PlayerUnknown‘s Battlegrounds is amazingly fun and offers an exciting experience every time you play. But how is it so good? One little sentence from PlayerUnknown himself makes it clear. We take a look in this critical video.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a giant battle royale game that’s simple in concept and exciting in execution, asking one hundred players to fight until there is only one remaining. Trying to figure out exactly why I love Battlegrounds isn’t easy. Do I love it for the punchy rifles and sudden gunfights? Do I love it for the strangely quiet countrysides and ruins? I couldn’t put my finger on it until I met the man behind the game, Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene, at this year’s E3. Talking about Battlegrounds and swapping stories, he told me a simple truth about the game that I’d never realised: There is no wrong way to win.
We often talk about how you “win” a game. In Mario Kart, you win the race. In Civilization, you build the world’s most powerful nation. In Final Fantasy, you defeat the last boss. All of these games have well-defined rules that dictate how their goals are achieved. You can’t go backwards on a Mario Kart track if you want to win; it is literally the wrong way. In Battlegrounds, anything and everything is on the table. You can rush around and try to get the most kills, you can camp in a building for 20 minutes and hide for most of the match, and if you’re lucky, you might not ever have to fire your gun at all. A win is a win. All routes are valid.
While there is a requirement for a Battlegrounds match to end — the death of all players — there is no right or wrong way for this to come about. If a sufficiently charming player managed to talk every else into leaping off a cliff, that’s just as valid as the lone wolf sniper who headshots everyone. Battlegrounds‘ greatest strength is its lack of rules and the freedom it offers players in winning a match.
Battlegrounds makes suggestions rather than demands. It places weapons and armour in nearly every house with the implicit suggestion that you take them, but it never requires you to pick up anything. It shrinks the play space with an electric field that will eventually kill you, but it never stops you from running outside of it. The only limitations it offers are the size of the map and the things contained within. You can’t win a game of Battlegrounds using a flamethrower because it doesn’t exist in the game, but there’s nothing stopping you from picking up a frying pan as your only means of defence.
Battlegrounds‘ hands off approach allows for a variety of different players to carve out their own strategies and playstyles, from smooth would-be military operators to wild duos rushing around causing as much chaos as possible. Each victory, and the war story a player tells getting to it, is unique. The destination is fixed, but there are countless paths to explore and new experiences to discover.
Many competitive games develop a meta-game based on the relative strength of certain items or characters. In Overwatch, a team composition of characters that can “dive” quickly to attack enemies or reach objectives is very popular at the moment. In Hearthstone, a deck called Quest Rogue dominated the game until it was finally nerfed this week. Battlegrounds lacks a well defined meta-game, and it’s far better for it. There’s no pressure to conform to a standard. Even though each match of Battlegrounds is heart-pounding, you never have to worry about whether or not you played correctly.