Something odd happened to me in December when I booted up PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds for the first time. It didn't hit me at first, but as I kept playing the game, I realized what it was: complete, unadulterated, hand-wringing exhilaration.
And that, after I spent countless hours playing PUBG, as it's become known, is still what I feel each time I boot up my Xbox One X and start this game. In my time with PUBG, the game found a way play on every emotion I have. And in so doing, it revealed itself as one of the best games I've ever played.
Now, you might remember that my Tom's Guide colleague Andrew Melcon reviewed the PC version of PUBG back in June. And since much of the Xbox One version of the game is so similar to the PC edition, I won't retread his steps.
Nonetheless, the Xbox One version has its own share of quirks, tweaks and experiences that warrant examination. So, here goes:
An Unexpected Ride
If you're new to PUBG, the game might start in an unexpected way. You're asked to customize a character, choose whether you want to play alone or with others in a "duo" or "squad," and head on over to a waiting area where the people you'll need to outlast and take down are running around, trying out weaponry, punching each other and exploring.
Next up, you'll travel on a plane and will "eject" at the time of your choosing. You'll float down to the ground with nothing but the clothes you chose and one goal: survive.
What I didn't realize the first time I played PUBG was just how important every step of that process is. Spend the minute before you take off on the plane trying out different button combinations and seeing who you're really up against, and you'll find it can be helpful. And as you'll discover as you spend more time playing the game, there are pros and cons to getting to the ground as quickly as possible or simply floating up there as your enemies pick up guns and seek each other out.
While PUBG's design might fall flat, the title makes up for that in outstanding gameplay.
And that might be the most amazing thing about PUBG. Everything you do in some way affects everything — and everyone — else. And since major gameplay elements — like your fighting zone, weaponry, drop zones and so much more — are random, your gameplay experience changes every time.
An Xbox One Xperience
As mentioned, I played PUBG on the Xbox One X, though it'll work just fine on an Xbox One or Xbox One S. The game is said to look slightly better on the Xbox One X than on the older consoles, because it takes advantage of the better specs. You might also find it runs a bit more smoothly on Xbox One X.
Still, that shouldn't matter. PUBG is still in Game Preview and therefore subject to a variety of changes and updates that will hopefully make the game even better, and it is not necessarily the best-looking game you'll play anyway. You'll find trees, shrubbery, houses and buildings dotting the landscape; cars all around; and some rocks for cover. If you're hoping to experience beauty on the level of Horizon Zero Dawn, though, you've come to the wrong place.
But while PUBG's design might fall flat, the title makes up for that in outstanding gameplay.
I found the mechanics in the game to be outstanding, with solid shooting, high-quality hand-to-hand combat, and easy player and vehicle control. PUBG isn't the smoothest online shooter I've ever played, but it's right up there.
My biggest PUBG complaint was the network. On far too many occasions, I deal with temporary "network lag" that slows me down and sometimes gives other players the drop on me. It doesn't fundamentally diminish the gameplay experience, but it can be annoying if you're running through a field and suddenly see your character slow down as the network catches up.
When everything else is stripped away and it's time to just play PUBG, there's nothing quite like it. Whether it's the rush of a gunfight or the thrill of sitting still in the weeds outside of a compound as you see enemies who outgun you come and go, every moment in PUBG counts.
And more than with any game I've played in a long, long time, the experiences I've had playing PUBG have stuck with me. One time, for instance, I was moving in on a village and saw a car near the road. It was turned off; it appeared no one was in it, and I figured I could use the vehicle later to get to another location.
Everything you do in some way affects everything — and everyone — else.
But as I quietly snuck toward the village, I heard a noise behind me. It was getting closer. And by the time I could swing around, I realized that I had been fooled: Someone had been hiding within the car and ran me over to end my bid for a "chicken dinner" — PUBG's terminology for a first-place finish.
That's one of countless experiences I've had in PUBG that I remember well. And all of them are special in their own way.
Truth be told, I'm not playing as much PUBG as I once was — I have other games to play. But whenever I want a quick gaming fix, need a reprieve from a boring level in another title or simply want to sit down for a few moments of fun, I turn to PUBG each time.
And that, if nothing else, should say something about what PUBG is and how important its place now is in the console market.