PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) has officially arrived on iPhones, iPads and Android devices in the United States -- and it's way, way more badass than a mobile game has any right to be.
Which is to say: It's the same insanely addictive, nailbiting 100-player survival deathmatch, complete with four-person online co-op and voice chat as the Windows PC and Xbox versions and it also comes with a bunch of new features that make the game even better.
Here's why PUBG Mobile is pretty fantastic on the go.
Nails the basics
Where you drop in PUBG can determine if you win or lose -- and the mobile version's parachute controls are fine enough to place you exactly where you need. I had no trouble landing on the roof of this school and snatching up the best weapons in the area.
PUBG Mobile has a ton of quality of life improvements that aren't in the PC or Xbox One versions -- like being able to see the flight path of the drop plane at the beginning of each match!
You can actually aim
And get this -- the aiming controls actually work, too. Believe it or not, you cans spot, aim and actually hit foes with nothing but your touchscreen.
Part of that's because the game has some pretty heavy auto-aim which snaps your gun to target. But it's also because... (next slide)
Supremely customizable controls
...the controls are crazy customizable. Don't like where the onscreen buttons are? You can rearrange the entire layout to suit your own thumbs. Need the fire button in a different place? Move it. Prefer an invisible d-pad? You got it. Just click on the settings icon and make those controls perfect.
And then there's the gyroscope. It sure is hard to snipe in PUBG Mobile compared to mouse-and-keyboard on PC, but we'd argue it's *easier* on phone than Xbox. Why? You can turn on gyro controls that let you simply nudge the phone in any direction for precise aiming.
Here's where you enable the gyroscope -- and you really, really should. Trust us, motion controls are awesome.
One of my first kills in PUBG Mobile -- I can't believe I was able to take someone down with a handgun using only touchscreen and gyro controls.
Directional hit indicators
Plus, PUBG Mobile adds little directional hit indicators when you get shot, or hear shots nearby. Way easier to tell where enemies are coming from. The directions of distant shots appear in the mini-map.
Sniping out of a house still totally works, too. Might be the auto-aim.
And those aren't the only controls that PUBG Mobile improves. The beauty of the new auto-pickup feature: if you don't have a weapon or ammo or accessory, just walk over it and it's yours.
(Don't walk over a sickle in real-life, folks.)
Sure, auto-pickup might sound like a terrible idea -- but PUBG Mobile implements it so perfectly that I wish the PC version did this. The game automatically picks up the best stuff FOR you.
Stumble across a scope your rifle? The game will equip it for you. Find better armor? BOOM: You're already wearing it. This dramatically speeds up the most tedious part of the game.
Smart auto-pickup, continued
It really comes in handy when you're digging through a giant loot box. Just wait next to the box for a sec, and it'll automatically give you all the items you'd want and nothing else.
Or you can just tap them if you feel like changing things up.
Easy inventory management
This looks like a giant mess, but it's actually pretty managable. Thanks, auto-pickup!
Also, you can literally drag items out of your inventory to toss 'em, if you ever need to. Way easier than scrolling between columns and rows on Xbox.
And in PUBG Mobile, you'll never have the super, super annoying issue where you try to heal an ally and wind up grabbing an item off the ground instead. The buttons are totally separate.
Another one to file under "Why don't the PC and Xbox versions do this?"
Also see: the little bandage button at bottom center. No rooting around in your inventory to heal up your character.
Loot box indicators
Speaking of loot boxes: No, the game isn't censoring blood spatter here. Each dead enemy emits a puff of green smoke to help you find where they left that sweet, sweet loot. Makes it way easier to spot on your phone's tiny screen.
Less obtrusive map
The in-game map is oddly less intrusive on the mobile version -- obscuring only half of your screen instead of the whole thing. It's also SO easy to navigate with touch controls.
Tap to point
Want to tell your friends where to go? Just tap on the map. Way faster than slinging around analog sticks on Xbox, or even mouse-and-keyboard on PC.
And the sprint feature is super handy when you've a long way to run.
Just swing your thumb far enough north on the virtual D-pad, and you'll keep automatically running forward until you turn it off. Good way to rest your thumbs, and makes it easier to sight enemies since your digit isn't in the way.
There's a button to do that on PC, too, but it's way more important on mobile.
Online multiplayer with voice chat
The mobile version will still let you squad up with your friends -- complete with a pretty darn decent voice chat system!
Pretty impressive that it all works over a cellular connection, and with both wired and Bluetooth headsets.
Plus, in our early tests, it only consumes around 8MB of data for a match, whether you're using iOS or Android. That's totally reasonable.
Easy friend invites
Friend invites in action. They'll pop up for you on any screen, so you don't have to wait around in the lobby. Go customize your character or something.
If you sign up with Facebook (which PUBG pushes you to do) the game will automatically add your friends when they sign up for the game, too. Assuming you're OK with the privacy implications, it's more convenient than trading Steam IDs on the PC version.
And just like on PC and Xbox, a squad game isn't necessarily over when you're dead: incredibly, PUBG Mobile managed to cram the spectator mode in, too.
See? Working spectator mode. And since there's voice chat, you can help spot for your teammates, just like on PC and console.
Cars are here
And don't think that PUBG Mobile skimps on the vehicles, either.
Want to go all Dukes of Hazzard? You can -- with no fewer than three different mobile control schemes. (You can swap the straight-up directional buttons for a tiny steering wheel, for instance.)
No Confederate flag though, for obvious reasons. And no turbo boost for vehicles like on Xbox and PC. That's a surprising omission.
I sure did.
Get in the driver's seat
Hopping into a vehicle couldn't be easier -- and unlike on PC, there's no confusion over whether you're taking the wheel.
Cars are a bit more powerful on mobile, because it's a little harder to snipe them from across the map.
They still flip end over end like a champ, though, if you hit a slope wrong.
You'd think PUBG might have had to cut back on the foliage for mobile... but no! Still provides brilliant cover.
Unless a jeep is barreling right down at you, of course.
Foliage, part 3
See? Barely visible on my buddy's screen.
And believe it or not, this overhead view of the map is actually better looking than the Xbox One version of the game. Sometimes.
Draw distances, continued
On Xbox One, you sometimes still won't see buildings appear at this point in your fall. Impressive to see it working so well on mobile.
And that's true even with slower phones. Even if you don't have the fastest phone on the market, you might be a able to run the game anyway: PUBG Mobile actually has graphics settings!
Yes indeed -- the kickass jetski is already available for you to find and ride in the mobile verison of the game. (It didn't even arrive on PC until last December, and just hit Xbox in March.)
Nobody can shoot me if I'm hiding behind a rock out in the ocean, right? Right?
Similarly, you can vault over obstacles in PUBG Mobile from day one -- a feature that took months to come to the PC version.
That nailbiting dread
But the most important thing about PUBG Mobile is this -- it's just as intense when you're down to the wire, victory within reach. Your heart palpitates. Your hands shake. It's an incredible feeling to get from a game.
Victory and chicken to-go. Nothing tastes better.
Particularly when you have friends over for dinner.
Share my victory on social media? Don't mind if I do.
And hey, at least there's a consolation prize when you lose. Another fun little piece of artwork for you to collect.
What's the catch?
OK, let's talk about what we DON'T like about PUBG Mobile -- or at least the things we're a little uncertain about.
To start: If your phone isn't the latest, greatest model, the game can take quite a while to load.
And a few times, on a less-than-perfect connection, we got totally booted out. Boo.
If you don't carefully customize your controls to fit, you might wind up accidentally spraying bullets all over the place, giving away your position. We sure did.
We also had some weird moments where enemies just sat there, facing us, without shooting to kill. We have a sneaking suspicion that PUBG Mobile doesn't just pit you against real human players, but bots too.
Pay for plastic surgery
The mobile version has the very same character customization options as the full PC release -- and the same drawbacks, too. Make sure you like what you select, because changing your character will cost a whopping 3,000 BP of PUBG's in-game currency.
Home improvement needed
There's not as much furniture inside houses in PUBG Mobile. Where'd it all go? Makes it easier to play on the small screen, though.
And staircases, well...
Put some clothes on
Plus, PUBG Mobile makes your player brave its Battle Royale completely naked... at least until you earn some in-game currency. The game might be free, but the in-game clothes aren't.
How to get the clothing? Loot boxes! Thankfully, they only contain cosmetic items like clothing for now.
Wonder if that'll always be the case, though... unlike PC, Xbox, and, say, games that got in trouble for loot boxes like Star Wars Battlefront II, PUBG Mobile is free to play.
Loot boxes, continued
Just two more days until I'm not shirtless anymore!
You can play as a "guest" without logging in - but if you want a persistent account across devices, you'll have to link it with Facebook -- which means the game will use your real name by default if you start this way. Bleh.
Coin of the realm.
(The game's free, and you'll earn these coins just for playing... but we'd be VERY surprised if we don't see people spending real cash for in-game items before long.)
Want loot crates without paying for them? Play more. PLAY. MORE.
There's no way to buy in-game currency yet, but you can earn it by making sure you log-in every single day. Yup, this is definitely following a free to play model.
Get used to this
Remember all those FarmVille invites you used to get on Facebook? Well....
Ah, yes, a totally unnecessary leveling system with no obvious rewards. Not much of a carrot you're dangling here, PUBG.
Why? part 2
Ditto this. I have no idea what this rating means.
A final thought
Just remember: even if you're having a bad match, there's always hilarity to be had.