PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, with 10 million copies sold so far, is one of the biggest video game releases of the year. The fact that Microsoft managed to score publishing rights for the console release on the Xbox One is a big coup. So how does the PC game translate for consoles? I recently got a chance to play PUBG with an Xbox One controller against PC players. While I didn't get any Chicken Dinners, I have some thoughts about the new control scheme and what it might mean for cross-platform play.
Just to be clear, Microsoft didn't confirm cross-platform for PUBG, but given Microsoft's hard push for the feature, Brendan Green's enthusiasm for it, and the fact that keyboard and mouse controls are heavily rumored for the Xbox One, I think it's worth investigating.
Even if cross-platform functionality never comes out, PUBG is one of the most popular PC games currently available and soon console-only players will get a chance to experience the carnage. And that's primarily who this preview is for. Since Xbox One controller support has only been available for the PC version of the game for about a month, you might be a console player who's been hearing about PUBG for months but haven't played it. So if you're looking forward to playing it with a controller this preview is for you.
Likewise, during my playtime with PUBG at an Xbox One X preview event I was told that I was playing against PC players so maybe you're interested in reading about what a potential match might look like between a mouse-and-keyboard player and a controller user?
The answer isn't as dramatic as you might think.
So, PUBG on an Xbox One controller how did it feel? It felt like how a third-person shooter might feel on a controller but with the exception of maybe having just barely enough buttons for all the possible actions.
Running and firing controls were all par for the course with the left and right triggers pulling up aim and fire respectively, and character movement and camera movement dictated by the two control sticks. The D-Pad let me cycle through the various weapons and items I picked up, while the option button brought up a map.The left bumper let me switch to first person mode and the right bumper let me cycle through the camera perspective. Oh and of course there were the lettered buttons of which Y let me reload, B let me crouch, A let me jump, and X let me interact with weapons and items. That also doesn't mention that clicking the control sticks let me lean and sprint.
It's a pretty standard control scheme, but PUBG is a game that requires a lot of input and it took a while to memorize the Xbox One controller's setup. Some mishaps happened along the way of course like in the initial stages of the game where players are aboard a large carrier airplane and must choose when to parachute out onto the murder island. On the plane, I pulled up my map to flag a suitable location to jump to, however no matter which buttons I pressed, none of them seemed to let me set a waypoint on my map. Then I accidentally pressed the X button and out I went without a location to go to.
I'm not saying the controllers are confusing, but it did feel a little cluttered at times. I'm sure when I spend more time with it, the inputs will become like second nature. But I did find myself fumbling with my weapons at key moments of my first game, and when split second decisions determine life-or-death, chicken dinners or hunger, there's no room for mistakes. Especially mistakes like accidentally cycling to a pistol when you wanted the smg and getting shot dead while flipping through weapons. I placed 63rd that round.
The next game was a lot faster but that's because I made the mistake of jumping into a car. I again accidentally pressed the wrong button but this time while driving at high speeds, jumping out and injuring myself. A nearby player picked me off and I placed 82nd that time.
PUBG is a high-stakes, relatively fast game. 100 players jump from a plane and land on a massive island level. Armed with nothing at first, players must scavenge the island looking for weapons and armor, while trying to fend off attacks from any potential enemies. Then there's the blue circle which starts shrinking, killing any unfortunate soul that spends too long outside of its boundaries. The circle will continue to shrink and players will continue to die until you're the last one standing. Pretty simple right?
The beauty of PUBG lies in the fact that victory is determined by two factors: luck and skill. While controllers won't determine the former factor, the latter can be affected by what you use to play, or at least it could. During my time at the preview event I happened to watch one incredibly tall San Francisco-based games journalist make it to rank 2 before getting cornered and killed in the game's final stretches. So really, you can win using a controller though I personally never got far enough to see if it all came down to mouse and keyboard vs. gamepad that determined who would ultimately win a chicken dinner.
Still, I don't think it would be the end of the world if Microsoft and Blue Hole decided to let Xbox One PUBG players and PC players fight it out against one another, especially in a game as determined by luck as much as it is skill. While it's probably fair to say that at towards the end game the great equalizer is skill, the Xbox One controller won't necessarily determine the victor. Especially if Blue Hole is looking into ways that might overcome the differences between mouse-and-keyboard and gamepad controls like they say they are.
As one of the hottest games of the year, and the Xbox's big exclusive (rumors are that it will be timed or in a limited capacity), PUBG might be the perfect petri dish to test competitive cross-platform play. Personally, I think it's a functionality worth pursuing for the both of them.