Savage proves that solo PUBG plays best on a small map

Evan: PUBG's new map, Savage, hit the Experimental Test Server overnight. Three isles separated by a central river, it's the smallest PUBG map so far: one-quarter the size of Miramar or Erangel, yet it still accommodates 100 players. First impressions?

Chris: Flying over the map before deployment, I thought, wow, this map is really small. Then I landed and started running around and I was like, eh. It's still pretty big, really! It still takes a while to get anywhere on foot. It's not a broom closet or anything.

Evan: There's plenty of room. I didn't have trouble picking landing spots. If I didn't drop on a big compound, I'd detour to one of the many clusters of wooden huts, which reliably had a UMP or AR inside. I like the temple area a lot. It and other unfinished buildings are completely greyboxed at this point, but it's basically laid out like a hillside fortress, with thick exterior walls and a courtyard centering medium-sized buildings.

Chris: Just me, but where there a lot of vehicle spawns? I feel like I could find a ride really easily, and sometimes I even saw several cars, vans, and bikes in the same general area at the same time. I felt like I was in Far Cry 5 for a minute.

Evan: You mean Far Cry 3? But yeah, plenty of jet skis too.

Looting feels compressed. I spent far less time obsessing over upgrades.

Jody: I'm the token noob just getting into PUBG now, so most of my knowledge comes second-hand from streamers. Matches definitely feel faster to me. Seems to take less than 20 minutes to get down to a final 10 on the rare occasions when I survive. I don't think that's just because the map is smaller—like Chris says, walking around still takes a while—but because guns are everywhere. I find Vectors like Johnny SMG has preceded me, scattering them across the land. I rarely get to use one before someone domes me—once I got killed while still loading bullets into my first gun—but that just speaks to how quick it can be.

Chris: Even dive-bombing out of the plane as fast as I can, when I hit the ground I'm already hearing gunfire and seeing death notifications. In one match it couldn't have been more than a few minutes before there were only 30 people left. I know there's usually an early wave of deaths in PUBG as people who land in clusters start fighting, but I wonder if so many players being eliminated that early in the match results in the second half of the round being a little slow.

Evan: Savage definitely still has those mid-round lulls, but they do feel clipped, partly because there's just fewer attractive looting areas, period. You're not going to roll up to a major compound 10 minutes in and find pristine, untouched loot inside. Everything seems to get knocked over quickly. And the upside to that is that looting feels compressed. I spent far less time obsessing over upgrades, content with a tier-two helmet and a 4X scope on an AR.

The circles still push you into taking risks and getting in fights, but you'll never get caught hundreds of meters behind them.

Chris: This is the first time I feel like red zones are a real factor. I wound up in them a lot, had to change my position several times because of them. In fact, with red zones and airdrops happening on the smaller map, I found myself a little annoyed at the constant noise when I was trying to listen for cars and footsteps. Savage feels very loud.

Evan: There's a greater feeling of proximity and danger, a sense that anyone could be in any hut, partly because the interiors are naked and uncomplicated—there's nowhere to hide in them. I don't think I used autorun at all, which is probably a positive. Then again, one of the things I praised PUBG for when I reviewed it is that it's a game that provides flashes of life-or-death intensity, punctuated by social downtime and migration. Savage isn't playable yet in duos or squads, so it's impossible to assess this dynamic.

Chris: Honestly, it is pretty nice to have matches not quite take so long. I know lots of people have lots of great stories about great moments in PUBG, but most of my memories are of sort of waiting around for a long time. Oh, I'm in the new circle? I guess I'll wait to see where the next circle is. Oh, I'm in the next circle? Guess I'll hang here. Three circles later, it's all gotten a bit dull. And then someone shoots me from a mile away. This feels like a bit of an antidote for people who have been playing since the beta and maybe want to speed things up a little.

Jody: One thing that's slower is the circles. Every blue wall of death is can be outrun on this map, and I had a great time sprinting ahead of one through the edge of a red zone, explosions going off all around. The circles still push you into taking risks and getting in fights, but you'll never get caught hundreds of meters behind them.

Evan: Back to the buildings: the huts are sort of a drag. They're copy-pasted all over the island, and barren of any decoration, they don't express the setting well at all. Are the devs going to add some objects to these interiors? That'd make them even more campable. I guess they're not having much of a performance impact on the map, at least.

Chris: It's definitely an early look at an unfinished map: as you said, Evan, some of the buildings don't even have walls, and lots of textures are missing. It feels unusual for them to let players in so early, but I wonder if it's a response to Fortnite, which is not only mega popular now but seems to add new stuff on a weekly basis. Maybe PUBG is trying to keep up by letting players in earlier than they normally would have.

Jody: The empty rooms and checkerboard placeholder textures on the walls give it a Laser Tag vibe I kind of like. It's pretty raw, but I'm glad they're getting the community involved so early and using this opportunity to test new stuff while they're at it, like the Death Cam. I love being able to see how somebody managed that freakish headshot through a door on me—takes the sting off death a bit by making it a learning experience. (I have had a lot of learning experiences.)

PUBG should probably never release an 8x8 map again.

Chris: I didn't encounter any weather in my matches, but I'm hearing that people are seeing rain and fog, and that it's dynamic and changes throughout the round. I'm glad they're testing weather again, it adds a little flavor (though I still kinda don't like fog in games in general). They're also letting players spectate the player who kills them (and then the player who kills them, and so on), which at least gives you a reason to stick around and see who wins.

Evan: So far, Savage is a crossbreed of Erangel's forestry with Miramar's spiky elevation. It cuts the vast, open expanses of Miramar (a common complaint), but it also isn't so dense with overgrowth to feel like you're fighting in an authentic, Predator-style jungle. It's more like a jungle-themed PUBG map, which is a little disappointing, though I am having fun. There are more bushes and high grass to hide in, but they haven't had a transformative effect on firefights, for me. 

What is encouraging is the realization that PUBG should probably never release an 8x8 map again, and might be able to get away with even smaller and denser arenas.

Evan Lahti
Global Editor-in-Chief

Evan's a hardcore FPS enthusiast who joined PC Gamer in 2008. After an era spent publishing reviews, news, and cover features, he now oversees editorial operations for PC Gamer worldwide, including setting policy, training, and editing stories written by the wider team. His most-played FPSes are CS:GO, Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic, Rainbow Six Siege, and Arma 2. His first multiplayer FPS was Quake 2, played on serial LAN in his uncle's basement, the ideal conditions for instilling a lifelong fondness for fragging. Evan also leads production of the PC Gaming Show, the annual E3 showcase event dedicated to PC gaming.