Survival games are probably the hottest gaming genre presently. And I get it, being more or less dropped onto a dangerous island or some other hostile territory, and having to quickly scavenge for weapons and survival equipment in order to fend off other survivalists, can be quite an adrenaline rush.
Most of the more popular survival gamers on the market right now contain some sort of crafting system, which adds a fun wrinkle of interactivity with regards to whatever environment your character finds themselves in. If you just so happen to come across some valuable crafting materials, being able to build something that can help you in your survival efforts is almost a mini-game within itself.
In this regard, crafting-heavy games such as Rust, Day Z, and Conan: Exiles have been dominating the gaming charts (such as TwitchTV’s) as of late. But there have been some chinks exposed in each game’s armor as of late. Rust is an indie survival powerhouse of a game that mainly focuses on PvP combat. I personally dumped many hours into Rust, but eventually it began to feel as though I was becoming a masochist.
By many accounts, Rust’s player community is the most toxic out of all of the survival games out right now. Kill-on-sight is synonymous with Rust, and encountering random strangers in a typical Rust server usually ended up with me being attacked outright, with no banter beforehand using the game’s built-in communications system. Day Z, on the other hand, pretty much seems to have been abandoned by its developers. Meanwhile, upstart survival offering Conan: Exiles, although popular, released without many of its key features. To me, it seems like a half-baked survival game that, although it gets Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian vibe down, it definitely could have used a lot more time in development.
Interestingly, as mainline survival games seem to be finally ebbing a bit, a new genre is emerging. Dubbed the “battle royale” subgenre, this newer breed of survival games strip away or minimize some of the more traditional staples of mainline survival games. For instance, two of the more popular battle royale titles out right now, H1Z1: King of the Kill and the Battle Royale mod for Arma 3, utilize paired down crafting systems and focus more on things such as making medical supplies or weapon parts.
Well, the newest (and frankly most exciting) entry into the blossoming battle royale subgenre is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. One of the first things that I noticed about Battlegrounds is that it eschews crafting altogether, allowing you to focus on more important things such as searching for and procuring valuable weapons and survival equipment, locate vehicles, and killing your enemies.
Thankfully, a lot of the inventory management that you’ll be doing in Battlegrounds will be modifying any one of the many firearms that the game features. I was pleasantly surprised to see not only a wide variety of assault rifles such as M16’s, M4’s, AKM’s, and the like, but also many types submachineguns and pistols as well. And for those of you gamers out there that enjoy using melee weapons, you’ll have plenty of those to play with as well, including tire irons, machetes, and even heavy, cast iron frying pans.
Like the other battle royale games on the market right now, you begin each match by being dropped down onto the map via parachute. The difference with Battlegrounds, however, is that you start matches within the bay of a large cargo plane, along with all of the other battle royale contestants. The plane gradually flies over the gigantic 4 X 4 km. map, which allows players to jump out and parachute down over any areas of their choosing.
This offers an interesting strategic layer that games such as H1Z1: King of the Kill and the Arma 3 mod don’t have, since you can either choose to drop down to larger clusters of buildings, which contain more weapons and pieces of survival equipment, or out into the countryside. If you drop down into a high value areas, you’ll most assuredly have lots of company since many of the other players will probably do so as well, which can lead to more immediate conflict. On the other hand, dropping down into say a forest for example, can allow you to stay better concealed while the other players kill each other off. This in turn can allow you to strike more clandestinely, albeit usually with less firepower. An interesting choice to consider, indeed.
Game mechanics-wise, Battlegrounds features a pretty solid hit detection system. I’ve even shot someone in the head with my rifle, only to knock their helmet right off their head because of its protection value vs. my bullet caliber. The weapons in the game also feel weighty and substantial, rather than airy and floaty as they do in other shooter-focused games. Finally, all of Battlegrounds’ vehicles respond well to steering controls, although I’d recommend using a gaming pad rather than a mouse and keyboard set-up while driving.
There are a host of gameplay elements that make Battlegrounds stand out from other survival games as well. For instance, you can both access and tinker around with your inventory, as well as look at your map while on the move, rather than having to stop in your tracks to do either. Another nice touch is that when you pick up certain items such as articles of clothing or helmets, you automatically don them instead of just placing them into your inventory. This eliminates that extra step of having to go into your inventory, locate the item, and then click on it to put it on. However, when it comes to weapon attachments, you still have to attach them from your inventory management screen, which makes sense.
When it comes to visuals, Battlegrounds looks spectacular on my gaming laptop (w/ 1070 video card). The character models are highly-detailed, as are the weapons and vehicles graphics. I also liked that the developers included random storms in some of the matches, making it more difficult to hear incoming enemies because of the crackling lighting, rolling thunder, and pouring rain sounds.
Battlegrounds features solo play, 2-person teams, or my favorite, a full 4 person squad mode. There’s nothing like trying to decide where you want to land with others, as well as coordinating attacks, ambushes, and other tactical considerations.
In all, Battlegrounds is one of the most fun survival shooter games that I’ve played in quite some time. It features excellent and solid gunplay elements, exceptional graphics, and that elusive X-factor that comes with not knowing how each match is going to unfold. And even though it’s still in its Alpha phase, it looks set to take over the ever-growing battle royale scene.