PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a victim of its own prosperity.
The game’s meteoric success has seen it set the highest all-time player peak on Steam (2.6m) and seen it bought by over 20m people since it was released onto Steam’s Early Access program in March.
Unfortunately, the massive stacks of cash that it has earnt developers Bluehole — enough that they’ve created a new company, PUBGCorp, to manage the game — have encouraged a wave of imitations. Perhaps the best known of these is Fortnite Battle Royale, created by Epic, which managed to beat PUBG to release on consoles and is gaining quite a playerbase of its own.
I’ve talked enthusiastically about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds plenty before, but there’s a sense of palpable excitement around this iteration of the test server, which sees the addition of vaulting to the game,a rework of the ballistic system and a bunch of other small fixes.
The test patch is the closest thing we’ll get to a preview of the game’s 1.0 release, and there’s a palpable sense of excitement around the testing sessions, to see whether the long-promised changes and the addition of vaulting have changed the game significantly. You can see footage and hear my smooth voice below. Bear in mind that this is an unstable test build of the game, so occasional framerate hitches and other wonkiness is part of the experience.
It’s hard to overstate the impact vaulting has on the game, both playing and spectating.
It was possible to jump over smaller walls with a popular exploit that allowed players to bind the jump and crouch buttons to a single button combination but this was patched out several weeks ago, making small fences and half-built walls some of the most difficult enemies to face in PUBG.
The addition of vaulting means that traversal is as simple as holding the jump button and clambering over the object you’re next to, and the speed you vault is related to the speed you’re moving when you hit the object, so if you hit it at a sprint, you’ll go over it quickly.
This means that built up areas, previously deathtraps full of dead ends and amateurish parkour, are now a breeze to navigate, which speeds up looting but also gives you a lot more options when a firefight in a town goes sideways. Vaulting makes the entire game feel more mobile, and also balances the playing field as those that can utilise crouch jumping are no longer the super-agile commandos they appear to be on the live servers, as while crouch jumping still has its place, everyone can move over the same objects now, even if the methodology is a little different. The extra movement, which allows you to jump through even the small windows in houses to assault the occupants, should make the game feel more dynamic to play but also more dynamic to watch, even if pros are going to have to totally reassess the game when vaulting hits the live servers.
Also, moving through windows (which you can do by crouch jumping or vaulting) now breaks the window too, which was one of the big complaints people had about the game as it stands. Enter or exit a window into a building now, and a telltale crash will alert others in the area to your intrusion (or exfiltration)
The other big change is ballistics. This is harder to see in the video but is detailed in the patch notes. In short guns are a little less accurate after 300 metres and bullets are now affected by air drag, meaning more bullet drop and a harder time engaging at long range. This helps one of the biggest problems with battle royale titles, a holdover from their origins in survive-’em-up DayZ: occasionally someone will just shoot you in the head at long range without any warning.
From a competitive standpoint, this isn’t actually fun to watch, as your chosen player gets eliminated with a 7.62 round to the noggin at 500 metres. Making those longer range fights a bit more difficult could go some way to making them more enjoyable because then if a player is taken out from afar with a single shot, he’s probably pulled off a remarkable shot.
Elsewhere, there are optimisation changes, and a substantial list of tweaks to the way guns handle and deal damage, that you can check out directly
PUBG still has a bit of a way to go to make a positive experience for spectators and players but for a game that’s been catching flak from its community over the recently slow updates and the perceived problems with spectating the game. 1.0 is on the way, and with vaulting, PUBG has shown there’s still plenty to be excited about when it comes to Battlegrounds, and it’s still the battle royale game to watch.