Having sold well over two million copies after releasing a couple of months ago, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has shown that there’s a big market for games that let you kill 99 strangers without remorse. But with so many other players to contend with, the odds are very much stacked against you. One wrong move and you’ll quickly find yourself staring down the barrel of your competition, your hopes of victory dashed across the wall of an abandoned building as your precious gear is swiftly pried away from you.
Fortunately there are a number of ways to avoid becoming the next player to depart the island, and once you understand the basics of the game, utilizing these quirks and habits can often be the key to success. If you’re new to the game, or simply want to improve your odds at reaching that coveted top ten spot, give these helpful tips a try.
It might seem counterintuitive to suggest going into a battle royale with the express intent on avoiding combat, but hear me out. Everything available to you, from health, armor, consumables and weaponry is finite, and the best chance you have to survive against the masses is to make sure you conserve these resources as best as you can. Instead of wading into the fray, allow your fellow neighbors to duke it out in your stead, letting them risk their lives in the name of warfare as you slowly bide your time on the outskirts.
To do this effectively, stick close to the outer ring of the safe zone whenever possible. You’ll need to have a good sense of map awareness and be constantly conscious of the timings of each zone change if you want to avoid getting caught out by the encroaching barrier though. Whilst this does leave you vulnerable to getting caught out by the incremental zone changes, this method allows you to position potential threats in one direction. If you’ve constantly got your back against the danger zone, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be flanked, making your position much more defensible.
An open door can tell you a lot about your surroundings in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and once you understand how to read them, doors can often act as early warnings and signposts that allow you to track the movement of other players. To understand the significance of an open doorway, you first need to understand the mentality of your competitors.
When it comes to searching for gear in the various buildings on the island, most players will try to get in and out as fast as possible. If you come across a building and the door is open, this should be your first warning sign that a player is either still inside, or that they have already pillaged this area and moved on. The sight of an open door should almost always be a good prompt for you to be on guard.
Once you’ve robbed a few houses, the art of looting should become fairly clear. Get in, grab the good stuff, and leave. If you’ve got a good understanding of that, you can actually start using open doorways to map the movements of other players that may have come before you, tracking their entry and exit points, and sometimes even as a clue to which direction they went next. To do this, take note of the angle of open doorways, as each door will open in the direction the player is facing. From this, you can discern which side of the house was the entry point and, more importantly, which direction they exited from. This method isn’t always 100% accurate and differs from player to player, but reading these minor clues can often help you predict an upcoming fight and allow you to get the jump on unsuspecting players.
Similarly, if you want to make sure your movements are less obvious, try and make it a habit to close every door you go through. If you’re searching an interior, the sight of a closed door may lull any would-be looters into thinking the house is empty, allowing you to get the drop on them before they’ve noticed your presence.
When it comes to surviving against the odds, you should always try to use every trick in the book. From psychological warfare to clever acts of subterfuge, nothing is off-limits when it comes to lasting until the end, and one of the best tools at your disposal is sound. Understanding how to interpret and manipulate the acoustics of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds can give you an edge during a heated skirmish, as well as save you from an unfortunate end at the hands of an enemy.
The most important thing to know about sound is that it travels much further than you might think. Gunshots can be heard between towns, and can easily telegraph your location to any number of nearby aggressors. If you were involved in a firefight and lived to survive another day, your first action should be to leave the area as soon as possible to avoid anyone that might be hunting down the origin of the noise. It might seem a little paranoid at first, but assuming there’s always someone nearby that can hear you is a good rule of thumb to help you avoid getting surprised.
The physical sound behind each bullet fired can also tell you a lot about your current situation, especially if you’re being shot at from an unknown direction. As detailed in this developer blog, bullets are subjected to a number of realistic physical rules when fired, and there’s a few telltale signs that can help you locate your would-be attacker. The most important thing to listen out for is the location of the bullet bow shockwave—a cracking sound that comes from the supersonic bullet travelling past a player at close range. This sound is always rendered perpendicular to the trajectory of the bullet, which can help you pinpoint the source. For example, if you only hear the crack in your left ear, then the attacker is either directly in front or behind you.
Beyond gunfire, the sound of movement should also be taken into consideration, especially when searching through buildings. When possible, you should be walking instead of running when exploring interiors. The sound of footsteps on wooden or concrete floors makes it incredibly easy to locate and flank an unsuspecting player, so remembering to cover those sounds when possible is a good habit to get into. Cars should also be ditched a fair distance away from any potential buildings you intend to enter as these will telegraph your location for miles around, painting a large target on your back for nearby players looking to score an easy kill.
Jumping out of the plane at the start of each round is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Pick a highly popular spot and you the risk of having to fight off four or five other players before you’ve even put your hands on a weapon. Jump too far away from civilization, however, and you could end up stranded in the middle of nowhere as the deadly barrier overtakes you, cutting short your quest for victory.
Since the trajectory of the plane changes with each round, there’s no one perfect zone to aim for. However, most people will follow the same pattern when it comes to early game strategy, which makes it easy to plan your journey accordingly. In a typical match, the majority of players will jump out almost immediately after the plane flies over land in an effort to get their boots on the ground as soon as possible. This causes a large influx of players to meet within the first few miles of island, making this a much more risky place to land. Since winning is all about stacking the odds in your favor, you should avoid hastily leaping from the plane, and instead take some time to observe the plane’s path in order to pick a quieter cluster of houses to land at. Try to avoid aiming for the centre of the map, however, as this is a popular point for players to gather due to the frequency of valuable gear that spawns there.
There’s a whole host of consumables, armor pieces and weapons to find when scavenging from the abandoned houses on the island, and while it might be tempting to hoard everything you come across, making sure you’re properly equipped should be your first priority.
Your first task when you land should always be to locate a suitable weapon. Ignore melee items like frying pans and machetes unless there are no other options as these will rarely outclass an enemy with a firearm. Pistols are a good starting choice, but your ultimate goal should be to find an assault rifle as soon as possible as this will allow you attack from any distance effectively. An SMG offers a decent alternative when fighting in close quarters, but this weapon doesn’t perform well out in the wider open spaces between settlements.
Armor in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. The two types of equippable armor cover your chest and your head, and each type can be found at either level 1, 2 or 3, with each level dictating how durable and how much protection each piece offers. Thanks to the efforts of the community, there are some rough figures which show the average values that each gun does against the various levels of protection, but the basic rule is that the higher the level of the gear, the more protection it will provide. When it comes to helmets, only level 3 headgear will offer all around protection against instant-kill headshots, as level 1 and 2 pieces don’t cover up the face, leaving you exposed to attack from the front.
As for consumables, you should try to keep a healthy stockpile of first aid kits and bandages to help keep your health bar topped up. Traditional healing items will only heal you up to 75% of your maximum health, but you can regain the remaining 25% by using energy drinks or painkillers, which will slowly regenerate beyond this cap over time. These items are rare, however, so make sure you grab them whenever they appear to make sure you’re fighting at your strongest.
Grenades and weapon mods are a useful commodity to find out in the wild, but these only provide a situational benefit depending on your current weapon and the circumstances at hand, and should be treated as secondary to the more important items listed above. Don’t bother hoarding extra weapon mods as it’s not guaranteed that you’ll ever find the appropriate weapon for them, and you’ll rarely need to swap between mods out in the field. The last thing you want is to get caught out doing inventory management because you’re trying to reshuffle a stack of red dot sights that you’ll never even use.
When it comes to surviving against the odds, being able to spot potential threats creeping up on your flank is the key to success. Thankfully, the third person camera in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds can be abused to give you the edge when scouting for danger, allowing you to bend your vision around corners and over obstacles whilst keeping you safe from gunfire.
To make use of the mechanics of the camera, you will first need to make sure that you’ve got the freelook command mapped onto your keyboard. Once that’s sorted, you will be able to extend the angle of your camera a full 360 degrees around your character, allowing you to peek around risky areas and through narrow doorways before stepping out in the open. This can also be used to look into the interior of a building through a window whilst maintaining a safer, crouched stance to keep yourself from being shot by any aggressive players taking refuge inside.
One of the most common causes of death in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is panic. Games can be long, drawn out affairs where even the slightest noise in the distance can cause muscles to tense up and sweat to drip. In the heat of battle, it’s all too easy to get flustered as you crawl towards a safe haven, and in that moment of terror, you’re at your most vulnerable.
The good news is that you’re not alone. It’s fairly common for most players to experience that same “Fight or Flight” response when startled, and learning to use this to your advantage can give you the upper hand. If you’ve managed to sneak up on an enemy, take this time to collect yourself and make sure that your shots will land. If they haven’t spotted you yet, this is the perfect time to get yourself into a good position and flush them out with a stray bullet. The immediate reaction will typically cause them to overreact and make a mistake, making them much easier to predict and dispatch than if they had time to think.
Andy Moore is a gaming freelancer based in the UK. When he’s not writing, he can be found staring blankly out of the nearest window, or spending way too much time on Twitter._