The Glory of PUBG's New Muscle Car

The Glory of PUBG's New Muscle Car

Update 12's new Mirado vehicle is indicative of the future of PUBG: a game with more character.

I've always admired PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) for its lack of personality. Your plain-looking character spends the game spotting threats behind the rocks, trees, and window frames of a mundane world. A PUBG house is just a house, not a Fortnite-style bouncy castle. It has no style. But when you hole up in one at the end of a match—shattering the front door with bullets, underhanding a frag through glass, straining to pinpoint footsteps on earth or wood—it becomes your fortress. Your one life is a string of moments like these: elemental tests of aim, hearing, vision, and judgment that grow into a story. If the game’s world had more of an identity, it would get in the way of yours.

That's what I used to think, anyway. But online games, like people, get idiosyncratic as they age. See PUBG's PC Update 12, a bold revision that rebalances nearly all weapons, adds map selection, restricts the best helmets to crate drops, dumps a bag of new gun attachments on every bare floor, and crams Brutalist buildings into shanty towns across the Miramar map. It also makes a dramatic addition to the game's modest garage of Soviet junkers and dusty trucks: a muscle car that thunders down the highway with an engine as loud as God screaming.

The car, the Mirado, has fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror and too much character for the game it’s in. Its electric blue paint job stands out from the muted landscape like googly eyes on an M16. It is so deafening that players on other servers will hear you driving it. And let me tell you something: I love this stupid ass car.

The first time I handbraked the Mirado to a stop just in front of a friend—not drifting onward and killing him, as I have often done—his sense of awe was palpable. The Mirado does not resemble PUBG's workhorse automobiles. Its cream upholstery is barely torn. It's crammed with bright, nonfunctional details: headlight toggles, a chunky wiper switch, an odometer that never ticks past 177,792.9 miles. Miramar is PUBG’s roadtrip map, and here, finally, is a car built to grip the undulating blacktop past Puerto Paraiso, to hang in the air as it vaults the rim of La Bendita, to barrel down desert straightaways like the V8 Interceptor in Mad Max. Another squad blew us up before we could do any of that, but this was not the car's fault.

A fast car comes in handy after Update 12, which spreads the action out across Miramar. The patch makes more guns worth picking up (it buffs short-range weapons and designated marksman rifles, besides introducing the punchy SLR) and adds more places in Miramar to get them. (Drab concrete buildings, known for their supposedly high-end loot tables, have been dropped into barren areas like the stretch north of the Power Grid.) In theory, players will choose to start in more remote spots instead of dying almost instantly in a Los Leones bloodbath. Making endgame armor crate-only means more fights in random drop locations, encouraging movement outside of cities. A cartoon badge of a level 3 helmet on the Mirado's dash suggests that chasing crates is its calling.

At some point, my interest in the car led to a terrible idea: once I'd found a Mirado, I would not get out for the rest of the game. I've won around 40 games of PUBG the normal way, and experience has taught me that every player has some chance to win, no matter how stupidly they play the game. Unfortunately, the path I chose led not to glory but great hardship.

My scribbled notes tell a bleak story:

  • Drove through Pecado and heard shots in desert. Tried to run down player in hills; he hid behind tree. Second, distant player shot me many times until death. Believe tremendous volume of engine possible impediment to my goals.
  • Seized the high ground above Minas Generales, occupying entire northern pass with car. No one came to see this ingenious ambush. Died driving downhill to safe zone with 13 alive.
  • Noticed the double doors on churches have been removed. Bashed car against door frame many times in fruitless attempt to enter. Headed to new safe zone with smoking hood. Turned head to watch enemy; drove full speed into shed and exploded. Probably most satisfying Mirado game.
  • Opted for stealth with 30 alive. Parked Mirado in valley near Tierra Bronca and sat in idling car. Shot fatally with SKS within one minute. Patch notes say gun now does increased damage to heads like mine.
  • Landed on southern island and immediately found car. Struggled to hear self being shot to death over sound of engine.
  • Killed man upon landing to claim ultimate prize. Bulbous 6x scope on floor. Texture glitch gave scope nude, albino appearance. Found Mirado and chased man into shed. Landed headshot from passenger seat but could not kill. Sniped out of car mid-battle by third player on hill nearby.
  • Flipped hardtop Mirado on back like dying turtle in desert sun. Rules of challenge make this chassis my tomb. Watched upside-down as free players ran to waiting supply crate. Top 10 finish.

My enthusiasm for the Mirado survived this experiment, but it made the vehicle's limitations clear. It excels on the highway and flounders off-road. (This makes things tough later on, unless you plan to cruise up and down the tiny strip of asphalt remaining in an endgame circle.) It tips easily. Not slowly, with the inevitability of a listing van, but suddenly: it rears up on its hind wheels and then dives forward to spin on its nose, a maneuver found nowhere in nature but familiar to all PUBG drivers. If you're very good at the game, you can also make the Mirado do this:

The car accelerates lazily, which means that after it decides to come to a dead halt on contact with a small knob of earth or invisible stone, it takes its time to pick itself up. These obstacles are more common after Update 12, which adds extra trees and rocks for players to hide behind and Mirados to crash into. It's hard to run anyone over (much harder, I feel, than on the original map, Erangel) and easy to beach your lurching car in a helpless position. Miramar is motorcycle country, and they deal with the changes better than the Mirado: they can zip around new cacti, peel out after a full stop, and stick landings on lumpy terrain using air controls.

Getting into a Mirado, then, is like picking up the crossbow lying on the floor next to a SCAR-L. It's a choice you make knowing that it isn't smart. It's something you do to improve the story of your game, not your chances to win.

I can't imagine passing up a Mirado by the side of the road, even when it promises only a shatteringly loud trip that ends with me upside down in a ditch. But I wonder if it fits the original substance-over-style ethos of PUBG. It feels a little like the banana-yellow tracksuits and gold-plated AKs that have crept their way in—attention-grabbing additions that have become increasingly garish as they pile up over the foundations of the game. For now, it’s impossible to dislike the new sedan that's blasting hip-hop classics across Miramar. But if they introduce a monster truck later on, I will mark May as the beginning of the end.

Update 12 seems designed to strengthen the game in a way that is, apart from the Mirado, not flashy at all. Ancient gripes about reloading animations and clothing spawns have been resolved. New attachments, scopes, and reticles allow a degree of customization that approaches parody. The well-publicized gun rebalance will take time to shake out, but the identities of the game's only really expressive characters—the M4, SCAR-L, Kar98k, and the rest—remain distinct.

The only sour note in one of the game's strongest updates, I think, is its heavy-handed alteration of the Miramar map. When Miramar rolled out in December, the concept was clear: wide open spaces, less cover, and fewer houses outside of dense urban areas where the fighting was the thickest. In Erangel, you die crossing bridges; in Miramar, you die driving through cities. In Erangel, you want to challenge other groups to claim a building in the center of a late zone. In Miramar, you play the edge, because the buildings are lousy and usually neighbored by hills.

Many players do not love these changes, and remain loyal to original formula PUBG. Miramar has been continually tweaked to appease them. Some revisions, like carving new dirt roads through the backcountry, were welcome. Others, like removing a stack of oversized poker chips you used to be able to hide behind in the Pecado casino, were just annoying. Patch after patch targeted pain points by adding more towns and vehicles to the map, nudging its pace and layout toward something more like Erangel's.

Over time, Miramar got lost in the edit. Its wide open spaces have been overstuffed with copy-pasted concrete buildings that were already too ubiquitous pre-update. The dense urban areas have been thinned. Update 12's "Have It Your Way" philosophy is all good when it comes to map selection or vertical sensitivity sliders, but when applied to Miramar's layout it results in a patchwork of hasty fixes. There was enough redundancy already: adding more same-y compounds diminishes the importance of singular destinations like Pecado or the Prison.

Miramar is a more comfortable map now that towns and cover have been applied liberally to its originally uncompromising landscape. But it feels less like a distinct idea and more like a sop to the people who post ASCII demands below each dev blog. As much as I like the Mirado on live servers, I imagine the best road trips would be on early versions of the map: less concrete, longer sight lines, more blue skies. And fewer goddamn rocks.

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