PUBG's new desert map is a huge step up

PUBG's Miramar map is live on the PUBG test server, which is available as a separate library entry to anyone who owns the game on Steam. Our resident parachuters Chris and Evan dived in together to see how it compares to Erangel.

Evan: Yow, this is such an upgrade. It's not just the novelty of having a new place to run around—Miramar feels like a map built from the ground up for PUBG. 

Chris: Yeah, even having not put nearly as much time into PUBG as you have, I can't really imagine revisiting Erangel once Miramar is on the main servers. It's not just a refreshing change of scenery (though it is a refreshing change of scenery). Miramar feels like a stronger and better map for PUBG.

Evan: It's inviting and bright, a big contrast from the Soviet dullness of Erangel. It puts me in this wild west mindset that melds nicely with battle royale—I want to get into trouble. The region feels more authentic, too. I spotted some Catholic symbols across Miramar, like the burned-out glass candles left around the mausoleums at Graveyard.

Chris: The setting does feel much more specific, which I think is good. Maybe I've just been playing in these vaguely Eastern European post-apocalyptic landscapes for too long (since Stalker) and it's great to feel an altogether different vibe. Even though presumably everyone is still dead from the apocalypse.

Evan: Speaking of that, it's funny how closely Miramar mirrors the general shape of Chernarus, the stock map for Arma 2 and DayZ.

Chris: It definitely feels like an intentional homage to Brendan Greene's DayZ days (zees).

Evan: So one strategy-affecting change I'm seeing the off-road terrain. It's rugged. Miramar isn't a landscape of halfpipe hills to flip your car off of. Most of the areas we drove across were bumpy and irregular, and we had to move at half speed. I felt way more fragile when driving.

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Its complexity favors tactics like window sniping and hiding in subtle arrangements of cover.

Chris: It feels almost too extreme of a change—I don't think PUBG is a game that needs to be slowed down any further. I like it, though: it'll force players to make real choices in their strategy depending on what vehicle they're driving and where they are. In Erangel I don't ever really deliberate about going off-road. It's honestly not much different than driving on paved surfaces. In Miramar, you might opt for speeding through a big town along a road (and drawing certain gunfire) instead of skirting it over the terrain, simply because going off-road is tougher and slower now.

Evan: The other side effect of that change is that the landscape as a whole has way more nooks and crannies, little dips in elevation to go prone in. Whether you like that will depend a lot on which version of the game you're playing (first- or third-person), and what range you like to fight at, I think.

It's absolutely a more complex map. A lot of the structures I've been inside are less uniform, departing from, say, the monotony of Georgopol's symmetrical rows of copy-and-pasted apartment towers. But that complexity favors tactics like window sniping and hiding in subtle arrangements of cover to get a good shot, neither of which are my favorite moments in PUBG.

Chris: Me neither.

Evan: I'm still getting a read on how the structure of this new map affects the rhythm of migration, looting, and combat. Miramar has a few islands—two SW, and two off the east coast that aren't connected by bridge. But they're extraordinarily small. I like that boats are deemphasized (I mean, it's a desert), but I also like the way Erangel's southern island operated as a secondary region to the main zone. Don't expect to get ambushed on any bridges, because there aren't any bottlenecks here.

Chris: It'll be interesting to see what become the most favored landing spots. Right now it seems like Erangel was at the start, where if you want some quick action you land in a big town and otherwise you pick a more remote location. As the map gets more familiar to players we'll start to see what people gravitate towards. But it definitely feels more crowded in terms of buildings and looting than the first map. Remote spots still feel close to everything else.

Evan: Yeah, exactly—apart from the fringes, where the circle's least-likely to spawn, most parts of are within 500 meters of a city or major compound. On the whole, more areas seem viable. The decision to put the military base in the far NE corner of the map is a little weird to me—it means there's one route in and out of a major landmark. I guess it's at least a change from the racetrack ring of road that circles Erangel's base.

I'd say there's still plenty of work to do.

Chris: It might work well during the matches where the circle closes on the southern side, so those who land at the base to get good gear can't just camp on it for the entire round.

Evan: Chris, you were the first person outside of the studio to see Miramar when you went to South Korea to write a cover story about it a couple months ago. Has this thing changed in any noticeable ways since you saw it then?

Chris: Yeah, it's changed a lot. The build I ran around in didn't have any of the big towns, the river at the edge of the map has been turned into an ocean, and there's a lot more polish and finer detail now. It also feels like there's less cover: the early build I saw was heavily dotted with trees, but playing today I feel way more exposed than I did then when running out in the open. I'd say there's still plenty of work to do: I noticed some architectural features that didn't quite fit together in some of the buildings. But it's come a long way since I first saw it in September.

Evan: Yeah, I think the number of manhours put into this piece of geometry is evident from the moment you step on it. 

Chris: What do you think about the new vaulting system, though? I didn't use it much. Maybe I don't think to do it (except in the lobby, where that's all I do) or maybe it's not quite the game-changer I thought it would be. I've done or two jumps through a window because it's closer than the door.

Evan: It's useful in windows—I don't have to circle a house looking for the door, I can just bust through the nearest frame. With PUBG's forgiving fall damage, I can also make a panicked leap out a second or third story and survive. It's handy, and it's going to make sieges less predictable.

Chris: PUBG definitely feels less predictable now. A new map, new weapons, and new vehicles are kinda what PUBG needed for a shot in the arm. It's weird to say a game that draws almost 3 million players a day needed a makeover, but it feels exciting to me again.

Evan: If PUBG's future maps are this intricate and inspired, it'll have a long lifespan. I should note that although I've been getting terrific fps on Miramar, we did have a few server disconnects and crashes, but that's relatively expected in this testing phase. Otherwise there's no reason not to get these 14 gigs on your hard drive right now.