PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS has always been about emergent gameplay stories, stretching right back to the Battle Royale shooter's debut. It's a gameplay narrative generator, and as much as we're all working towards that 'Chicken Dinner', ninety-nine of us will always fall short. The trick, then, is making sure there are ninety-nine stories of failure that feel distinct from one another.
PUBG's latest Patch Update 12.2, marks a sizeable milestone for the granddaddy of the 100-player Battle Royale. There’s a brand new 8x8 map, Taego, and PUBG has added a chance at redemption with the Comeback BR feature. The ability to revive yourself has also been introduced, along with new weapons and a vehicle exclusive to the map, but above all, it's more tinder for the storytelling fire.
Let Me Tell You A Story
I've not played PUBG in years, but decided to jump into the new map, Taego, as if it was a weekend break away. 'I'll get in, see the sights, and get out' I told myself, before promptly staring at my screen, bleary eyed after a marathon Battle Royale buffet.
First impressions are good - Taego feels like the other side of the coin to the classic map Erangel in many ways. There are rolling fields, farmland, wooded areas, and a huge number of small buildings. When leaping off the plane, I set my sights on Hae Moo Sa - far enough from any other players that I'd be undisturbed.
As I was rusty, though, I landed a fair way South East of the destination, found myself a Kar-98 and a few level one items, and started trekking East to the play zone. After hopping in a car, I was shot at, lost my sense of direction, and did some damage to myself by skidding off the road and crashing into a small outbuilding. Oops.
Thankfully, I made it there in one piece (just about), and parked the car so I wouldn't make too much noise. As I approached a small set of buildings, I heard a truck approaching. I hit the deck, lying prone in the long grass, and the truck flew over the ridge I was standing on, missing me by a few meters at best. Heart-pounding, I snuck into one building and grabbed a shotgun, before catching a glimpse of another player laying in wait behind a window in an opposite room.
I watched my adversary peered through, timing my movements to get to the other side of the window as they looked away. BOOM! My shotgun broke the window, and took them out. Alas, no great loot, but I pushed on regardless, leaving the building via a roof exit before being sniped from some distance away.
All of the above occurred in the space of ten to fifteen minutes, and that was just one of the games I played. I could regale you with war stories of my daring raid on a room with two players in it, only to come unstuck by a stun grenade moments before going through the door, or the time I chased down an opponent while driving a coupe, only to have their gunfire eventually blow the car up just as I hit them - killing us both.
PUBG is always tense, yes, but it's also hilariously slapstick when it goes awry. Its competitors are often faster affairs, but they lack something in the catharsis of a brilliant plan gone wrong due to human error.
That's not to say that there isn't high-stakes and high-skill action to be had. Just look at my earlier story of how I flanked my enemy before being sniped from another postcode. It's the "always a bigger fish" scene from The Phantom Menace in video game form.
Taego is off to a great start, though. It's complex, built-up areas had me scanning for enemies in its dusty streets, while in quieter moments I found myself saying "I could've sworn I saw an enemy over there", while vehicles ensure everything feels within touching distance - within reason.
If you've grown tired of homogenised Battle Royale running and gunning, I've got good news. Yes, PUBG is back, and it's just as thrilling as it's ever been. something tells me it’s not done delivering fresh thrills.