Yesterday Tencent Games opened up the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Mobile beta as a soft-launch listing on the Play Store that is freely available to players in Canada. Today I have sideloaded the APK and necessary OBB files in order to test it out and see how its development is shaping up. So far the performance has been excellent, though the touchscreen controls aren't great.
PUBG Mobile has only been available as an English listing on the Play Store for one day, though it has been around for a little while in China as a testing release. Development definitely appears to be moving at a rapid pace, especially when you consider the recent news about Fortnite coming to Android. This has me worried as both games appear to have dev teams racing to be the first to market on mobile with a name-brand battle royale game. PUBG already has a reputation for poor optimization on PC and consoles, and a rushed dev cycle on mobile doesn't instill a lot of hope with how it will turn out.
Luckily the last few hours I have spent playing it say otherwise, as it appears to be optimized quite well for mobile play. Suffice it to say I'm pleased with how this port is shaping up.
The graphics are actually pretty good, especially when playing on the highest settings. I have noticed very few frame drops, though the textures and map detail are less than the PC or console releases, but that is to be expected. What's nice is that there are a few different options available to the player that allow you to tune the graphics to your preferred performance for your device. This way you can set your framerate from low to high, or change the graphics details from smooth to HD. There are even a few color choices available that allow you to change them from muted tones to something more bright and colorful.
The controls in their current state are not great and are the most significant point of contention with this title. The first thing I did was connect my Logitech F310 over USB OTG to my Galaxy S8+, and sadly the gamepad only works halfway. I can move my player perfectly fine with the analog sticks, but the rest of the buttons on the controller do absolutely nothing. Maybe this means the controller support just needs more work, though it isn't unheard of to see popular ports landing on the Play Store without an option for physical gamepads.
The next issue with the controls has to do with the touchscreen. As we all know, shooters played on a mobile device can be terribly challenging, and PUBG Mobile is no different in this regard. The on-screen buttons are responsive enough, but the problem is that there are too many of them, and you will have to use each one if you plan on succeeding. This means you have to continually look at them to ensure that when you tap on one, it registers your command. More often than not you will be too focused on the action, which means you may just slightly miss hitting the prone or crouch button at a time that it is necessary for your survival.
Fortunately there are a few control options in the game's settings that you can tweak. There are sensitivity settings for the camera and scopes as well as a few options for the on-screen buttons that allow you to swap from fixed placement to floating, but even these extra options hardly help. That's why I feel physical controller support is so important.
The gameplay isn't that much different from the PC and console releases. You will have to contend with the poor touchscreen controls, but other than that there are very few differences. You still play with 100 players that are dropped on an enormous 8x8 km battlefield, though as far as I can tell there is only one map available. Your goal is to of course fight for your survival by outlasting every other player in the match. There are several ways to go about doing this, but it can be argued that battle royale titles often devolve into a giant game of hide-and-seek. The longer you can hide, the better your chances are of outlasting the majority of other players. To me this is boring, but I also understand the appeal, so it really just comes down to whether or not you enjoy this style of shooter.
Gameplay footage from Techzamazing
Due to the fact that PUBG Mobile is a beta soft-launch release its monetization is not yet activated. This means not only is there no upfront price listed on the Play Store, but there are currently no in-app purchases present in the title either. This will assuredly change once it officially releases, but sadly I have no news on how the devs will go about monetizing this mobile version just yet.
One interesting tidbit, when you sideload the APK without the necessary OBB files, you get a message when you boot up the game that it has not yet been paid for. This could easily be some default message that means nothing, or it could point to this port releasing with an upfront cost, just like the PC and console releases. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
If you enjoy battle royale games or are a huge PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds fan, this mobile port offers an amazingly similar experience to the PC and console releases. It performs very well, though the touchscreen controls can be tricky. The lack of working controller support is also a problem, but when you consider that they are at least halfway present, it would appear that their inclusion is at least being considered. The future monetization may also be an issue, though it's still too early to know for sure how it will pan out. In its current state PUBG Mobile plays a lot better than I ever expected and it makes for a great battle royale shooter to casually play on your phone or tablet. If you happen to live in Canada, you can try it out right now and see for yourself. Otherwise, you will have to sideload all the necessary files to get this running or you will simply have to wait for the official release.