So, PUBG's long-promised snow-themed map has arrived - albeit only on the Test Server - just in time for the UK's traditional rain-sodden Christmas. But is Vikendi, as the new map has been called, any good?
To test it out, we sacrificed our weekend to give the new map an intensive workout.
The resort island of Vikendi has an aesthetic reminiscent of Sniper Elite 4, which is most apparent in towns such as Dobro Mesto, which feel a lot more fleshed out and congruent than the settlements that pass for towns on Erangel and Miramar.
The new Vikendi map - looks more like four by four kilometres rather than six by six
Bluehole have described it as a six kilometre by six kilometre map, although it looks closer to four by four. That said, the high number of locations to drop-in to does make it feel less claustrophobic than Sanhok, while remaining a lot less mañana than Miramar.
You have just over four minutes to tool up after hitting the ground, which is generous for the size of map, but a smaller than usual first circle to retreat to. However, the speed of the encroaching blue zone isn't anything like as punishing as on (say) Miramar or Erangel, and there's just enough vehicles to go round (as well as fewer expanses of water creating barriers and pinch points).
Taking the tourist UAZ tour of old Vikendi, starting in Dobro Mesto
Thereafter, the blue zone shifts are quite manageable - nothing like the cross-country schlepps often required in PUBG's three other maps.
As for the environment, the snow-themed map does actually feel fresh and different.
Footprints, tire marks and tracks from the new snowmobile all get left behind in the snow, which should make for an interesting new dynamic, especially in squad games where one squad is hell-bent on tracking down and dispatching another squad.
The Vikendi snowmobile is surprisingly straightforward to drive - but quite noisy
It may also be possible to identify potential targets from their breath as they crouch in cover. That's another nice touch.
The sound of footprints on the snow is crisp and convincing, and the howling wind also adds another aural dynamic. However, it seemed odd that players could run around quite happily on a frozen lake with no slipping and sliding, as one might expect.
Also, there were some places on the map - such as around the castle - where players leave neither footprints nor tire prints in the zone. In addition, there were one or two unexpected graphical glitches. These will require tidying up before Vikendi is launched on the main server.
And, while there are a number of buildings regularly reproduced throughout the map - the copy-paste of store-bought assets - this feels like it has been done to a much lesser degree on Vikendi.
Some houses have mezzanine levels looking down onto living rooms, which should provide an exciting new way to eviscerate noobs and other careless players. There are also some very spacious, nicely decorated toilets to hang-out in if that's how you like to pass your time playing PUBG.
The snowmobile, like players themselves, can leave behind tell-tale tracks in the snow
What about the new snowmobile?
Well, it's a surprisingly easy to drive vehicle - certainly more so than the Dacia and better handling than the UAZ. A two-seater, it's noisy but nippy and well-worth seeking out. The Dacia, meanwhile, seems like it handles better on snow than actual roads, so it's maybe best to take this hideous 50-year-old dog of a vehicle across country, rather than sticking to the road.
Other observations: there seems to be plenty of healing items, Tommy Guns, Uzis, four-times scopes and two-times scopes. But maybe fewer eight-times scopes, as well as Kar-98s, Mini-14s and SKSs.
There are also more vertical foregrips, which is welcome. The new G36C assault rifle, dropped-in in place of the SCAR-L, looks like a cross between UMP-9 and QBZ and is a satisfying gun to use.
In terms of the map, the one big eye-brow raiser was the winery - yes, a winery. PUBG has made a big thing about the northerly location of Vikendi and a winery is one of the locations you'd least expect to find on such a small island that looks like it was based on a cross between (say) Reykjavik and Copenhagen. What looks like the vinyard is, in any case, ludicrously small.
Does this even look like wine growing country?
Perhaps the developers should swap the winery out for a craft beer brewery or gin distillery, both of which would be just the kind of wanky accoutrement a ‘resort' island might more convincingly offer in 2019.
An unconvincing room upstairs within the equally unconvincing Winery
Also on the unconvincing side were some of the visual assets casually dropped in, for example, to the church in Dobro Mesto: the pews seem both far too few and too small for the size of building.
While we're in Dobro Mesto, how is that all the cars and many other items appear to be rusting due to old age, while the cafe tables and chairs in the town square look like they were laid out yesterday?
The rusty old cars look like they've been there for years while the tables and chairs look like they were put out this morning...
And what is a large cement works doing on such a small island, too, and where are all the shops and supermarkets?
That said, the cement works and some of the towns dotted around the island should make for highly satisfying duels between competing players and squads, especially in games that eventually centre on such locations.
Another high point is the castle, notwithstanding one of the towers in which the staircase spirals the wrong way: medieval castle stairs were designed so that attackers had to attack upwards using their left hand, rather than their right hands, putting most of them at a disadvantage.
Given its layout, the Castle would not appear to have been owned by the National Trust, but it is a great place to nose around, with plenty of nooks and crannies to both explore and take the unwary by surprise.
Whoever designed this feature of the Castle would've been executed for architectural heresy
Overall, Vikendi looks like it will be an excellent addition to PUBG's existing repertoire of maps. In my opinion, it's set to be the best yet and one worth returning to PUBG for, for players who had become disillusioned with the game during 2018 due to all the irritating glitches and not unjustified claims of cheating.
But, please Brendan, replace that winery before you go live - it's just silly.
Played the new Vikendi map yet? Tell us what you think in the comments below
7 December 2018: New snow-themed map Vikendi arrives on the PUBG Test Server
Overhaul to parachuting system and the ability to export clips from replays also coming to PUBG
The long-promised snow-themed map Vikendi has landed as part of Update #24 on the PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) Test Server.
Its arrival on the PUBG Test Server means that it shouldn't be more than a month before Vikendi is added as the latest map to PUBG - perhaps as soon as the January update, although it could take longer.
Vikendi is a six kilometre by six kilometre island map. Covered in snow, the "resort island" (we're presuming it's meant to be a ski resort) is centred around Mount Kreznic at the island's centre. It also features a Cosmodrome, with the devs behind PUBG also hinting at a night mode on the northerly island.
The days are long on Vikendi, but it won't be long before the sun sets and the auroras fill the moonlit skies
"Vikendi is as beautiful as it is dangerous and survivors treading these bitter cold lands will have to watch their backs even more closely as the fresh snow is perfect for leaving behind footprints!
"The days are long on Vikendi, but it won't be long before the sun sets and the auroras fill the moonlit skies," write the developers, adding that Vikendi is intended to be a mix "of all the best parts of our previous maps".
The G36C assault rifle will replace the popular SCAR-L on Vikendi, and players will be able to get around the island on snowmobiles (presumably noisy ones), as well as conventional vehicles.
Vikendi, the developers claim, will offer quicker gameplay compared to Erangel, the original map, and the Miramar desert map, but should be more tactical than Sanhok. Vehicles will handle differently on the snow - presumably, they're not fitted with snow chains - and will leave tracks behind, just as players will leave their footprints behind.
This should provide an intriguing new element to the game, as should the changes to the blue zone that PUBG is experimenting with. On Vikendi on the Test Server, the first circle will be "much smaller than other maps, but subsequent circle sizes [will] change less drastically".
Level 3 helmets will spawn the same as any other item of equipment on Vikendi - you won't have to fight over crate drops to stick on your head - and there will be more Level 3 vests available, too.
Also coming are improvements to the replay system enabling players to edit clips and (finally!) to export their finest moments.
Hopefully, the ability to save and export your finest kills (and most hilarious deaths) shouldn't be too far away (as opposed to having to find them among your replays).
"Coming later in the patch is our overhaul to the parachuting system, which allows you to glide or dive during free fall, improves animations, and also lets you cut your chute before hitting the ground," add the devs.
Players on the Test Server, meanwhile, won't have any choice but to play the Vikendi map - and then only in Squad, albeit with the option of playing 1p versus squad.
13 November 2018: The developers behind PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) have confirmed today that the popular Battle Royale game is coming to the Sony Playstation 4 on 7 December.
The basic game will cost $30, with pre-order bonuses for anyone buying ahead of the formal launch, as well as a 'Vikendi' Survival Pass, G-Coins and Battle Points if buyers wedge-out $50 for a Survivor's Edition or $60 for the Champion's Edition.
Pre-orders will also get some in-game skins based on two other popular Sony Playstation 4 games, Uncharted and The Last of Us. "Take to the battlegrounds in Nathan Drake's iconic outfit and store your loot in Ellie's backpack, both included for free when you pre-order any edition of PUBG on PS4," burbled the company in its announcement.
It continued: "We are thrilled to finally be a part of the PlayStation community and can't wait to get our game into your hands. There's only a few short weeks to go, so follow and keep an eye on our social channels and forums to hear the latest news and updates."
Let's hope the game lands on Playstation 4 fully optimised...
8 November 2018: Player Unknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) is, as rumoured, set to hit the Sony Playstation 4 next month.
The popular ‘Battle Royale' game, credited with popularising the genre, will land during December, but it is unclear whether Sony will concede cross-platform play for the title, as it recently did with PUBG's free-to-play rival, Fortnite.
It comes after eagle-eyed Koreans spotted its inclusion on the website of a South Korean government game-rating board in September. As Sony doesn't have an early access programme, the game will need to be a version 1.0 release from day one. Its price is expected to be £24.99 - the same as the Xbox One price.
The Sony Playstation release will come as the game suffers from negative reviews and declining player numbers on PC.
PUBG players have complained about a poor level of optimisation and, despite the launch of the ‘Fix PUBG' campaign, continuing glitches and allegations of cheating.
Meanwhile, on Xbox, having (more or less) overcome the performance problems that plagued the game, the company is offering a free long weekend in a bid to entice new players to PUBG, as well as old players back.
18 October 2018: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) is planning to introduce a new automatic pistol, the Skorpion, and will also reduce the opacity of the blue zone to make it easier to spot late-comers sneaking in. The changes are coming in Update #23, due in November.
On top of that, a new Conquest War Mode will be introduced, involving platoons of 50 versus 50. In this Mode, players will be required to capture and hold objectives within a particular area. However, replays of Conquest games won't be available when it goes live, but will be introduced at a later date.
In addition, of course, will be the usual slew of fixes for PUBG's many bugs, including (hopefully) fixes for lobby freezes and the bug in which sounds made by players sneaking around slowly were not played to other users.
The new Skorpion, though, is likely to interest most interest players. The fully automatic pistol will be available on all maps and will use 9mm ammo. It can load up to 20 bullets, or a very handy 40 with an extended magazine, making it more useful than the average PUBG side arm. Attachments will include the red-dot sight, suppressor, a variety of grips and the stock for the Micro Uzi.
Fully kitted out, it should be pretty stable but will dish out damage of just 22 in single-shot firing - even less than a P92 pistol. It's effective range is around 50 metres.
Clearly, it's intended for up-close and personal combat, but could be a useful tool enabling players to kit themselves out with two meatier main weapons for longer range business - a Skorpion, MK47 Mutant and a SKS with a 6X scope wouldn't be something to sniff at.
At the same time, recoil on the P18C pistol has also been reduced, but let's face it, the Skorpion sounds like much more fun.
In terms of gameplay, PUBG has not only reduced the opacity of the blue zone, but also fixed a bug whereby its opacity changed somewhat depending on the weather and map type.
To help newbies and incompetents alike, PUBG will also introduce a dynamic guide that will change, depending on the gameplay situation. So, for example, if a player is bearing down on an opponent in a 4X scope, the guide will offer the key presses required to use it. The guide will appear above the mini-map. Turned on by default, experienced (and competent) killers can turn it off in ‘settings'.
The Update is now available on the Test Server and will be coming to the regular hoi polloi at the beginning of November.
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