PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds studio Bluehole has opened up its zombie mode to its content-creator partners (think YouTubers and Twitch streamers) around the world. The developer gives those players access to a special version of the game that includes custom matches. Among the settings for that mode is the option to turn most players on a server into a horde of the living dead. I played as the undead in a handful of matches, and it is a big change from the core Battlegrounds loop. It is also long periods of nothing followed by bursts of excitement.
Here’s how this new mode works: Unlike in a standard squad match, where teams of up to four people all battle each other for victory, the zombie game has one human unit fighting against a giant group of zombies. In a custom room the squad size can change, so you can have around 90 zombies chasing down 10 people (or other configurations). The humans can still pick up all the weapons and use vehicles. As a walking corpse, you are naked, can’t use weapons or vehicles (and you’ll fall off and take damage if you try to stand on a moving car or boat), and you can only punch — no biting. It’s then up to the zombies or humans to wipe each other out.
I haven’t played on the human side because I’ve only joined servers that broadcasters set up so that they and their friends can play as the humans. I was stuck being a zombie. But you can imagine that it’s a lot like normal Battlegrounds. The humans try to find weapons and gear to handle encounters, except the big difference is that you’re facing an army instead of several other tiny squads. On the zombie side, the action was long stretches of sprinting in the direction of gun fire or a roaring engine, followed by janky melee combat where strikes never feel like they are connecting and other zombies keep getting in your way.
The mode divides the horde into smaller squads, so you can work together with a group of your fellow undead. That seems like a key to surviving as one of the walkers. But even if you don’t make it, it seems inevitable that the swarm will overwhelm the human players — especially as the safe zone gets smaller over time.
But even while working together and getting into direct confrontations with the living is exciting, it doesn’t make up for the rest of the match where you’re just turning on autorun and hoping that you’ll intercept the humans when they aren’t expecting it. Even if you do catch up with them, chances are they’re going to jump back in their jeep or boat and zoom to other side of the map. That’s really deflating when you’re a zombie and have to go right back to nonstop sprint.
I had some fun, but the zombie mode won’t have the same draw as the core game. Instead, this is probably works best as a distraction to break up the action with something different. And even then, this mode probably only works for livestreamers who have a lot of viewers who are willing to play as zombies.