A chicken dinner on another platform tastes just as sweet
PUBG is a video game phenomenon without many parallels. It has sold more than 20 million copies in less than a year. It has smashed records for concurrent players on Steam. All that success in spite of the fact that it has only been available on one platform. And it isn’t even a finished game yet.
The many people who have played PUBG can attest to the fact that it feels as if it were designed specifically for PC inputs. Conventional wisdom insists that shooters are better played on mouse and keyboard, but that isn’t the crux of this argument. All the inventory management — the menus, the dropping and dragging, the attaching and unattaching and attaching again — it’s all done through a flurry of clicks and swipes. Anyone with enough hours in PUBG knows the difference between efficient and inefficient inventorying. It comes long before the 170 hours my Steam account says I’ve played.
Translating all those inputs to a gamepad feels, frankly, kind of weird. The inventory screen is divided into four columns, and the bumpers are used to switch between them. Then you scroll up and down through each individual item before arriving at the one you want to use. Say you’re trying to equip a 2x scope. You hit right bumper, scroll down to the scope, click equip, scroll through the possible slots on the guns that it could fit, and then finally click equip again.
It can be unintuitive and cumbersome, especially when you’re first learning how all the systems work. But I got the hang of it after around four rounds or so (all with strong looting phases, meaning that I spent a good amount of time in the inventory). It’s not ideal, but that’s coming from someone with a lot of hours invested in the PC version; Xbox users likely won’t have many qualms once they’re used to how it all works.
Another controller-centric quibble is that there’s no sort of aim assist on Xbox One. And there shouldn’t be! Compared to other shooters, there is relatively little gun firing in PUBG. Survival means more in this game because it is literally the entire purpose. A nearby player shouldn’t have their reticle snap toward you just because they’re aiming in your direction. But, free-flowing aim controls make close-quarters combat scenarios rather tricky sometimes, especially compared to mouse and keyboard.
A lot of what makes PUBG a slightly lesser game on Xbox is in the control layout and the concessions that had to be made in order for it to work. (Diagrams of all the Xbox inputs are in the gallery below.) But, it’s actually pretty impressive how all of the systems from PC are included. It can feel clunky until you memorize it all, but at least it’s the same game through and through.
Also worth mentioning (and I swear I’m not usually this guy) is how different 30 frames per second feels when you’re used to 60. It’s tough to qualify, because it has been steady for me — not choppy or rough or anything like that. It’s just not the same in a weirdly unsettling way.
More objectively, PUBG is launching in Game Preview on Xbox without any sort of visual options. That might be a problem for some people. I’ve heard complaints that it’s too dark, especially on older TVs. There isn’t a brightness slider yet, although I’d assume one’s coming eventually.
All those paragraphs basically amount to: PC is the best place to play PUBG. This is hardly a revelation. We knew this all along. No one honestly believed that this is a game where a controller could equal the experience of mouse and keyboard. Xbox isn’t flagrantly bad or subpar though, and I don’t think it’ll take new players too long to start feeling comfortable.
Where Xbox excels is that it’s by far the most accessible place to play PUBG. The biggest video game in the world was only available to those who have spent enough money to have gaming-capable PCs. Now it’s available on a console that has been as cheap as $190 a few weeks ago. There’s going to be incredible demand from console-only owners who are happy as hell to finally see what all the fuss is about.
And I’m happy as hell for them. The magic of PUBG is that it’s designed to facilitate memorable moments. It makes for an incredible experience, both in success and failure. Even if it isn’t perfect, PUBG on Xbox One is still a perfectly fine way to play it.
[These impressions are based on an Xbox Game Preview build of the game provided by the publisher.]