I haven't handled a gun in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds for weeks. In that time I've played over 30 rounds, covered hundreds of in-game miles, and have spent more time hiding in bushes than Sean Spicer. Anyone familiar with Brendan Greene's one-time-Arma mod-turned-runaway megahit will know this is unusual.
On the off-chance you're not, here's the deal: PUBG is a battle royale sim that parachutes players into an open-world island, has you scrambling for supplies and weapons, and pits you against up to 99 other combatants in bloody warfare till but one person remains. To complicate things further, an ever-enclosing forcefield intermittently shrinks the battlefield to expedite the fight. Spend long enough outwith and you'll expire. Spend long enough within and you'll likely be shot dead—assuming you don't waste everyone else first.
Achieving the latter armed with a S686 shotgun or an M416 assault rifle is no easy feat. Doing so barefisted is… well, nothing is impossible, right?
Before commencing my bare knuckled quest, I decided against enforcing hard rules. I was aware players better than I had shared similar experiences online—however my one and only chicken dinner to this point came as a result of my final foe inadvertently falling foul of the forcefield. When it was all said and done, I'd rather pitifully managed to run over one enemy with one of the game's yellow, Mr Bean-esque Dacia cars, and had offed another with an inordinately flukey grenade lob. With this in mind I decided to take whatever I could get.
At first, perhaps expectedly, this wasn't a lot. I spent my first several rounds aimlessly sprinting and dying, dying and sprinting (in no particular order) in and out of buildings which, shy of being accompanied by a Benny Hill score, was almost comical. As I danced over well-placed M249s, full ammo clips, and Crossbows, I could almost hear opposite players screaming: What the fuck is this clown doing?!
I imagined their laughter as I charged at them, fists flailing, as if mimicking that one drunk uncle invariably capable of emptying a wedding dance floor to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. Even when I outsmarted foes, I failed. Sneaking up from behind, or getting the jump on my aggressors was swiftly superseded by being shot point blank between the eyes. Moe Greene got off lightly against my plight—and my boxing technique when given a fair chance left much to be desired (skip to 1.50 below).
After a handful of single barefisted kills in almost 20 rounds, it was clear my strategy needed a drastic overhaul. In his esteemed and enduring treatise on military tactics The Art of War, the Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu writes: "The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy."
Which to me of course translates to: If you can't win, hide in the bushes. Hide in the long grass. Hide in the toilets. Hell, hide wherever you can't be spotted.
And so I did. I hid in bushes:
I hid in toilets:
In the most literal act of trolling, I hid under bridges:
And, in a Theresa May-like rush of blood to the head, I hid in wheat fields:
I became a shadow, an unknown, and, still too often literally, a ghost. I racked up hours of peaceful wandering, as I toured The Island unarmed and rarely unchallenged before being abruptly offed as the circle inevitably and resolutely shortened.
I grew to understand what Gil Lawson was getting at when she suggested Battlegrounds' map gets more haunting as you play it, happening upon quaint nooks and crannies I hadn't previously realised existed—all the while becoming interminably frustrated by my inability to tuck my bloody legs beneath a bed frame or under a hedge or behind a parked car.
Seriously, I reckon I put new meaning to the term 'trickshot' by way of the amount of times I was killed with one-shots to my overimposing appendages.
Eventually, though, I got my break. The gods took pity on me and the lay of the ever-enclosing battleground fell in my favour. With every reduced arena came planes of rough, or conveniently situated shrubbery. I crawled for what felt like miles till it was just me and two others in the final squeeze. The Good, The Bad, and The Suspicious Bush.
Explosions tear through the otherwise tranquil forest. The two active fighters exchange gunfire. I daren't move a muscle for fear of my inflatable tube man legs being spotted.
And then boom! The soldier at the far end is brought to their knees and suddenly it's one-on-one.
I'm torn. Do I get up, run and hope for the best? Or do I lay in wait and hope that the now fallen third party shaved enough health off the remaining foe for me to stage a one-punch sneak attack?
I can't decide. Maybe I should move ever so slightly to the left and—BLOODY HELL WHY AM I SO BAD AT THIS GAME?!!!!
A bullet to the head and my indecision and cowardice has cost me, which feels like a fitting end to my bare-fisted saga. Ah, well at least I've got my memories.
Now if someone could please pass me that shotgun, that'd be grand.