Battle royale games are heating up, and right now the two most popular examples of the genre are PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite Battle Royale. Both games offer up a tense, 100-person deathmatch in an ever-shrinking playspace where you need to scavenge for weapons and armor.
But once you get outside of the basics, things begin to get very different very quickly. So if you're looking to dive into some battle royale action for the first time and you want to know which game is a best fit, read on.
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Price and Platforms
PUBG is currently available on PC and Xbox One, while Fortnite is more widely accessible across PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac.
Fortnite Battle Royale is also entirely free-to-play, and broken out from its co-op base defense counterpart known as Fortnite Save the World, which starts at $29.99. PUBG is a stand-alone battle royale game, with no free-to-play version, and costs $29.99 to play.
Both PUBG and Fortnite have cosmetic items that can be unlocked by either playing the game or paying real money. PUBG lets you unlock clothing options through a loot crate system that gives out a random item of varying rarity. Crates can be bought with in-game currency earned by surviving for long periods of time or scoring kills. Some crates, however, will require keys to open, which can only be bought with real money for $2.50. All items in PUBG, including keys and crates, can be sold to other players on the Steam Community Market for money you can use to buy anything else on Steam.
Fortnite's unlockables include more than just costumes; you'll find taunts and weapon skins as well. You can unlock these by completing specific objectives listed in the lobby.
PUBG and Fortnite share the same objective — to be the last person or team standing out of 100 players — but both have a very different approach and style. PUBG goes for a realistic look and gives players a high degree of control over their character, letting you do things like turn your head independently, lie prone on the ground and lean around corners. It also has equippable helmets and body armor that give your character a deeper health pool. Fortnite uses a consumable shield potion to extend your life rather than pieces of gear.
PUBG's weapon attachments help make your guns more stable while aiming or carry more ammo per magazine, while Fortnite continues the less realistic approach by offering color-coded item rarity tiers that make better guns deal increased damage.
Fortnite shakes things up by including some of the base building mechanics seen in Fortnite Save The World. You can collect materials from freestanding objects with a pickax to plop down walls and ramps during a match to help you survive or just get to places. Your movement is generally quicker and more exaggerated in Fortnite, allowing you to jump much higher and swap weapons much faster.
PUBG gives players a limited inventory space based on the size of backpack they've been able to find on the map, potentially allowing for a great deal of loadout options if you find a large enough backpack. Fortnite keeps things much simpler, giving players only five inventory slots for weapons and healing items, without counting ammo and crafting materials. You may come across more gun options in Fornite, but you'll need to pick your loadout more carefully than in PUBG.
Ways to Play
PUBG offers more gameplay options by including private custom server matches, where players can tweak gameplay settings like weapon spawn frequencies, the speed at which the safe zones begin to shrink as well as experimental game types like zombie mode. PUBG also has first-person-only public matches, further emphasizing its tactical gameplay.
And recently, PUBG has been updated to include a second map that drastically changes the locale, from a green and relatively flat countryside to a very mountainous desert spotted with densely packed, high-rise buildings. Both maps are expansive and traversable with the help of vehicles like small sedans and large pickup trucks.
Compare all this to Fortnite, which currently only offers a single map and no custom servers. The game can only be played in the third person and has yet to include drivable vehicles.
Both games offer controller support, but Fortnite was designed from the ground up, with consoles in mind, and it shows in how well the game plays by controller. Menus in PUBG were meant to be clicked and scrolled through with a mouse, and using awkward controller button combos to manage a potentially large inventory full of weapon attachments and ammo is less ideal than simply scrolling through a horizontal list of five items in Fortnite.
Getting into these games can include a barrier to entry that may intimidate new players, and given the sheer amount of control and movement options at your disposal with PUBG, the difficulty curve is far more steep with that game than with Fortnite. You'll stand at a marked disadvantage in PUBG if you're not yet comfortable with mechanics like free-looking and leaning around corners.
And while Fornite has its own systems that need to be learned — like how to build structures — combat is more about being accurate than knowing the underlying systems or having a strong tactical sense of how to approach an enemy unawares. It'll take time for you to get comfortable with either game, but you'll want to be extra-patient with yourself if you feel like jumping on board the PUBG train.
Bugs and Cheaters
With both games being in some form of early access, stability issues can and will occur. PUBG officially exited early-access status on PCs with its 1.0 release in December 2017, but things are still rough around the edges. Fortnite still labels itself as an early-access game, and both games have been receiving major fixes to bugs and tweaks to gameplay balance on a monthly, if not a weekly, basis.
While both games aren't particularly prone to crashing, PUBG is still contending with performance issues on Xbox One and lower-end PCs that cause poor frame rates and matches not to load correctly. Fortnite, on the other hand, is a less demanding game that runs well on consoles and won't require a recent graphics card or a solid-state hard drive in order to play well on a PC.
The final and biggest issue is one almost exclusive to PUBG: cheating. In recent months, the amount of cheating in PUBG has increased to a worrying degree. This can likely be tied to players taking advantage of their ability to sell cosmetic items and loot crates on Steam, then turning that into real money elsewhere. The fastest way to earn these salable items is to get kills, which incentivizes aggressive cheats like wall hacks and aimbots.
Fortnite isn't without its cheaters, and both games have issued bans for cheaters and updates to crack down on the effectiveness of cheat scripts. However, Fortnite lacks the driving monetary incentive to cheat that's currently plaguing PUBG. While PUBG matches aren't utterly rampant with cheaters, avid players will encounter a cheater at least once a night, with top-ranking players having a higher encounter rate, since a cheater's match-make ranking is likely to be high.
You've got your pick between two highly addictive and intense deathmatch shooters, and no one's stopping you from playing a ton of both games. But if you need a place to start, you've got to check your preferences. If a hardcore tactical game with a steep learning curve sounds like something you're willing to take on, and perhaps you have a group of friends who all love shooters, then PUBG on PC is the way to go. If you're willing to accept a few run-ins with a hacker here and there, this game offers a depth and skill ceiling that few other modern shooters can match.
If you're not a PC gamer or you're just more comfortable with a controller, or perhaps you're gaming on a budget and don't have the spare 30 bucks, then Fortnite is what you're looking for. It's going to kick your butt for a little while as you learn the ropes, but the overall experience should be much smoother, and less prone to bugs and encounters with a cheater.
Depth versus accessibility, very high highs and very low lows versus a consistent experience — PUBG and Fortnite measure up unequally in most categories, but PUBG is our pick despite all of its flaws. There's something to be said for its continued growth and popularity in the face of imperfection that cannot be ignored. Also, my Steam hour count is pretty hard to ignore, too.