Gamescom hands-on: PUBG (Xbox edition)

Player Unknown’s Battleground has established itself as one of the most popular gaming titles of the year. So popular in fact it briefly surpassed LoL as the most streamed title on Twitch.

With that in mind it’s no surprise its impending console release, announced at Microsoft’s E3 briefing, was nothing short of a major deal. In fact you could argue that it was potentially the biggest announcement Microsoft had at the event (and that’s including their Luke-warm received console reveal).

Gamescom was the first chance the general public would have the opportunity to get hands on with the arena based survivalist shooter. Setup inside a severely under ventilated room as a part of Microsoft’s main show-floor presence were twenty PUBG installs running on from what I could tell were standard Xbox Ones and not the new Xbox One Xs.

Each console was connected to live PUBG servers instead of being a part of a closed loop network created for the show’s benefit. This meant two things, firstly, just like a normal PUBG match you were put straight into a game instead of waiting around for everyone to be ready and secondly, you were playing in a standard match against regular PC players in the live PUBG-‘verse.

Straight into a new match from the moment I picked up the Xbox controller everything felt familiar. Primarily a console player, PUBG couldn’t have felt more at home than with a controller in my hand. Everything mapped exactly as you’d expect and I’m sure that anyone who’s coming from a CoD, Destiny, or will have no problems adjusting.

Where it doesn’t translate is in PUBG’s very robust and quickly accessed inventory system. Working with my inventory felt like wading through quicksand in comparison to the rapid fire control a keyboard and mouse provide on a PC. This would be ok if all my opponents were in the same boat but if the servers remain cross platform (which I doubt it will) I worry it will leave console players far more susceptible and open for attack.

The inventory was also broken – or was on my particular station anyway. The “Press X to equip” kept randomly dropping my equipment for a start, adding mods to my weapons seemed to disabled or just not working at all either. Not the ideal experience for a public showfloor only months before the game is due to hit.

In the same vein the game had the PC’s mouse pointer present but sort of off centre, which could mean they weren’t console’s at all but PC’s running an Xbox build. There was also a centring white dot the likes I’ve not seen since Half-Life 2, that I’m unsure if will remain in the final build either.

Shooting was solid and there’s been some obvious aim-assist adjustments made for the less accurate controller use but that is to be expected. It’s not as snappy as a CoD, nor does it feel as nice as Destiny’s butter like system but PUBG favours a more real approach that I feel they’ve emulated well on console too.

All in all as familiar and as good as the game felt with a controller in my hands I’m reluctant to say it will be the same runaway success on console as we’ve seen on the PC.

The build, while still months away from release, felt very broken in places. I’m confident they’ll be fixed with the team focusing heavily on its release however, with the main title still technically in early access with its own problems it begs the question if the relatively small team is up to the task.

I’m excited for the console world to get their hands on PUBG, it’s a game that everyone needs to try and I think Microsoft have done the right thing bringing it to Xbox. The Xbox controller will always be, for me, the better – especially with shooters.