This week, a limited amount of players can test the latest map in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, codenamed "Savage." This map is significantly smaller than the game's other two maps. The resulting action provides a breath of fresh air, kicking Battlegrounds' usually deliberate pacing into something much more frantic.
Savage is a tropical island that gives the entire match a sort of Far Cry 3 Battle Royale vibe. The lush greens and bright sun offer a much more vibrant look than the deep greens of the mountainous Erangel or stone-bleached desert map of Miramar.
Most importantly, the map is much smaller. The first two mapes exist on an 8x8 grid that take up a large amount of space, but Savage is only 4x4, with a higher concentration of buildings and interesting drop points that turn the early phase of a match into a bloodbath.
That's both a good and a bad thing at the moment. Dropping into any location, even somewhere you might think is safe and remote, could involve at least one or two enemies. In the hottest spots, like the map's large abandoned resort or the military Bootcamp Charlie, dozens more players start matches bloodier than you usually see in Battlegrounds.
The loot table of Savage seems to favour rifles, packing drop points with rapid fire weapons meant to cull the herd swiftly. Surviving these drops can be difficult. Although I did great in some practice matches, when I streamed the game on YouTube I still had plenty of moments where I died fast, ignominious deaths right at the start. But if you play aggressively, you're in for one of the most satisfying mid-games of any PUBG match.
Savage is littered with small collections of houses and huts that hold copious amounts of loot. After the first handful of players are eliminated, it becomes crucial to shift your position constantly to ensure a stream of supplies to keep up with the many gunfights you'll have.
You encounter players far more often on Savage, and while you can flee to the hills for a time, everyone is close enough together that you'll never find a moment as quiet as hiding in a tree glen on Erangel or hiking through a mountain of Miramar.
Instead, the match moves from fight to fight with a refreshing rapidity. The only downside is the bomb-dropping red zones, which feel wasted on the smaller map.
This is a map where the circle really starts to matter as things wind down. Surviving into the last 15 shouldn't be tricky for anyone with good game sense, but the circle's encroachment really changes engagements.
On other maps, you could hide on the slower side of the circle for a time, easing into the safe area. On Savage, you are constantly running to get to the edge of the damaging blue energy field. The map's size all but ensures that the last few fights are up close and personal far sooner than players might be used to.
It's terrifying and ultimately a good change of pace that tests players' moment to moment tactics far more than their ability to play the long game. Some people might not enjoy that, but I get the sense that players underwhelmed by the game's recent event modes will find the liveliness they want on Savage.