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PUBG: How to play and win on iPhone, Android, Xbox or PC

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds has arrived on phones. Here's how to keep up with the PC and Xbox crowd.

pubg-fight

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.

PUBG Corp.

On March 19, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds arrived on iPhone and Android devices in the US. And lo, it was good. It's a faithful recreation of the PC version, and possibly better than Xbox One. Besides, it's free

I'm guessing you're here for one of two reasons. Maybe you want to know what all the fuss is about. Or maybe you want to be forewarned before you dive into one of the most intense multiplayer games ever created. 

No matter which platform you use -- iOS, Android, Xbox, PC -- you'll find the answers in our guide. Because despite some control differences, the basic strategies haven't changed since the game first arrived.

What is PUBG?

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, or PUBG for short, is a game that shouldn't have worked. For its first 7 months, it only had a single level, no tutorials, laggy servers and a wide array of annoying and game-breaking bugs. And yet, it's so nail-bitingly immersive and incredibly addictive that 30 million people (and 5 million on Xbox) have already shelled out $30 a pop. 

The concept is simple: You and 99 other players parachute onto an island filled with deadly weaponry, and fight to the death. If you're the last person standing, you win.

And that concept is executed beautifully. It's a game where you're risking your life every single second. It's a game where even just hiding in a bathroom fills you with adrenaline.

So it's basically 'The Hunger Games'?

Yep! Or "Battle Royale," if you know your creepy Japanese films and novels.

(Or "Lord of the Flies," which predates both. Get off my lawn.)

But don't expect bows, spears and rocks. This island's all about guns.

Isn't this just a grittier version of Fortnite?

Yes. Except PUBG came first. Even if Fortnite is really good, and even if Fortnite got a lot of popularity because Drake decided to stream it live.

Who the heck is PlayerUnknown and why does he have battlegrounds? 

Long story. No, really, it's a long story you can read right here. He's a pretty cool dude, and he spent a few hours telling me about himself. If you want even more, I strongly recommend this half-hour crowdfunded documentary.

What do you actually do in the game?

Every match is different, but most have these things in common:

  • Jump out of an airplane.
  • Skydive down to a (hopefully) secluded location.
  • Scavenge houses and abandoned military installations for guns, ammo, armor and medical supplies.
  • Run away from a translucent blue wall of death.
  • Tiptoe across a seemingly empty field or hillside.
  • Freak out every time you spot a human-size bush or swaying blade of grass, because they could be players out to get you.
  • Hole up in a seemingly empty house. Shiver every time.
  • Shoot at some people, maybe miss. 
  • Abruptly, without warning or recourse, get fatally shot in the head.

Or, if you're lucky: Win the whole damn thing.

By the way, there's no respawn. When you're dead, it's game over.

Sounds terrible. And amazing.

It is! It's one of the most engaging, exhilarating games I've ever played. 

media-thumbnail-1490252396445

Firefights are fierce, and generally they're over in the blink of an eye.

Bluehole Studio

Imagine: A game where every moment is a choice, and your choices all matter.

  • Do you stay and loot longer in hopes of finding better guns, at the risk of other players having time to set up ambushes?
  • Do you crawl across a field to attract less attention, or run to get there faster?
  • Do you shoot that enemy running past, knowing the gunshots will attract other players?
  • Do you walk in the shadow of the hill because you believe enemies are on the other side, or do you climb the hill because they might already be sneaking up behind you?
  • Do you dare look behind you to make sure you're not being followed? What if that's the moment an enemy pops up ahead?
  • Does that closed door mean the building is unlooted? Or did they intentionally close it to make you think that?

It's devious. And every time I keel over dead, I want to try again and do better. I've racked up over 385 hours as of March 2018, and I feel like I'm still learning.

That sounds complicated and this guide looks long. What's the TL:DR version?

Spot people before they spot you. Get really good at scanning all around you, and at not being seen. 

Don't shoot unless you have to, or unless you're sure to succeed. You might miss. You might attract other enemies.

Location, location, location. Be where other players aren't likely to be. Be where they'll least expect you. It'll take time to learn the map. 

Practice shooting. Guns in this game aren't laser-accurate, and you won't win till you learn how to use 'em at a basic level. That means diving into firefights intentionally sometimes. 

Expect to die constantly. You have a 1 in 100 chance, on average, of winning. So there's not much risk in trying crazy things. You were going to die anyway, and it's real quick to jump into another match.

What are the controls?

The mobile controls are all visible on the touchscreen, and they're super customizable. You can move any of the buttons anywhere you like on screen -- and most of them won't pop up until you need them. (Like the buttons hopping into a car, or leaning around trees, or the expanded mini-menus for medical supplies and grenades.)

screen-shot-2018-03-20-at-8-48-14-am

Sean Hollister/CNET

The Xbox controls are pretty intense. We've got a whole article about them right here, but these are the basics:

Click to enlarge.  

Microsoft and PUBG Corp.

For Windows, check out this handy chart by Redditor KingCaptHappy:

Click to enlarge.

KingCaptHappy (Reddit)

Can I play with friends?

Sure, up to three of them, with voice chat, on both Windows and Xbox and even on mobile phones. You can win as a team, too -- you don't even have to backstab them at the end. 

Will the mobile version eat up my cellular data?

Nope! We're seeing just around 8MB per match on both Android and iPhone. Like most intensive games, it does hit your battery pretty hard, though.

So, uh, why does this game run terribly on PC, even though the graphics aren't that great?

To call PUBG "poorly optimized" would be an understatement. Anything less than a gaming laptop will have a tough time playing it at all, and you'll probably want to run on low or medium graphical settings (except draw distance, which you kind of need to see enemies) unless your PC is godly. 

Still, software patches have dramatically improved framerates and reduced lag and crashes since since launch, to the point I can run it at 1080p on a quad-core laptop with a GeForce GTX 1050. 

And then there's lag to consider. This is a game that has literally tens of thousands of games, each with up to 100 people, running simultaneously every single day. So far, the game's creators haven't been able to keep that insane server load from negatively impacting players. Pretty often, you'll have an enemy dead to rights, but you're the one who winds up dead.

Here are the game's minimum specs:

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds minimum PC spec

OS 64-bit Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10
Processor Intel Core i3-4340 / AMD FX-6300
GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB / AMD Radeon HD 7850 2 GB
HD Space 30GB available space
RAM 6GB RAM
DirectX Version 11

Does it run any better on Xbox?

Not really! As of launch, playing on the original Xbox One feels like playing on bare minimum graphics settings on PC. Everything looks muddy, the framerate is choppy, and sometimes buildings and objects don't load until you're right in front of them. The draw distance is terrible, to the point I can't drive at full speed for fear of crashing into rocks that didn't exist until I hit them.

And while the souped-up Xbox One X improves things quite a bit -- 4K resolution is nice for spotting enemies at a distance -- it still feels like medium graphics settings on PC at best, and draw distance still isn't great. The Xbox One X only runs the game at 30 frames per second, not the 60 FPS you'd see on PC (or, heck, other console shooters like Call of Duty), and it can feel pretty jerky at times. 

Update, Jan. 22: After a few patches, the game is starting to feel playable on Xbox. Still muddy, but playable. Less jerky.

Update, March 20: It's getting smoother... but still feels behind PC and even the new mobile version.

I always die right after I land. How do they have guns already?

Parachute better. Parachute wisely.

pubg-fastest-parachute-fall

The fastest way down.

Sean Hollister/CNET

You fall faster if your camera is pointed at the ground, and you can cover more ground if it's pointed at the horizon. Tilt your stick forward, or press the W key on a keyboard, to fall faster by bringing your arms close to your body.

If you want to beat everyone else to the ground, point straight down and hold W (or the stick) until you're falling at 234 kph. If you did it right, you'll maintain a lot of momentum when your parachute opens. 

If you want to fly somewhere far away from the path of the plane, pitch your camera up to the horizon, open your parachute as soon as possible, and gently tap forward every so often. Some swear by the "30/40" technique: Keep rocking forward till you're going 40 kph, then back to 30 kph, to cover distance quickly. It's like a swing. 

Should I enter that house?

At the start of each match, practically every door on the island is closed.

So if you see an open door: Someone's been there before. Maybe they took all the loot. Maybe they left some for you. Maybe they're hoping you come check so they can put bullets in your face.

If you see a closed door, maybe all the loot is still there. Or maybe they closed it intentionally to trick you. Or maybe they bashed through a window instead. Circle the house. Check the windows. Are guns and ammo still there? Are the doors inside the house open or closed? How about other doors in the area?

Where should you go in PUBG's huge 8 square kilometer island? This excellent fan-made map has the answers.

ShatterNL and Caturner

Based on what you know about when and where other players might be... and how far this house is away from the flight path of the airplane that brought you all here... and how far you are from the white safe zone... is it likely anyone has been here yet?

Then go ahead, walk in. Maybe you'll live. Maybe you'll die. The thousand questions running through your mind as you open that door -- they're what make this game so fun.

Still dying. Too many enemy players.

Are you landing in towns with lots of buildings, or big installations like the power plant or military base? That's where you'll find the best loot -- but you'll be fighting everyone else with the same bright idea.

Instead of dropping into a hot zone, try somewhere a bit more secluded? Then, do your damnedest to avoid other people as long as possible.

My favorite starting spots are the Ruins and the Hospital. The Ruins has few weapons, lots of cover but also long sightlines, making it easy to see foes. The Hospital is high-risk, high-reward, but there are lots of exits and you'll usually hear enemies coming.

Avoid people? I thought you had to kill everyone else?

They need to die, but you don't need to do the deed. Gunshots can be heard as far as 1,000 meters away, and they tend to attract unwanted attention. Let your enemies kill one another whenever possible, and you can mop up after.

I've won games without firing a single shot. And I've won them by only firing at the very end.

pubg-chicken-dinner

I rarely win with more than six kills. Generally, it's two or three.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Is it just the one island?

On Xbox, yes, at least until later in 2018. The mobile version only has one map too. The Windows PC version added a giant new desert map in December -- when the game left beta -- and eventually, the Xbox version will get it too.

I'd already been playing the desert map Miramar on PC and it's crazy how different the experience is. Miramar is huge, with way more buildings and way more changes in elevation. There's more cover and more loot, but it's also really hard to hide. 

You'll need different tactics to survive -- like securing a vehicle early on, so you can actually travel across the giant environment.

Any other differences between the Xbox and PC versions?


The big one is the control scheme. It's not just that you're using a gamepad instead of mouse and keyboard -- you'll also be aiming and scavenging for resources a little differently. I nearly died a couple times after forgetting how to stop looking down my gun sights. 

And after a few hours of play, I'm still struggling to get used to the fact I need to alternate between the X and A buttons when picking up guns, ammo and accessories in order to equip them instead of just sticking them into my backpack.

Otherwise, it's pretty awesome how much of the PC experience Microsoft and PUBG Corp. managed to bring to console on day one. Even features that haven't yet made it to the full PC release -- such as vaulting (you can climb through windows and over objects), quieter and more fuel-efficient vehicles, and new guns -- are already available on Xbox.

pubg-vaulting-gif

Vaulting is a welcome addition. (You couldn't crash through windows before.)

GIF by Sean Hollister/CNET

Any differences between the PC and mobile versions, other than the obvious?

Definitely -- and many of them make the game better! We've got a whole guide you should read.

How do I avoid people? They always seem to know where I am.

Sound is everything. Plug in headphones, crank the volume up high, and make mental notes of the directions (there's a compass with headings at the top of your screen) sounds are coming from.

Don't move if it'll make noise that an enemy is sure to hear. Creaky doors and floorboards are a dead giveaway, as is gravel. You can't sneak up on people if they're carefully listening for you. Make your move when they're distracted by gunfire and other loud noises.

pubg-alt-key-freelook

If you hold down the ALT key, you can check your 6.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Keep your head down. Crouch, or even crawl if you've got enough time. Move from cover to cover: You're way harder to see against a tree, rock or building, not to mention harder to hit.

Crawl through tall grass if enemies are at roughly the same elevation as you -- if either of you are up on a hill, the grass won't hide you.

If you're wearing dark clothing, stay in the shadows so you blend in.

Keep your head on a swivel: If you hold down the right bumper (on PC, it's Alt), or slide the little "eye" icon on mobile, you can look in a different direction than your character is facing, walking or running. Speaking of which, push in on the left stick (or hold down Shift on PC, or slide the left stick north to the "sprint" position on mobile) to run.

If you really must shoot, try attaching a suppressor or flash hider to mask your location. It's way better than nothing.

Can I dig a hole to hide in?

No.

Can I hide under a bed?

No.

Can I climb a tree to hide?

No. Where would you put all the guns and ammo?

Do silencers really work?

Suppressors. And yeah, they make it way harder to tell where gunshots are coming from at a distance. (They're still totally audible up close.)

The game's creators provided CNET with this handy chart to show just how useful they are on average, as of July:

How far away PUBG's guns can be heard


Normal With suppressor
Sniper rifles 1,000m 700m
Rifles 700m 350m
SMGs 400m 100m
Pistols 400m 100m
The VSS 125m N/A

I just got killed by a giant blue wall. WTF?

"It's an electrical field, developed by the military presence on the island back in the 1980s," PlayerUnknown tells CNET.

zapfield-pubg

The blue electric zapfield steadily cleanses the land.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Like the crazy traps in "The Hunger Games" and the explosive collars in Battle Royale, the ever-shrinking zapfield is what keeps the action moving -- so players don't all just set up camp and wait for foes to stumble into their crosshairs.

Look at your map (hit M, or press the tiny button just above the D-pad). See the white circle? Be inside if you want to live. When the countdown timer (lower right-hand corner) expires, the zapfield (blue ring) will move towards the white circle, doing constant damage to everyone unlucky enough to be behind it. 

blue-circle-pubg

White = safe. Blue = creeping death.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Once the blue ring of death reaches the white circle, the playfield will shrink yet again, and you'll have only a few minutes to get to the new, smaller white region. Rinse and repeat 'til everyone is dead.

Why did my mini-map turn bright red?

You're in a bombing zone. Get out, or get inside a building if you want to live.

pubg-vehicles

Vehicles can be deadly for all involved.

Sean Hollister/CNET

There are cars. And motorcycles. And sometimes boats. Should I use them?

Yes. But first, some things you should know:

  • The easiest way to die in PUBG, bar none, is to jump out of a moving vehicle. It's less deadly than it used to be, but still very deadly.
  • The second easiest way to die in PUBG is to fall off a motorcycle.
  • Vehicles are loud, so they give away your position.
  • Some players like to lie in wait near vehicles.
  • Vehicles run out of gas, and players can shoot out their tires.
  • Even in a vehicle, a single shot can sometimes take your head off.

They're basically rolling deathtraps. But they're a great way to catch up with the blue wall of death, loot faraway places or get deep into the white zone before other people.

pubg-worst-place-imaginable

The absolute worst place to find yourself in PUBG: A bombing zone behind the blue zapfield.

Sean Hollister/CNET

People are shooting at me. Help!

Get up and run. Zig-zag like mad. Move unpredictably. Put cover between you and whoever's shooting. 

Don't die.

I'm hurt. Am I going to die?

Almost certainly! But not yet.

If you find a first-aid kit or some bandages, you can heal up to 75 percent of your health. Painkillers and energy drinks heal you slowly over time, and also make you run faster. All of these items take precious seconds to use, though, and you can't use them in a moving vehicle.

If you're playing in a group, a teammate can revive you if you're bleeding out -- just tap X (or F on PC) when very close -- but it's a big risk for them to do it out in the open. You'll want to crawl to cover first.

And don't bother trying to revive anyone behind the blue wall. They're a goner. Run. 

These guns are terrible compared to INSERT GAME HERE. How do I hit anything?

First, and I say this from experience: Make sure the gun is loaded. You'll need to find the right type of ammo (.45ACP won't work in a 7.62mm rifle, for instance), and hold down X (or hit R on PC) to load some into the gun. On mobile, you don't need to worry about this as much -- the game will take care of your first reload and automatically pick up the right ammo.

pubg-sniping

You'll need to lead your target, and account for bullet drop.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Switch to a rifle as soon as you can. Shotguns and SMGs are only really good for clearing buildings, and pistols are comparatively garbage. Only rifles are really effective beyond 100 meters -- roughly the distance of a football field -- though SMGs and pistols have a bit more effective range since PC version 1.0.

Stop moving. Moving makes guns less accurate, PlayerUnknown tells us.

Hold down the left trigger (or right mouse button) to aim more accurately, or tap it to aim down the sights, which works even better at range. Hold down LB or SHIFT to steady your breathing.

Bullets drop after a certain distance. Zero in your rifle (with the D-pad or Page Up and Page Down keys -- I recommend remapping them on PC) if your target is further than 100 meters away. 

If you don't see blood spatter, you didn't hit the target.

Attach a scope, if you can find one, for even more precision. Red dots and holographic sights can be easier to use, but they aren't any more accurate than iron sights. To attach things quickly, right-click on them in menu.

If you see a red reticle in front of your gun when aiming, it means something's blocking your barrel. Do you want to shoot that poor wall? Better reposition.

Oh, and remember what I said about avoiding areas with lots of people? Ignore that if you want to learn short-range combat.

What's the best gun?

Inside a building, you can't go wrong with a double-barrel shotgun, or maybe a micro Uzi with an extended magazine and stock. Outside, I'd take an M16 rifle with a suppressor and a 4x scope, or an SKS with those same attachments. Your mileage may vary. I'd avoid the Vector submachinegun unless you find an extended magazine and stock, and even then it can be dicey.

Some weapons, like this just-added Winchester lever-action rifle or the original crossbow, aren't good beginner picks. But that's what makes them fun.

PUBG Corp.

I totally shot them, but I still died. What's going on?

Lag. The servers still need work. Count yourself lucky: Sometimes, the game used to completely freeze in the middle of some matches. That's mostly fixed with recent patches.

There's a lot of clothing options. What should I wear?

Just be yourself. But maybe don't pick the bright purple jacket or striped shirt if you want to live.

  • Always wear a helmet. It'll protect your head from an additional bullet or two, depending on the helmet.
  • Always take the Utility Belt, and grab a backpack as soon as you can. They'll help you carry more items.
  • Don't pass up a Police or Military Vest. They'll let you take additional bullets to the chest without dying, and hold a few more items.

What about melee weapons? I found a cast-iron pan…

TAKE IT. The pan is one of the best items in the game. It blocks all bullets that hit it. When you're not using it to beat down other players, it'll literally cover your ass.

That airplane just dropped a supply crate. Should I go for it?

It's the only way to get one of the game's most powerful weapons, including the infamous AWM sniper rifle, the M249 SAW machine gun, the 15x scope, the amazing ghillie suit and more.

politicalconstantangwantibo-size-restricted

The ghillie suit is ridiculous.

PoliticalConstantAngwantibo

So no, probably not. It's the perfect place to get ambushed.

Why does everyone have to die? Why can't we all just get along?

The game does have voice chat, so you're welcome to ask other players that question! Maybe you can convince everyone.

Just remember: It's called "Battlegrounds." You might run into a few... let's just say predefined notions about how to play.

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds arrived on Xbox One.

Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

Originally published June 29.
Update, Dec. 12: Thoroughly revamped and updated for the game's December release on Xbox One.
Update, Jan. 22: Updated slightly now that PC version 1.0 is here and numerous patches have made the game more playable on an original Xbox One. Also, the game's sold over 30 million copies now.
Update, March 20: Updated for PUBG's new mobile version, which is surprisingly good.

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