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PUBG: Our guide to 2017's hottest new game

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PUBG is taking the gaming world by storm. You've never played anything quite like it before.

What is PUBG?

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, or PUBG for short, is a unicorn. It's an unfinished mess of a shooter with no tutorials and a bunch of game-breaking bugs. And yet, it's so nail-bitingly immersive that 6 million people have shelled out $30 a pop in just four months.

Basically, 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.

It's a game where even just hiding in a bathroom fills you with adrenaline. I play it almost every single night.

It's available for Windows PCs right now, and is coming to Xbox One (but *not* PlayStation) later this year.

So it's basically 'The Hunger Games'?

Yep! Or Battle Royale, if you know your creepy Japanese films and/or 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.

Can I play with friends?

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

What do you actually do?

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.
  • Hole up in a seemingly empty house.
  • Shoot at some people, miss.
  • Abruptly, without warning or recourse, get fatally shot in the head.

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

Assuming the game doesn't completely crash in the first 10 minutes.

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

Sounds terrible. And amazing.

It is! 

Generally, you won't even know who killed you. There's no instant replay. No spectator mode after you're dead.

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

Bluehole Studio

You're not quite selling me. Do you actually *like* this game?

It's one of the most engaging, exhilarating things I've ever played. 

Imagine: 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 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.

pubg-screenshot

Battlegrounds is not a pretty game, even on a $1,000-plus desktop.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Sure. So, uh, why does this game run terribly, even though the graphics look like they were made in 2003?

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

Update, June 30: Some players are reporting that this week's patch drastically improves framerates, and that seems to be true. Plenty of other glitches still, though.

Here are the game's minimum specs, which are pretty damn steep for something that looks like a Stalker mod:

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

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. Press the W key to go faster either way.

If you want to beat everyone else to the ground, point straight down, hold W until you're falling at 234km/h, and let go of the button right before your altitude meter hits the white zone. 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 W every so often. Some swear by the "30/40" technique: keep rocking forward till you're going 40km/h, then back to 30km/h, to cover distance quickly. It's like a swing.

Should I enter that house?

At the start of each match, 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. Circle the house. Check through 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, how far this house is away from the flight path of the airplane that brought you all here, and how far 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.

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've never won with more than six kills. Generally, it's two or three.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Is it just the one island?

For now. The game's technically in "Early Access" right now, which means you're buying an incomplete game. Eventually, the creators plan to add additional levels, including a second island with snowy mountains and a smaller desert city. The game gets new features each month, recently adding a motorcycle and the VSS silenced sniper rifle. 

I'm particularly looking forward to the vaulting feature.

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

Sound is everything. Plug in headphones, crank the volume all the way up, 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 ALT key, you can look in a different direction than your character is facing / walking / running. Speaking of which, hold down the CTRL key to walk and the SHIFT key to run.

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

Can I dig a hole to hide in?

No.

Can I hide under the 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:

How far away PUBG's guns can be heard


Normal w / 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," the game's creator 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). 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.
  • The second easiest way to die in PUBG is to fall off a motorcycle.
  • Vehicles are freaking loud.
  • 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 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 F 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.

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 hit R to load some into the gun.

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 universally garbage. Only rifles are really effective beyond 100 meters -- roughly the distance of a football field.

(Update: Pistols are slightly better now you can attach red dot sights.)   

Stop moving. Moving makes guns less accurate, the game's creator tells us.

Hold down the right mouse button to aim more accurately, or double-tap it to aim down the sights, which works even better at range. Hold down SHIFT to steady your breathing.

Bullets drop after a certain distance. Zero in your rifle (with the Page Up and Page Down keys -- I recommend remapping them) 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.

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.

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 Tommy gun (with drum magazine), the adrenaline syringe, the 15x scope, and the amazing ghillie suit.

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.

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PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

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