The desert. Unanimously voted "the place nobody really wants to be" every year since the beginning of time, it might seem like an odd spot for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' second-ever map. Despite the oppressive conditions, however, the map is a breath of fresh air.
The map, called Miramar, is more than just a reskin of PUBG's first map Erangel. As soon as I parachuted into my first match, I immediately noticed just how varied the terrain was. Far from being an undifferentiated sea of sand, that most loathsome of minerals, the map is an endless procession of gradual slopes and arching hills.
My first two deaths came from opponents with high ground advantages and my third came because somebody used my high ground advantage against me, finding a blind spot below me and then sneaking around behind my rocky cover.
This being a desert, there's also far less foliage than I'm used to working with. If somebody gets the drop on me on Erangel, I can just go prone in the grass or dart behind a nearby tree, get my bearings, guzzle an energy drink and go to town. On Miramar, you tend to be much more exposed while manoeuvring.
With those pesky slopes and hills in the equation, you can probably guess where this is going: death from above, and plenty of it. Seemingly unfair deaths are hardly uncommon in PUBG, but I definitely ground my teeth a bit as the kill cam kept revealing that, yep, somebody once again spilled all my energy-drink-infused blood by poking holes in my head from on high.
But where there's raised terrain, there are also opportunities to block line of sight or find a high ground of your own. Structures of all shapes and sizes also dot the landscape to a greater extent than on Erangel, providing fun new hidey holes for those who can't hack it on the open road.
More structures, however, also mean more loot. That's good for when you're gearing up, but bad for moments of forced confrontation.
In my experience so far, close-quarters encounters are rarer on this map, for better or — if we're talking about my chances of survival — worse. If you're the type of player who likes to prepare and feast on hapless saps as an appetiser before your chicken dinner, you'll feel right at home here. If you're a more spontaneous player like I am, you might feel out of sorts at first.
It's a different rhythm of play than I'm used to, but on the whole, I think that's a good thing. PUBG's developers could've remixed the first map a bit, slapped a new coat of paint on it, and called it a day.
Instead, they created an environment that feels different, that's forcing players like me to learn the game all over again. We've collectively spent millions of years on Erangel. In that sense, the desert is a natural pick for the game's second map: It's about time we feel uncomfortable again.