Not even a week after Epic Games announced that Fortnite would release for mobile devices, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has snuck its way onto the Canadian Google Play Store to give them a healthy dose of competition. Developed by Tencent Games and originally released in China as PUBG: Exhilarating Battlefield, this version of the popular battle royale game will make its playerbase red with fury as they struggle to fight both their opponents and controls at the same time. In essence, this is battle royale without the fun.
If there’s anything on which to give Tencent Games kudos it’s that they have done a good job transitioning the content of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds to mobile. The gameplay formula remains intact: 100 players launch out of a cargo plane and kill each other using guns and weapons until only one player or squad is left standing. Content wise this version has released in the same state as the Xbox One port, which contains the first released map, Erangel, and a few select updates, including vaulting and some newer weapons. Another nice touch is that the developer included multiple graphics options, giving players three preset levels to choose from if they prioritize framerate over graphic fidelity. This is especially useful for players using older mobile devices so they can still have a playable experience.
The gameplay, specifically the controls, is where the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds falls apart. Because no one can accurately aim using a touch screen, fire fights between opponents are a mess of chance and luck, rather than individual skill. Desync issues also harm the overall experience, causing multiple hit registration problems. For these reasons I found that the best strategy to get chicken dinners was to get in a vehicle and simply run people over rather than actually engage with them on foot. This isn’t an example of poor balancing as it is the reality of the situation—shooting in this mobile game sucks and there isn’t much Tencent Games can do to fix that due to the nature of the platform.
While it’s nice to see battle royale games on mobile, the big two just don’t translate well to a mobile experience. Games of either Fortnite or PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds can last upwards of 30 minutes a round if players reach the last 15 alive and nothing happens during the majority of that time because players are spread too thin throughout the massive map. Instead of simply porting over these games, devs need to tune them for the platform and release a more compact experience that players can take on-the-go with them or during their daily commute. Until then, I recommend sticking to the console or PC release of your favourite battle royale.