barely seen a week of daylight thus far. Some parts of the map are considerably more demanding on the GPU than others, but these seem like things that can easily be ironed out as the game's development phase moves forward. On my current PC, nothing I've experienced so far has put me off or discouraged me from playing. There's some stutter, even when running the game from an SSD, but I think this is largely down to the overuse of video memory and CPU pressure that the developers are fully aware is currently being used. I must also make it clear that the stutter only occurs when a considerable number of entities are being loaded in at once, usually when I'm travelling significant distances in a vehicle; when moving on foot, there are no such issues.
(This article is not yet complete).