There I was, alone in an abandoned house, trying to figure out how to reload a gun. That sounds like a rookie mistake, and believe me I felt foolish, but this was the first time I've ever played PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) with a controller, and my first time playing on its new Xbox One "Game Preview" release.
Game Preview is essentially Microsoft's own version of Steam Early Access. PUBG is one of a few other games, joining titles like We Happy Few and Gwent, for the relatively new system. Turns out, the shift to the new platform had even more bumps than even I anticipated. The first of which: its kinda wonky (but easy to get used to over time) controls.
This is honestly the opposite of how I expected to feel playing PUBG on console. I'm not typically a mouse and keyboard type of gal. I like controllers—the DualShock 4 is probably my favorite—and I like playing games on my television with ease. (Yes, I know that SteamLink exists.) I don't have a great PC setup. If you've seen me on our streams, you'll know that my PC is stuffed in the corner of my dining room, with an obtuse bike rack dangling over my head at all times. (If there were an earthquake, I'd probably die along with my PC.) I'm generally averse to most mouse and keyboard shooters. Then PUBG came along.
PUBG really clicked with me this year, even with its preferred mouse and keyboard settings. The shooting isn't the greatest or even the most satisfying aspect of the Early Access title. Instead, it's a game that throws me continuously into tense, panicked situations. But where I once was bad at keeping my composure in strenuous game situations, PUBG eventually trained me over time not to be. My once-sloppy aim grew true. I got "good" at PUBG, and all the surprising scenarios it would throw at me.
In the Xbox One edition of PUBG, I initially felt reduced to the amateur I was back when I first picked up the game in April of this year. I felt similarly playing the new map Miramar on PC last week, which won't hit Xbox One right away. (The PC version will be ahead in terms of updates.) Microsoft has labeled the new console control scheme as "innovative," according to a blog post on the matter.
It's not as seamless as the PC version, and I'd honestly be surprised if it was. There are inevitably some rough compromises, like for instance players obviously can't hit Tab and easily right-click all the items they want for their inventories. To solve that matter specifically, players can now hit the Menu button and then X to pick up items. It's a far slower process, so slow that I think I'll stick to hitting X as I walk over things, which is sort of arduous when I only want certain items, even if quicker than toggling through its menu. As with all of gaming history's more obtuse control schemes, I got used to PUBG's after just a couple matches. It's the sorta sacrifice I accept from a former PC-centric game, and once I wrapped my head around it, it wasn't too much of a problem.
The Xbox One edition is more polished than the game was back during its soft launch earlier this year. The refreshed UI is nearly the same as it is in the test servers, vaulting has made its way to consoles officially, and the inventory screens are different too. But with the Xbox One edition so far is only the same aesthetically-inconsistent map we've known for months now: Erangel.
Yet it's not all shiny new UI and vaulting. The Xbox One still-Early Access port definitely has glaring rough edges to it. Sometimes controls aren't responsive for me, but only on the start menu before I jump into an actual game. My coworker Mike Williams, who has been playing on an Xbox One X, said that sometimes controls extend to not being responsive for him in-game too, where he has to press a button twice or more to get it to work. (For the record, I'm playing on an Xbox One S.)
Its attempted frame rate of 30fps is consistently unsteady, primarily in the lobby area or when initially parachuting into a match, where it chugs along and the environment takes awhile to pop into existence. Other times, like when my character is sprinting through fields, the world can't seem to keep up with me as trees and bushes stutter ahead. Sometimes textures won't even full load, though I've only seen this so far in the lobby area as the 60 second counter ticks down.
But when the game's performance really counts, it works just fine. Such as when I'm hiding in the corner of a room where I can hear a window smash indicating someone jumped inside, or I'm waltzing into a firefight with my gun drawn, none of these issues halted me. I also never encountered any server issues, game crashes, or getting dropped from a match in the hours I've played thus far. I successfully got kills, made it to the top three one round (and top 10 or 20 a few other times). Where the performance of PUBG absolutely matters most, its inherent frame rate issues luckily never hindered that.
Overall, the Xbox One Game Preview edition of PUBG is still in the rough, growing-pains stages, just as any game preview. But it's still playable. I still very nearly got a chicken dinner just in a morning of playing it. For players who aren't able to afford a nifty PC, the Xbox One version is a fine playable option. (Just be mindful of the big "Game Preview" that's slapped in front of the name.) Here's to hoping the port's rougher edges of frame rate inconsistency are fixed sooner rather than later. In the meantime, version 1.0 for PC launches on December 20th, new desert map in tow.