Player Unknown’s Battleground (or PUBG for short) is a battle royale-style game that pits you against 99 other players in a heart-pounding survival scenario where you must scavenge for loot, explore the map and stay in the safe zone while taking out your competition. It’s a highly competitive game that offers game modes for Solo play, pairing up in Duo mode, or playing as a squad of four, and every playthrough will be unique in its own way.
Originally released in China, the mobile version is now available in North America and elsewhere around the world and, in short, the hype is real. I’ve been playing PUBG for Android on a Pixel XL and Galaxy S8 over the past few days and here are my first impressions of what I would already consider a contender for best Android game of the year.
Not a mobile version, but the full game for mobile: We’ve all played mobile ports of a favorite PC or console game that try to take the look and feel of the full game and then bog it down with loot boxes, in-app currencies, and energy meters to temper your ability to just play the game. PUBG for Android is essentially the full game that you could buy for Steam or Xbox One, simply scaled down for mobile devices. This would have been a golden opportunity to make this game pay-to-win with in-app purchases available to let you start with a kick-ass gun, but that would have also clearly broken the scavenger aspects of the game. You also have full access to use vehicles scattered around the map. Pretty much, if you’ve seen a streamer pull off some ridiculous stunt on the PC version, you can do it on the mobile version, too.
Optimized for touchscreen: So the biggest thing that might hold back a mobile port of a third-person shooter would be brutal touch controls, but big props to the developers here for spending the time to not only offer really functional touch controls but for also including a bevy of settings to tweak things exactly the way you want. I’ve found the controls to be pretty stellar right from the start, but I love that you’re able to really finetune look and movement sensitivity, re-map all the button locations, and ultimately find the touch controls that work best for your play style. The game has streamlined some of the more finicky mechanics, so you will automatically pick up ammo and accessories for your equipped weapons, along with any other upgraded equipment. You can also set yourself to auto-sprint, so you can keep running while scanning your surroundings for enemies.
Frankly, I feel like third-person shooters like PUBG are perfectly suited for mobile, as you’re able to quickly scan around your surroundings while still moving towards your next target as opposed to first-person shooters where your viewpoint is locked.
They ease you into things: One point of discussion on the PUBG subreddit, if you find yourself winning your first matches on mobile — that was by design. Early on, the game a higher ratio of bots to players to make things a bit easier for brand new players. These bots are designed to not put up too much of a fight, so if you just won your very first PUBG battle and thought “boy, that was kind of easy”… It’ll only get harder from here.
While some might feel this point belongs in the “bad” column, or think the developers are duping new players, I think it’s a great way to introduce the massive scale of this game without having higher skilled players intentionally playing in the lower ranks simply to make a mess of things. The bots only stick around for the lowest Bronze-level games, and winning a match in your first few playthroughs is the best way to hook you in on that addictive rush of outlasting everyone.
It really looks great with the right phone: If you’ve got a newer device that allows you to play this game at the highest graphics setting, DO IT. I’ve been playing this on a Galaxy S8 and it plays like an absolute dream at the top settings compared to the medium settings recommended for my Pixel XL.
Reddit users have reported this game running fine on low settings on a Samsung Note 3, so you should be able to get this game to play on practically any Android phone — but it really shines the brightest on the max settings.
Still a bit of a hot mess: If you’ve played PUBG before on PC or console, you’ll know this game is a bit of a crazy mess at times — but that’s also part of the charm. This game is crazy and gives you the freedom to play out every situation however you please.
Still, having started playing the mobile version from beta, I’ve encountered my fair share of bugs — from matches that never started to ridiculous glitches (like my car getting stuck in a tree) that had me laughing. I’ve also found some issues with the sound clipping, but again these are mostly minor bugs that should get squashed in time. You’re also able to report any bugs you find while playing with a few quick taps, which I’ve been sure to do anytime I come across something. Gotta help the developers out!
Games like this demand controller support: Currently, you can only play PUBG with touchscreen controls and that’s a bit of a downer. As I said above, the controls are pretty tight, but having to hold onto the phone to play means I got my neck down for maybe a half hour at a time. The option of Bluetooth controls would allow me to prop the phone up and play more comfortably. There are also some reports that you can connect a keyboard and mouse to your phone, and I will certainly be investigating that.
Currently lacks the cross-platform support of Fortnite: Fortnite is the biggest competitor to PUBG, and while it’s not yet available for Android it’s coming and it seems to be setting itself up for cross-platform play. You’re probably not going to be able to play against your friend on Xbox One while you play on your phone, but based on the iOS invite page asking for your existing Fortnite log-in details, we should expect your stats and experience to accumulate on your account regardless of which platform you’re playing on. It would be nice if the same features were extended to PUBG players.
Download this game right now
This game is the real deal. If you’ve played PUBG on another platform, or have seen Twitch streamers playing the game and wanted to check it out, you can play PUBG on your Android for free. If you’re in the game, add me, mousemachine, and let’s go win some squad matches!