First-person servers change everything in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Image credit: NeoGAF member Darkdeus

Image credit: NeoGAF member Darkdeus

After some delays, first-person-only servers arrived in today's update to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. The change is meant to support players who consider peeking around corners in third-person to be inauthentic or unfair. After playing a few rounds today, it's already become my favorite format. 

Eyes on the ground

In first-person, you have to pay for every peek. There's no more hiding inside a house or behind a rock to gather information or catch your breath with no risk. With all cameras locked to first-person perspectives, every piece of information becomes more valuable, and spotting becomes more of a skill. 

Suppression is more effective.

In combat, this makes engagements more equal and more fun. In any third-person fight, one player typically has a big advantage over the other. While popping out to ambush an unaware player is fun, first-person fights tended to be sloppier and more frantic. In one apartment building on the north edge of Yasnaya, a player and I surprised each other in a stairway and spent several dozen rounds trying to win a gunfight straight out of an action movie. Because attacking and defending players have the same chance to see each other and engage, I enjoyed prolonged shootouts that probably would have ended instantly as brutal ambushes on a third-person server.

In a lot of ways, this makes everything in Battlegrounds feel slower and lower to the ground. I’ve tried using the first-person camera on and off before now, but I always felt like my face was absurdly close to the ground. Plus, running and looting animations felt jerky and a little nauseating. Thankfully, both the camera height and first-person animations have been tweaked across the entire game, and I found it much more comfortable. 

I think first-person servers are going to lead to a much wider adoption of SMGs, whose compact size makes them easier to wield in hallways and bedrooms. I never noticed it as much in third-person, but an M16 with a silencer is just impossible to swing around without bouncing off of doorways and windows. With a Vector or UMP, it’s possible to creep sideways through a door frame without lowering my sights—a big advantage.

Other than the PUBG's test servers and different matchmaking regions, this is also one of the only times Battlegrounds has fragmented its population, with first-person players going to servers separate from everyone else. Thankfully, I didn’t notice any delay in matchmaking for first-person games—though the first couple of games I played topped out at around 85 players.

It’s also worth mentioning that the terrain itself just looks bigger from this new perspective. The crowded apartment blocks of Georgopol’s north bay or the dense industrial district of Yasnaya Polyana feel impossibly claustrophobic when viewed from eye-level. Head-high concrete walls or burned-out buses aren’t just obstacles I need to run around, they’re sky-high barriers that block all lines of sight. The amount of visual information I can gather has been cut, leaving me to focus more on tactics, gunplay, and listening for those all-important sound cues.

You're forced into first-person for all parts of a match except for the opening plane ride and skydive—and those will eventually change to first-person as well, according to the new patch notes. For the first time, the protection of a covered UAZ made me almost completely blind, and I saw the appeal of the wide-open views I’d get from a more vulnerable motorcycle. Boats are particularly hard to navigate with the driver’s camera so close to huge expanses of open water. It's more important than ever to have a good communicator riding shotgun if you’re traveling by vehicle. 

Seeing is believing

As in simmy FPSes like Arma and Squad, I've found suppression to be more effective in first-person. In third-person PUBG, attackers are often penalized for suppressing, as their prey can usually heal up and reload behind cover as they keep an eye on you. When the rock or tree you're hiding behind takes fire in first person, you have to stick your neck out to figure out where it's coming from. It's easier to flush someone out of their position, which usually isn't the case in PUBG's endgame.

Some regions of the map are changed completely by the first-person view, too. I’ve had a couple of finale circles force the last survivors into the middle of a wide-open wheat field. In third-person PUBG, everyone stays flat to the ground and throws grenades randomly, praying until the terror finally ends. Lying prone in a first-person wheat field leaves me completely blind, daring to play chicken with everyone else who's lying prone. The same goes for roofs and ledges: you've got to pay a price in order to poke your head out and scan the ground below you. 

Now that it’s an option, I don’t think I’ll go back to playing Battlegrounds in mixed third- and first-person servers. I find the more cautious pace of travel—and the frantic rush of gunfights—so much more enjoyable and my own decision-making instincts so much more effective that I can’t think of a reason to go back. After weeks of heart-breaking second- or third-place finishes, I tasted my first-ever chicken dinner on a first-person run today. I think it’s amazing that an arguably minor change has made Battlegrounds a more tense, more rewarding game overnight.