Why PUBG’s rickety deathtraps are among the best vehicles in gaming

I’ve been driving in a serpentine pattern for the last five minutes. My PUBG squad partner is getting nauseous in the passenger seat of our hastily-acquired sedan. I can’t imagine why.

HIM, LAUGHING: “What are you doing?”

ME: “Serpentine! You know, swerving back and forth?”


ME: “So we don’t get shot!”

HIM, NO LONGER LAUGHING: “No one’s shooting at us.”

ME: “That’s because I’m driving serpentin—”

It turns out swerving wildly isn’t a safe driving decision.

The usual suspects

The Buggy. The Jeep. The Motorcycle. The Dacia. The PG-117 boat. For many PUBG players, these terms have assumed an almost mythical status. They represent cars that refuse to go in a straight line, bikes that crash at the slightest provocation, and boats that drive slower than the average moped. What’s worse, in a game focused on survival, movement, and stealth, the tradeoffs that come with using these life-saving devices are enormous.

PUBG’s temperamental physics mean even the smallest bump in the road can send you flying into the air.

Car engines roar between the hills, fields, and abandoned apartment blocks of PUBG’s island, Erangel. The sound of boats cutting into an inlet carry across the horizon, and the high-pitched whine of a motorbike passing by is identifiable from dozens of meters away. Where many players choose to hide and pick their moments for conflict, using a vehicle announces your presence to everyone in the surrounding area. It says: You are mobile, you are fast, and as someone who’s probably confident that they’re racing out of danger, you deserve to die. 

Using a vehicle creates tradeoffs in aim, stealth, and vulnerability that make them among the most exciting elements of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Everyone has ‘that’ story. A tale where a quirk of physics (and an enormous amount of luck) produced an X Games moment. But even when these issues are literal bugs, they're features—ludicrous moments get shared (usually with the background audio of you and your friends laughing) and help market the game. It's the reason that just two months into Early Access, Bluehole gave bikes the ability to backflip.

In the context of survival, it's exciting to race a blue wall of death down the coast of Erangel, worrying whether the energy drinks we downed will be enough to keep our health bars buoyed.

In another instance, two seconds after I assured my co-op partner that two people riding a motorcycle without a sidecar would be fine, we accidentally launched ourselves off of a shallow slope. 

"What could possibly go wrong?"

"I immediately regret this decision."

I almost died.

None of these moments would be possible if PUBG's vehicles operated as expected, or based on realistic models.

We need each other

Despite their occasionally hilarious downsides, PUBG’s vehicles also provide freedom. A magic ticket out of a dire situation, or the safety to spend a little more time looting the next house because you have a jeep tucked away nearby. So, imagine the surprise of seeing one of these precious tools intentionally disabled. I've declared several vendettas after finding a motorcycle cruelly abandoned, or left as a trap for passersby, desperate to reach the next zone. (Fulfilling these vendettas has been significantly more difficult.) 

I’m not saying they deserved it, but...

That’s the true brilliance of these dastardly cars, boats, and bikes. PUBG forces you to rely on them, and then introduces tradeoff after tradeoff to make their use dangerous. In a game that relies on stealth and camouflage, these vehicles strip away your silence. In situations that require rapid movement, these tools simultaneously frame your juicy scalp as a target for every wannabe marksman in the area. In PUBG, the question of why you’re using a vehicle is as important as how, and the answer can determine the result of a match.

By letting janky physics run free, and inspiring players to use common tools in unexpected ways, PUBG actually turns a spotlight on its own particular brand of varied, controlled chaos. The vehicles in PUBG can be imprecise, frustrating, and wildly unfair—and it turns out, that’s OK