WHY I LOVE
In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Joe gets paranoid by PUBG's open and closed doors.
Let me start off with a disclaimer: I played Playerunknown's Battlegrounds for the very first time yesterday evening. I'm still at that 'terrified of everything stage', which Michael Johnson—the author of our best (and worst) guns guide—assures me is normal. To this end I've spent the first few hours of my time on the island confused, scared and getting my hat/level one motorcycle helmet handed to me at almost every turn.
And yet I've loved every minute of it. Despite the hype, I went into PUBG with a degree of trepidation. I'd seen facets of the interwebs compare it to DayZ and while I enjoyed both its Arma 2 mod and standalone variations once upon a time, I wasn't sure I wanted to return to a similarly lawless playground having left both scenes behind quite some time ago.
Such a popular game is of course hard to ignore and, like Andy, I was pleasantly surprised to see my cynicism trumped by a suitably frantic and fun survival MMO. Unlike Andy, though, I'm at my best when in the thick of it. Well, best is probably a stretch—rather I enjoy the game most when I'm being stalked and/or carelessly unloading my gun's magazine into a brick wall because I'm shite-scared of my own shadow.
To be fair, my fear isn't rooted in my stark inadequacies as a hunter/survivor. Nor it is it based on how good the opposition invariably is. My terror is based in something far less organic: doors. Let me explain.
Okay, for those unfamiliar with the setup: each round of PUBG kicks off with up to 100 players being deployed from above. After parachuting into various corners of the map unarmed, you then race to loot whichever buildings are closest, picking up whichever weapons/armour/clothes are at hand before venturing off into the wilderness to lay waste to whoever crosses your path. Last man or woman standing wins.
Due to the map's impressive sprawl, however, you'll spend stretches of time on your lonesome before happening upon a single hostile neighbour. Was that someone up ahead? No just a tuft of grass. Is that a… no, a burnout car. Wow, that hedge looks like a… BANG. Dead. It was. Shit.
From what I've played so far, PUBG does a fine job of balancing these spells of isolation with flashes of confrontation—an ever-enclosing playing area helps maintain this as combatants steadily die off, for example—which is in turn underscored by an ever-present, and ever-burgeoning, sense of anxiety.
Enter the game's seemingly innocuous doors. When each game kicks off, all functioning doors are closed. If you discover an open door on your travels, this can only mean one thing: that someone's been here before you.
Now, you could obviously avoid these dwellings entirely. But what if there's some decent loot that whoever was last here has overlooked? You step inside. Panic sets in—what if they're in the house right now? You hear footsteps. Your panic escalates. You run upstairs, no one there. You check each room, empty. It's quiet now. You double back, head for the stairs, and despite the fact the mohawk-sporting topless man stood before you has his mouth covered by a gas mask, you know very well he's smiling.
The shotgun pointed at your head almost feels like a formality—especially when you've accidentally equipped yourself with a smoke bomb instead of the UMP9 you'd kept fully loaded till now. I clearly don't work well under stress.
I've faced several permutations of the above scenario now, to the point where I'm starting to get fly for it. I chatted with a few players on the PC Gamer Discord after a few games last night who informed me they make a point of closing every door behind them so as to throw other players off their scent during each game. As such, I've now taken to leaving certain doors open and closing others so as to confuse my foes.
With this in mind, a very similar situation to the above played out where I was instead the hunter. I shut the front door as my counterpart nipped upstairs, whereby, upon returning to the ground floor, she momentarily paused as if to acknowledge something was off. I came at her with a sickle and finished off the job there and then. It was glorious.
Another occasion saw me camped out in an elongated cabin-like shack with just one door of entry/exit. I shut myself in and positioned myself so that when someone entered, I'd be hidden behind the door. One player did enter. Sucker, I thought to myself, only to realise I was pressed tight against the wall and couldn't move. In a typically frenzied panic, I started firing shotgun rounds at the ceiling, walls and floor. My house guest shot me in the head without breaking stride. It was a disaster.
And so I guess much of my passion for doors in PUBG is tied to tricking players and successfully setting traps. I'm not yet skilled enough to take on others in head-on gun fights and while that'll inevitably come, I've thoroughly enjoyed surviving in a world where all and nothing is fair.
Perhaps that closed door up ahead is simply somewhere no one's been to yet, but then again, maybe people like me await your arrival on the other side. Maybe the door lying wide open means the house's been ransacked already, but what if there's a gun or vest or health pack that's been missed? There are few games that have the power to instil anxiety in players and it not come across cheap. Playerunknown's Battlegrounds, even in its earliest of states, is one of them—and it's all the better for it.