Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, the most popular video game in the known universe, finally made its way to consoles. This move, of course, was a huge branding opportunity, and it ended up being an exclusive for the Xbox One family. Microsoft’s console division can’t seem to catch a break, however. Most of the press for the game so far has centered around the game’s performance, and it isn’t good. Regardless of how crucial that may or may not be, I find myself wondering: was PUBG on consoles a doomed prospect from the start?
PUBG is a weird game. For those of you who may somehow still be unaware, PUBG is the frontrunner of what is becoming a new genre: the battle royale game. Somewhat inspired by the book/movie from Japan, Battle Royale, PUBG drops its players on a huge map, then makes them fend for themselves as they strive to be the sole survivor. The map has a lethal barrier that closes in over time, and gathering equipment is very much a battle against the RNG gods.
PUBG is a weird game, but it’s also a dynamic game. The core mode is a free for all, 100-player ordeal with only one possible winner. Weapon and equipment placement is not static at all. This is a complicated game, both in terms of structure and, we can assume, the code holding it all together. PUBG is not your typical PC game that follows the rules and runs well on settings that make current consoles look bad. It’s a very dynamic game, but also unstable: the visual quality is comparatively low compared to other, AAA games and it handles a bit clumsily as well. PUBG is more of an idea, hence the Early Access status. But it’s coming out of Early Access soon, at least on PC.
So now that PUBG is on consoles, everyone has been playing the game, recording footage and trying to figure out what’s going on with the performance. Xbox One is a multi-console platform, meaning outlets like Digital Foundry have done side-by-side comparisons to see what the difference is. Unfortunately, no matter which box you’re playing it on, PUBG is not playing well with consoles. The game constantly struggles to hit 30 frames per second, regardless of platform or what’s happening in the game. On the regular Xbox One, it even dives under 20, which is nigh-unplayable in 2017. The power and malleability of PCs gives a juggernaut like PUBG leeway, but a console has too many limitations.
Are these issues really a surprise, though? Or were they expected? PUBG is released as part of Microsoft’s own Early Access-style label, after all. Perhaps the ride is operating as planned, with the user base expected to know ahead of time what they were getting into (which doesn’t seem to be the case necessarily). A lot of tangible effort has been put into this game so far, with even Gears of War developer The Coalition hooping on board to help develop a controller-friendly control scheme. Performance may just be the next goal, while getting this bizarre game running at all was the main goal.
Considering that line of thinking, “doomed” may be a bit off the mark. Troubled? Sure. But PUBG is still a work in progress, and is being advertised as such. It’s just a shock, and not just to me based on other content out there, that it runs as poorly as it does, especially on Xbox One X. Bluehole has a lot of work to do, and the game may suffer in some ways as a result. For a game that already had what many would consider sub-par visuals and technical fidelity already, that may be another point of contention for PUBG fans. But Microsoft seems to really believe in this project, so nobody will be giving up on it anytime soon.