While PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is far from the first Battle Royale game to exist, its early access release on PC during the first quarter of 2017 unquestionably kick-started a resurgence of the genre. Ever since then, myriad developers have been keen to introduce a bunch of different takes on this type of survival and last-man-standing gameplay. For example, Activision and Treyarch brought Blackout to Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Red Dead Online introduced its own unique Battle Royale game mode called “Make It Count”, and of course, Epic Games found massive success in turning Fortnite‘s Battle Royale into a free-to-play phenomenon. Now, with PUBG‘s arrival on PlayStation 4 having occurred nearly two years after its introduction to the masses, it begs the question of whether or not the game is actually a necessity for Battle Royale fans on PS4, or a perfunctory shooter that made its leap onto the Sony console far too late.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds offers the chance to explore and scrap through the three gigantic maps of Miramar, Erangel, and Sanhok–with Vikendi having just recently entered the Public Test Server to boot. One’s tasked with scrounging for consumables, armor, and weapons to survive matches populated with up to 100 players, as a storm circle slowly encroaches and forces those still alive to duke it out in tense, ever-closer firefights. This can be done as a Solo endeavor, or in Duos and 4-person Squads, but the goal essentially remains the same no matter the size of the team, and that is to be the only survivor(s) at the end of the match.
With the video game landscape currently littered with a wide variety of Battle Royale titles, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds should be recognized as a more specialized and concentrated approach to the genre, as its heart lies primarily in the tactical-shooter domain. The PS4 version reflects this in more ways than one by retaining practically all of the main elements found in the game’s PC, Xbox One, and mobile iterations. However, the complete experience and presentation of PUBG on the Sony console can often be hit or miss.
Sure, the core gameplay serves up a decent portion of enjoyability for those who simply want to dive in and do battle against others, as patience and persistence with figuring out the mechanics of PUBG on PS4 typically results in a more satisfying time each go-round. That said, the decisions behind specific control scheme choices for the DualShock 4 seem odd, and periodically makes for a needlessly steep learning curve. This is particularly evident in scenarios such as a tap of the Square button picking up and equipping items in the field, but needing to be held down in order to reload. Furthermore, holding L2 causes one to aim in third-person, while tapping that trigger will give players a first-person iron sights view, which is incredibly difficult to adapt to, much less master. Therefore, it’s highly recommended to give Training Mode a try first before playing an actual match.
Aside from the haphazard messiness of the controls, one major asset of PUBG on PS4 is the dependable and realistic quality of the shooting itself, as it generally feels solid no matter which of the wealth of different guns and weapon modifications players wield. Nevertheless, basic movement and evasive maneuvers–especially when in vehicles–can occasionally be unreliable and ineffective, with the floaty feel of jumping being among the worst offenders. Naturally, this hampers the inherently pleasurable nature of getting to use the actual firing mechanics when a firefight does break out. Plus, accessing menus on the fly is incredibly unintuitive, with the poor quality of their designs and layouts often prompting confusion and frustration. With this being the case, the PlayStation 4 iteration of the title doesn’t offer too much incentive for players to stick around for more than a few matches at a time, thus hindering its overall replay value.
When it comes to the technical aspects of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on PS4, those looking for an experience rich in graphical and sonic fidelity will walk away sorely disappointed. It must be noted, though, that unlike the way in which the title released through Xbox Game Preview about a year ago, PUBG on PS4 is at the very least stable, despite the sporadic environment bugs and avatar errors that can generate weird, but brief glitches. Plus, it manages to run at a decent frame rate for the most part, save for some isolated instances of stuttering and slowdown when certain areas are highly populated with players at the beginning of a match.
One of the biggest drawbacks of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on PS4 comes from its lack of polish, as it’s almost a given that one will come across texture and detail pop-ins every time they decide to play a round. On top of this, there are some janky animations that can’t be ignored, as well as other frequent object rendering issues. What’s more is that the bland aesthetics and environments in PUBG leave a lot to be desired, with virtually every area on the game’s available maps being nearly indistinguishable from one another, especially on the desert map Miramar.
Not to mention, controlling the third-person camera tends to be a nuisance. This is chiefly true when players enter into a small, cramped building, as the perspective often cannot find a happy medium between being too close and too far away. One rarely gets a good handle on their surroundings in tight locations, leaving them open to unforeseen attacks.
In a marketplace crowded with Battle Royale titles, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on PS4 manages to deliver a fine, albeit flawed rendition on the genre, which is somewhat of a shame considering the lengthy amount of time it took for PUBG Corp. to finish and release it on the console. After all, with the game having been available for quite a while on Android, iOS, PC, and Xbox One prior to being obtainable on PlayStation 4, one would think that a lot of the lessons learned from those versions would have been applied to the PS4 iteration to eliminate any lingering issues in the port.
All of this is not to say that PUBG on PS4 isn’t fun, as it’s definitely a serviceable experience for Battle Royale aficionados who want a more strategic and deliberately paced alternative to competitors like Fortnite and Black Ops 4‘s Blackout. Unfortunately, though, there are still a host of problems that PUBG Corp. needs to address so as to justify the PlayStation 4 port’s $30 price tag.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is available now for Android, iOS, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided with a PS4 code for the purposes of this review.