Microsoft and The PUBG Corporation released PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the Xbox One today, and the unfinished last-player-standing shooter, which is available for $30 in the Game Preview program, needs a lot of performance optimization. But one area that the designers have already figured out is how to control this complex game with a joypad. The button layout enables players to do a stunning number of actions, and it is a leap forward for console shooters.
People will struggle to figure out how to do some very basic things in PUBG on Xbox One when they first start it, but that’s because it is deviates from other shooters, like Call of Duty. It also uses a smartphone-like concept of quick taps and long holds to enable each gamepad button to handle multiple functions — this even includes the triggers and D-pad.
Let’s get into some examples.
One of the most noticeable changes is aiming down sight (ADS). To do that in Call of Duty or Battlefield, you just hold down the left-trigger. This will enable you to look through a scope or iron sights. In PUBG, however, holding down the left trigger only brings the gun up to your shoulder — it does not go into ADS mode. To do that, you actually have to just quickly tap the left trigger. This gives you three shooting types — hip, shoulder, and ADS — all depending on what you do with one button.
The PUBG controller scheme is all about having more options. Take the right bumper. This usually handles grenades or something along those lines in other shooter. Here, however, it enables you to switch between first- and third-person (with a tap) and it enables you to look around in 360 degrees while running in a different direction (hold in combination with the right stick). That’s not something you can do in a lot of other shooters.
One of the shocking things is that The PUBG Corp has cut out very few things in the adaptation from PC to console. I haven’t found an auto-run option yet (that’s the “=” key on PC by default), but I can switch the firing style of my weapon (left on D-pad), I can toggle through health items and use them (down on D-pad), and I can hold my breath and lean left-or-right while aiming and moving (a combination of the sticks, the left bumper, and the L3 and R3 buttons).
It may all sound overwhelming, but it all feels natural. A big part of that is that the dual functions of buttons typically correspond to one another. The right bumper handles perspective whether you tap or hold.
Of course, controlling your character is one thing — inventory management is another. This was probably The PUBG Corp’s biggest challenge, and I think this works. But it will take more time to get used to than the in-match controls.
The inventory works like this: You tap the Start button to bring it up (you can also hold that button to get to the game options). You will have multiple columns to work with in this interface, and you can switch between them with your right and left bumpers. The far left bumper is whatever is on the ground in your vicinity, and you can pick up items from this pile with X or directly equip a gun attachment with A. You navigate these menus with the D-pad or right stick, and you can still move around in the world while you’re doing this with the left stick.
Console inventory management is surprisingly good in PUBG. A key to understanding it is to remember that the A and X buttons do similar but different things. Getting the hang of everything else will just require you to spend time with it.
If you’re interested in trying this out as a PC player, The PUBG Corp has added controller support to the Steam version. It’s the same as the Xbox One, and let me tell you one reason you may want to at least experiment with it: haptic feedback.
The Xbox One gamepad has excellent rumble in it, and PUBG uses that to give you an idea of where you are getting shot from. I was running to get into the next safe zone during a match when I got shot out of nowhere. It was shocking, but I knew that they shot me from my right-hand side. This gave me enough information to dip behind a tree for cover. Once I had a chance to breathe, I realized that I knew where I got shot from because my right hand vibrated … and my left hand didn’t That’s some really useful tactical information, and it’s not something you’d get on the PC with most mouse-and-keyboard setups.
PUBG is off to a really promising start on Xbox One. I hope that the developers keep improving it, but it has a ton of potential and is already fun to play. And the controls never get in the way of that.