After only three days, the first round of closed beta testing for PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' new map has ended. Codenamed "Savage", the tropical-themed map measures 4 kilometres by 4, making it just a quarter of the size of the game's two existing maps, Erangel and Miramar.
This smaller size means the pacing of each match feels radically different to those from the previous maps; it's faster and much more brutal. Savage, you could say. The first few minutes on Savage deliver a ludicrously high body count, and the chances of bumping into a hostile player as soon as you touch down are very high indeed.
These action-packed beginnings feel very reminiscent of the flow of matches in Fortnite, and player numbers will often drop way below the halfway mark even before the second safe zone becomes active.
The lack of players in the later stages of Epic's Battle Royale game often means that matches start to stagnate a bit, so to combat that problem in Savage, Bluehole has increased the speed in which each new safe zone begins. In the closing rounds of each match the time between circles has been reduced to only 45 seconds, which leaves you with barely enough time to patch up your wounds from the last push.
There are a few bonuses to having a smaller map, though; with less distance to cover it's now completely possible to outrun the danger zone on foot, meaning no more frantic scrambles to find an escape vehicle.
Boats are also much more useful in Savage, as the whole island is cut into thirds by a channel of water. This means it's relatively easy to escape a hostile situation by heading to the coast and scooting round the problem on a jetski.
Dynamic weather also makes a return in Savage. Fog and rain maps were previously available on Erangel, but for performance reasons they were removed. Sunny maps give a kind of Far Cry Instincts vibe to the proceedings, with clear skies and long lines of sight proving great for snipers hiding on the game's mountainside.
When the rain storms start, the whole map glistens beautifully, but the noise of the rainfall masks the sound of approaching enemies, so you really need to keep your wits about you when tracking through the undergrowth or approaching compounds. Fog maps begin rather clear, but as the matches progress the mist gets thicker, bringing an intense and often terrifying Vietnamese jungle vibe to the tropical locale.
On the second day Savage was live, an update was pushed out to add squad matches to the game - on the previous day it was playable in solos only. I found squad matches to be much more thrilling than solo matches, as the close proximity to multiple enemy teams meant that brutal firefights were always close at hand.
The update also brought another new addition; the ability to see where the first safe zone would spawn before you left the plane. This change to the map screen is exclusive to Savage and has been implemented so that players can plan their strategy more effectively before parachuting.
Despite some very rough edges, Savage managed to deliver some breathtaking Battlegrounds moments, which is a great sign considering this is just the first phase of testing. The emphasis on action rather than camping and stalking is a breath of fresh air for the game, and once Bluehole has added a few layers of polish to it, Savage will probably become the go-to map for many players.
To see Savage in action and to hear more of my thoughts on this new map, have a watch of the video embedded at the top of the article. I get some kills in it and everything!