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PUBG - The Tactical Review

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One of the most talked about online games as of late is Player Unknown's Battlegrounds. If you are unfamiliar it is a 100 player battle royale shooter. You leap out of a C-130 transport flying over a large but walkable island style map. You land and begin a hunt for weapons. If you land in a city full of other players (you do control where you jump and land) the first minutes can be a fierce scramble for gear, trying to avoid a machete to the back or a pistol round to the face. If you find a secluded area, you might be tight on supplies, but it gives you a second to breathe. Then the play zone circle appears. It is enforced by an ever shrinking "blue zone". Step into the blue zone and you take damage. From there you loot weapons, ammo, sights, clothes etc as you gradually move closer and closer together until you, your partner (in duo mode), or your team (in 4 man team mode) are dead or become the last ones standing. And with plenty of room for experimentation and insane stunts along the way, it is loads of fun.

"Hold up, that doesn't sound tactical at all!" I hear some of you think. And so far you are right, but there is an underlying layer of tactical gameplay in all of this. You are given a basic set of Arma style tools to work with, most notably a map that you can place markers on, and a compass with bearing numbers on the top of the screen. The game requires you to make important decisions. Where to go, when to fight, what to keep and what to leave. But it isn't really about what you have to work with, but how you use it. The game becomes tactical because of the lack of information and gear you are given. You don't have a fancy drone to see and mark all or hand picked camouflage. You don't have a real choice in weapons aside from deciding to replace a gun with one you found in a building or on a body (there is bullet drop by the way). Fear of the unknown can also play a role. And there are vehicles, C-130 airdrops and areas randomly marked for artillery barrages to throw a wrench your efforts or provide just what you need to make it. 

You have to think, plan and adapt if you are to make it anywhere close to the last man. But don't take too long, because the blue zone will soon overwhelm all but a tiny portion of the map. You can sneak and snipe but your ideal hiding spot will go away eventually, keeping games from slowing to eternal camping sessions and upping the tension.

And there is tension. In one match I made it to the top 10 by sneaking alone. I only came across a shotgun and a pistol the entire time, so I decided to avoid fighting, especially at range. I was fortunate to find a suppressor to attach to the pistol. I found myself lying in a bush in a bowl-like valley. I would be completely exposed if I were to be discovered, and all around me were very well equipped players shooting it out from the ridgelines. As the numbers reduced to 3 including myself I picked one person off with several shots from my hiding spot 30 yards away, remaining undetected. The play area then reduced size again. I had to move. I was in a brief but exhilarating firefight halfway up a ridge. I was killed, but for me it is a shining example of the incredibly immersive and intense scenarios this game is capable of naturally producing.

There are both dedicated third and first person game mode options as well. I love both, but for the sake of tactical realism first person only is the way to go. As for whether to go solo, duo or team, I prefer team for a Wildlands-style setup and the greatest chance for teamwork.

In closing, I think that this game is a great mashup of genres and is worth a look, even if only on youtube. While it is not a hardcore tactical simulator it has the distilled systems found in Arma, the nice smooth controls of a modern shooter and the vehicle, weapon and gear options to allow for amazing creativity. The game is easy to learn and hard to master, and I feel that it has some of Ghost Recon's special sauce from both new and old titles. In terms of popularity alone this game will lead to more similar games to come. With millions of active players, and lots of online presence, I feel the game certainly has the attention of many developers who will want to expand the concepts PUBG brings. Or maybe someone will want to make the most of this momentum and expand an existing game. Perhaps a developer with an already successful franchise release known for small team based tactical gameplay, diverse maps and attention to authenticity where it matters.

Now who could that be?

Edited by Proximity_13
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