Earlier this week as part of the Smuggler's Run update, Grand Theft Auto Online added a brand-new adversary mode that seemed heavily inspired by the newest zeitgeist, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The mode was a small part of a big update, but the ruleset jumped out at folks.
"Blending the adrenaline rush of Drop Zone with the claustrophobic tension of a match of Penned In, this brutal Adversary Mode is a deadly scavenger hunt where second place is not an option. Up to four teams parachute into a periodically shrinking kill box strewn with a lethal assortment of guns, explosives and Weaponized Vehicles. Work together, find a vehicle, and fight opposing teams and the shrinking map to survive and win."
Yep, that sounds a lot like Battlegrounds.
So I spent some time in Grand Theft Auto Online, exclusively in the Motor Wars mode. A few hours spent shooting faceless teams of other colors and simply running them over in super-powered military vehicles. At the end of it, I've determined that while Motor Wars and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds share some features, the similarities end there.
Right from the jump, Motor Wars has the same long start times at anything else in Grand Theft Auto Online. Part of what I prize about PUBG is the ability to get in and get out. GTAO left me in a lobby for a few minutes before the match proper started, and that's not counting the general load time of GTA Online in the first place.
At match start, it's a familiar setup, with your team floating high above the battlefield in a plane. You have one objective: kill the other teams. You then bail out of the plane and parachute to the ground, but GTA rules apply here. You can hurt and kill yourself if you come in too hot on the parachute landing. I took damage my first time around and you'll regularly see players dying immediately from landing suicides. In contrast, PUBG makes sure you land safely with no damage. It's the things on the ground that'll kill you.
Once you've landed, the differences begin to pile up. In PUBG, various weapons, ammunition, accessories, and equipment are strewn about in buildings around the environment. Part of the game is a roll of the dice; will you find a good weapon and armor before another player in your area does? In GTA Online, the weapon pickups are clearly marked on the map. There's no additional attachments and no ammo to hunt for. If you want a Grenade Launcher or Shotgun, bring up the map and set a waypoint. The weapons come with a full complement of ammo. Simple.
To be honest though, the weapons are secondary. Rockstar Games called the mode Motor Wars and that's a proper name for the mode. In Battlegrounds, a vehicle is a godsend and more a method of transportation than a weapon. In Motor Wars, they are key. Like the weapons, vehicle positions and types are clearly marked on the map. They range from simple dune buggies, to Mad Max-style cars, and even armored SUVs.
Getting in a vehicle gives you a leg up on anyone without one, and they're not rare. In fact, I'd hazard there's more than enough for every player in a match (4-28 players, split in up to 4 teams). Getting in a vehicle automatically marks you on the map, as vehicles aren't hidden. Unused vehicles are grey on the map and mini-map; once you get in one, they switch to your team's color.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a stealth and survival game. Part of the strategy is making sure that your enemy doesn't know you're coming. Battlefield awareness and sound design, listening to the environment, is a must. This also means that a well-played PUBG match can sometimes be a waiting game. Sitting on a roof, inside of a house, or prone in a field, just biding your time.
While Motor Wars shares the same basic structure, vehicles and the omniscient map change the game immensely. Motor Wars is a free-for-all of carnage of mayhem. The map area shrinks just like PUBG, but it shrinks much, much faster. Everyone's always in vehicles, unless their ride has been destroyed. Teams form roving warbands to destroy the opposition. A few of my deaths were from my own team members plowing through me. Motor Wars is pure, uncut Bayhem to Battlegrounds' Black Hawk Down.
And it's fun. I won't be dropping a ton of hours into it, but I can see other GTA Online faithful getting a kick out if it. Motor Wars isn't a replacement or competitor for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. It wasn't built to steal that game's thunder. It was built to be just close enough that GTA Online's playerbase doesn't need to think about leaving the game. Motor Wars isn't really about drawing in new players, it's about providing enough to keep the current playerbase happy and interested. GTA Online is a playground of variety and for a bit of effort, Rockstar Games can provide something like PUBG to its players.
So we're still waiting for the first real clone or homage to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. I'm looking forward to seeing what form that takes. In the meantime, PUBG is still king of its own fiefdom; it doesn't have to worry about Rockstar invading its lands just yet.