PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was born on the servers of Arma 2. Design lead Brendan Greene (the titular PlayerUnknown) created a Battle Royale mode for Bohemia's moddable military sim that resonated strongly with the community, and now he's working with Bluehole Studio to realise that vision in standalone form. It's a game that follows hot on the heels of another survival-infused arena battler, thus it has arrived with competition already in place. On top of that, for an Early Access title it also comes with a pretty hefty pricetag, one that's certainly steep enough to put off a number of potential customers, even more so when you consider that it's still very early days for the project and there's a lot of unpolished elements. Having said all that, it's already proving very popular over on Steam, and with good reason.
After having recently played another Early Access release set in the same genre, namely The Culling, we have to admit that we weren't overly excited about getting our hands on PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. There are certain games that, while they benefit somewhat from public testing, it's disappointing that their impact is diluted, spread out to include months where the game is nowhere near as polished as it one day will be. That's true for The Culling as much as it for Battlegrounds; the buzz surrounding these games can wash over them like a tidal wave, but they're just not polished nor balanced enough during this initial launch, and their moment in the spotlight is almost wasted on a scrappy, work-in-progress build.
However, in these days where paying players are taking on the role of beta testers, we're starting to get used to the practice. And in particular, the huge community that supports these open-world survival games, from DayZ to Conan Exiles via everything in-between, is, more than any other group of gamers, used to playing through the pain and enduring buggy and unrefined experiences as they chug through early access in its various forms. In that sense, their dedication is admirable.
It was with this in mind that we sat down to play Battlegrounds, a game with an oh-so-simple premise: kill or be killed. Based on the same themes as the movie Battle Royale, nearly 100 players are dropped into a massive island and are tasked with nothing more than murderous survival. It's not an original concept, granted, yet the devs have still managed to keep things feeling fresh thanks to some clever features.
The action starts in the air, aboard a plane, flying over a spacious island. You get to pick your moment to parachute down to the ground floor, and it's quite a sight to see your future enemies gliding down to the surface all around you, each person knowing that following the fall, everyone will be trying to kill everyone else. It's very much the quiet before the storm, a serene moment before the killing commences.