You can always count on a healthy field of grass to save your ass in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Or at least you used to. In Miramar, your ass is left to the sandy wind and some cacti, and a bullet to maybe graze it.
Miramar is the second map coming to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), the Battle Royale-inspired 100-player multiplayer game. It's the first new map arriving to the game since its initial Early Access launch in March of this year. Some may argue the addition of a new map will taint the purity of PUBG's single-map experience, something some MOBAs like Dota 2 have thrived on for years.
I was in that worried camp. Even if I'd take weeks away from PUBG, returning to the cluttered, forested map of Erangel was often like returning home. I knew the ins and outs of every building; I knew the risky zones versus the less risky ones. I mastered the art of patience and hiding in bathrooms, and also when taking a chance on a shot would net me that extra kill. I was worried that by adding an additional map—with more to come down the road—would sully that muscle memory-like experience. That was, I was worried until I dove into the PUBG Test Server late last night and early this morning.
Immediately, I was greeted with new music, a new menu, and new UI. The lobby screen looked brighter and fresher, the result of taking players out of the drab room from the game's usual lobby screen. The generic music's been swapped for something new, and also very boilerplate, but it's new so it's a tad more welcoming. After getting my bearings around the new menu, I hopped into a solo match of PUBG with nothing but my usual knowledge at my side. Little did I know, I found out that wouldn't help me here in the new "desert" map.
PUBG feels terrifying again. I feel like a newborn puppy, anxious over the slightest sound; confused about my surroundings at all times. Miramar feels pointedly unfamiliar. With the recent inclusion of vaulting, which was on a prior test server too, the game feels like it's starting to reach its full potential. It's starting to feel like the big version 1.0 that will be swapped in on December 20th.
The expectations and strategies that have become engrained in my head over the too many hours I've spent with PUBG this year feel like they've been cast aside in this new update. No longer are conspicuously open doors a sole inclination to a person's presence inside of a house. No longer are doors opening a signal of someone entering either, as I learned the hard way when someone hopped through a window to get the jump on myself and my duo partner. (And as I saw in PUBG's new excellent Kill Cam functionality, we totally could have prevented this player getting the drop on us.) Everything I've come to expect from a round of PUBG now feels like a lie.
When vaulting first entered servers, I didn't find that it changed much about the core game. I could climb over small fences instead of clunkily crouch jumping and hop out windows, but here on the sandy hills of Miramar, the map was seemingly built with vaulting specifically in mind. It's vast and open with plenty of spaces to leap through. It feels different from the frequently enclosed spaces with one or two points of entry only from Erangel, whether they're guarded by walls or trees. In Miramar, you're unsheltered, alone, and consequently somehow more terrified from that first time you booted up the far rougher PUBG long ago.
When PUBG first announced that new maps were on the way, I wondered how far they'd go; if the maps would feel like just a reskin of the familiar Erangel or not. Miramar, luckily, has busted through that expectation. Its cities are taller and more open. Windows feel dubiously placed to bait players hopping through them, whether a sawed-off shotgun (one of the new weapons in the game) awaits them or not.
As a Test Server, the practice round for what will be in version 1.0 isn't perfect yet. The game crashed on me once. The game frequently stuttered or had textures that wouldn't load. There's some work to go until Miramar is smoothly as Erangel, but in the meantime, this is an exciting first step into new territory. It shows that the PUBG formula doesn't have to be bent on vast spaces and repetitive post-apocalyptic houses; it can work just as well in vertically-inclined abandoned cities, or in long stretches of emptiness with hardly a cactus or rock to hunker down by. It can work in environments that are admittedly more interesting from an art direction perspective (rather than the hodgepodge of assets in Erangel).
There's a new kind of fear bustling in Miramar, and it's of the pure unknown. The unknown of throwing all the strategies you've mastered to the wind, and trying something new for a change—whether you live to see that chicken dinner or not.