While I was visiting Seoul, South Korea last year I spent quite a bit of down time inside one of its many PC Cafe’s playing Overwatch.
While a good chunk of players were also playing OW, the majority were playing another game. PUBG.
Why was this bland looking military shooter so popular I wondered? I tried to gain some insight as I walked past, but I couldn’t figure out why.
When I got back to Australia I downloaded PUBG. I instantly understood its popularity.
You and 99 other players are dropped from a plane into a large environment where you search for weapons and try to survive until you are the last man standing.
One life, no respawns, you die and it’s back to the start screen.
The game was tense like no other I had ever played. The only thing I could compare it to is terrorist hunt mode from the Rainbow Six games, except you’re hunting real people instead of AI.
I was instantly addicted. Death after death I kept on queuing for the next game, but I never won that chicken dinner and eventually I realized the reason why I liked the game was also its biggest flaw.
Games of PUBG are random. You spawn in, hope you find good gear and try to stay within the ever-shrinking circle while trying to avoid being ambushed and killed by other players.
While situational awareness and aiming are important, success is based on a good chunk of luck, especially when playing solo. Most of the time, you won’t see the enemy coming.
It’s what makes the game both thrilling and infuriating. Every game is a tension filled gamble and while this was fun at first, I soon grew tired of walking for long periods of time only to be killed by an enemy I didn’t even know was there.
While the appeal of PUBG was fading, it’s competitor caught my eye.
Fortnite, a game identical in premise but the opposite in execution seemed to be the solution to every problem I had with PUBG.
The map was smaller, so I rarely spent long stretches of time before running into another player. The art style was bright and simplified, allowing me to see other players easier resulting in more gunfights, and the gunplay, with its crosshair and hit markers felt tighter and less random than that in PUBG.
Several games in though and I realized things weren’t as perfect as they appeared to be.
The game features a ridiculous building mechanic where you can block incoming fire instantly by spamming walls in front of your opponent. Situational awareness is meaningless most of the time because even if you do get the jump on your enemy they can usually build their way out of it.
To make matters worse, good players will counter your attack by building over you with gravity defying stairs and then bunny-hop shotgun you to the top of your head.
Most battles go down like this until the end game, where players usually erect giant towers to snipe at each other from, or build into each other with snaking stairways to engage in the aforementioned bunny-hopping shot-gunning mess.
I still enjoy Fortnite, but it’s not what I wanted it to be. I came from PUBG wanting a faster paced, tighter version of that game, but Fortnite is a different beast entirely. Perhaps one day they’ll release a no build (or slow build) mode that will be closer to what I was looking for, but right now it is what it is.
So is battle royale fun? Yes, it definitely is, and I can’t wait for the day when a game comes out that finds that perfect balance between gritty realism and arcadey action. It’s a genre that has tons of potential, and I think we’re going to see great things to come especially given the popularity of these two games.
FYI These are my experiences as a solo player, I’m sure the game is vastly different in a squad.