Earlier this week, a live action trailer for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds was released and it quickly went viral. There were two main reason for this; firstly it was excellently produced and exciting to watch, but the real surprise was that it was advertising PUBG on mobile phones. Yes, you heard right, PUBG, the game Team Eurogamer play way too much of, is now playable on Android and iOS devices. Bonkers!
Getting to play PUBG on mobile is a bit of a mission, however, as it's currently only available to download in China. Happily, there are a couple of ways to trick the system and play the game in your own region and it's not especially hard to do. I mean, if I can work out how to get it working on my iPhone 6, surely you can.
Be warned though, it turns out there are actually TWO official PUBG mobile games available to download. PUBG: Army Attack puts an arcade style spin on the original concept and includes things like naval battles, whilst PUBG: Exhilarating Battlefield (or PUBGEB as I've decided to call it) comes much closer to recreating the feel of PUBG on the PC.
I've spent quite a few hours with PUBGEB this week and you can watch 15 minutes of mobile gameplay in the video above which explores the differences between the mobile and PC builds. For those of you who prefer a nice quiet read on the weekend though, I'll be going over the main changes below.
First up, there are loads more customisation options in PUBGEB compared to the PC build but, as with the original game, all these items must be unlocked by buying and opening crates with BP points. Because this mobile version is free to play, you'll find a lot of menus that encourage you to grind for small amounts of XP and BP by completing certain challenges or levelling up your character.
Unlike the PC version, the more you play PUBGEB, the more XP you'll earn towards levelling up your character. To mark these accomplishments, every time you level up to a new rank you'll be presented with a lovely, sparkly animation complete with a satisfying unlock sound.
Once you're past the pre-match holding screen and up in the air you'll notice there's a little counter next to the cargo plane. This counter shows how many players are left on board. Paying attention to this number can help you judge where the busy areas on the map are going to be. If that number starts falling quickly it means the concentration of opponents below you will be greater, equalling a higher chance of a spicy start and vice versa. Another good use for this counter would be estimating how many AFKers there are. The higher the number near the point of automatic ejection, the greater the chance of getting some nice easy, risk-free kills at the start of the match.
Another nice little change is the fact that the in-game map now displays the flight path of the plane in the form of a dotted line. This makes it much easier to select a suitable location to aim for when you jump. Not only that but the mobile version also tells you, in meters, how far away your map markers are. This is a great tool for judging when you're at the closest point possible to your chosen landing zone. Just watch the distance fall as you get closer to your target location, then as it steadies out and slowly begins to increase again, hit the eject button and enjoy your reduced free fall time.
Once you've hit the ground for the first time and you're running around marvelling at how PUBG can be running on a mobile phone you might notice things feel a little bit off. It looks like Erangel, but not exactly... You see, to make things work smoothly, some corners have had to be cut and some things have had to be changed. Newcomers won't spot anything untoward of course, but if you've played as much PUBG as I have, you'll notice that almost all the fences are gone now. There's also no glass in the any of the windows and, for some unknown reason, Erangel's lighthouse has completely disappeared.
Also different are the buildings. Whilst most look identical from the outside you'll find that the interiors are almost completely empty, save for the occasional sofa or painting. In fact, a lot of the interiors have also been completely remodelled in order to open them up a bit for easier navigation on touch screen.
On the topic of touch screens, you'll probably be glad to hear that PUBGEB has auto aim. It's not too extreme, but it is generous enough to compensate for the unwieldy controls. Just start shooting at someone and, if you're aiming close enough, the game will automatically adjust the position of your reticule, often moving it directly over your targets.
In another big change, PUBGEB always displays a mini map in the top right hand corner of the screen. This displays your surrounding area and also the route to any map markers you may have placed. The best thing is though, it also displays direction of fire indicators so you'll be able to quickly pinpoint the exact direction enemy fire is coming form.
The automatic pick-up feature in PUBGEB is also a godsend for anyone with unwieldy thumbs. As you pass over collectable items they'll be displayed on screen, in either a white box or a yellow box. White box items are optional pickups that you must manually tap on to collect, these could be attachments for guns you don't have yet, or some kind of grenade. Yellow box items like powerful guns, high tier armour and med-kits will be grabbed by your character automatically, meaning you don't have to faff around with the tiny menus. The game will even auto-equip your weapons with any attachments you might find although it is possible to manually adjust these attachments if you're not happy with what the game has given you. Just tap the onscreen backpack icon and then drag and drop whatever item you want to change.
Squad matches in PUBG are nothing new, but what is new is the fact that the game now tells you how far away your squad mates are. In the PC version only the player names are displayed above their approximate location, making it easy to misjudge how far away they are if you're too lazy to bring up the map. PUBGEB, however, displays your buddies names and their distance in meters from your location. That means you'll be able to know, at a glance, if you need to run and catch them up or if you can get a cheeky bit of extra looting in before you have to get moving.
Those are the main differences between PUBGEB and PUBG but I list even more in the video above so do give it a watch if you're interested to find out more.
Overall I'm incredibly impressed by what Tencent, the publishers of PUBGEB have been able to achieve here. Despite regular connection issues the game runs really well and it includes some nice touches that I'd love to see added to the PC version, like the distance indicators for map marker and team mates. Most impressive of all though (and I'm sorry if this offends anyone) is the fact that, in my experience, PUBG runs much better on mobile phones than it does on the original Xbox One. Which is pretty bloody incredible considering your phone is a tiny thing that lives in your pocket.