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.
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.
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.
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.
Every match is different, but most have these things in common:
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.
It is! It's one of the most engaging, exhilarating games I've ever played.
Imagine: A game where every moment is a choice, and your choices all matter.
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.
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.
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.)
The Xbox controls are pretty intense. We've got a whole article about them right here, but these are the basics:
For Windows, check out this handy chart by Redditor KingCaptHappy:
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.
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.
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:
|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|
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.
Parachute better. Parachute wisely.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Theyneed 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.
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.
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.
Definitely -- and many of them make the game better! We've got a whole guide you should read.
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.
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.
No. Where would you put all the guns and ammo?
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:
"It's an electrical field, developed by the military presence on the island back in the 1980s," PlayerUnknown tells 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.
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.
You're in a bombing zone. Get out, or get inside a building if you want to live.
Yes. But first, some things you should know:
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.
Get up and run. Zig-zag like mad. Move unpredictably. Put cover between you and whoever's shooting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just be yourself. But maybe don't pick the bright purple jacket or striped shirt if you want to live.
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.
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.
So no, probably not. It's the perfect place to get ambushed.
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.
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.