For those of you who don't follow PC gaming PlayerUnknowns Battlegrounds (or PUBG as it is often referred to) has been a huge hit this year, despite still being in early access. How huge I hear you ask? Well in November it was announced that the game had exceeded 20 million in sales in less than eight months. To put that into context, in 2016 the biggest selling game was Pokemon Sun/Moon with 11.4 million copies. Gamers saw it as a huge coup for Microsoft when they announced that in the console world PUBG would be an Xbox exclusive. This was one game that could help Microsoft close the gap with Sony, who, are currently leading the current generation with quality exclusives. Some gamers were surprised at the game coming to console as the game in its current state can be taxing on most gaming rigs.

Rather than go with a regular retail release PUBG has released at the budget price of £25 and in the form of a 'Game Preview' which is the Microsoft version of early access. In short the game is being released in an unfinished state and gamers will be testing the game and influencing development. Due to the game being in an early state this piece is a preview rather than a review and is based upon playtime in the first few days of the games release. Whilst this will give a feel for the game, things should change significantly over the next few months as the developers get data and feedback from gamers and apply patches.

The game itself is fairly straightforward. There are three modes; solo, duo and squad. Regardless of the mode you choose you begin play as a passenger in a plane flying over a vast island. Your first decision is when to jump out. There are numerous planes dropping off all 100 players at different locations and your choice of where to jump and subsequently land has a huge impact on the rest of the round. In duo or squad it makes sense not to jump alone as playing alone against a team is likely to lead to death. Once you jump from the plane you skydive and parachute to the ground. Whilst in freefall you can see enemies and adjust your landing so that you have a little breathing space. Initially your aim is to scavenge weapons and equipment to give your character a fighting chance of being the last survivor. Where PUBG differs from a lot of games is that you only have one life. If you get killed you are out. This makes the game especially tense as the further you get in to a round, the more it feels like you have to lose. Once you start to find weapons and equipment the game forces players together by shrinking the area in which you can play. A short while into the game a white circle appears on the map and you are prompted to get within the circle. When the counter hits zero a larger blue circle closes in on the white circle. Anyone caught outside the blue circle will take damage. After a few minutes the process is repeated with a smaller circle. This process squeezes the players together and increases the chance of a firefight breaking out. Also it adds a layer of strategy, do you wait til the last minute and loot the area while it is shrinking to give yourself the best chance against others? Do you wait on the perimeter of the circle and set an ambush?

I'll now jump t to the biggest issue and that is that the game is very, very poorly optimised. I'm playing the game on an Xbox One S and so the game is locked to 30fps at 1080p. Whilst the game does achieve 30 fps on occasion, most of the time it falls significantly below this. Also in the airplane and sky diving stage it feels closer to a slideshow than a fluid game. To add to this, as you fall you see muddy textures below which are replaced by buildings popping in way too late. I've even seen a video of someone driving a vehicle only to stop dead as they collide with an invisible building where the textures were slow to load in. The game feels like playing a PC shooter with an out of date graphics card and the wrong drivers installed. I would have preferred the developers to have targeted a lower resolution such as 900p (or even 720p) if it delivered a consistent frame rate. This is a game where detailed visuals mean nothing if the frame rate dips. There is some hope though, going into your Xbox settings and turning off video capture does give a noticeable boost to the fps and certainly enhances the experience. The main problem here is that PUBG has made a name for itself by people sharing their gameplay experiences, though, as a short term fix it's worth trying.

To make matters worse the game lacks any form of aim assist. Whilst not every console game uses aim assist, you don't realise how useful it is until you lose it. Engaging an enemy without aim assist and a frame rate well below 30fps is a bizarre and frustrating experience. In a game where ammunition must be scavenged, losing most of your bullets shooting around your enemy isn't fun. The only recent major console shooter I can think of without aim assist is Rainbow 6 Siege. The big difference is that R6S is based around close quarters combat and has a 60fps frame rate. If the framerate for PUBG wasn't so poor then the lack of assist would be fine but these two problems colliding definitely impacts on the experience and I completely understand if gamers give it a miss as a result of this. Another issue initially is that controls feel unwieldy. This may be in part due to the lack of any tutorial. It took a while to realise that aiming down sights requires a quick tap of the left trigger and over the shoulder view is entered by holding the same trigger. Reloading (or even initially loading) guns requires holding X rather than tapping it. This all feels illogical at first and a simple tutorial would help future gamers.

Despite these issues it's quite obvious why the game has been so popular on PC. The experience is very rewarding. As you only have one life, every choice matters, every engagement can be fatal, the mere suggestion that an enemy is near can cause fear. Killing an enemy is a big deal as is managing to lay low and avoid a deadly encounter. I have genuinely enjoyed my time with the game (in between the frustrating moments of course). Simply put, the game delivers and has the potential to be a system seller for Microsoft.

Also on a positive note is the squad system. Upon selecting to play in a squad based round you are queued and almost immediately put into a squad of 4 people. I'm very pleased with how quick this happens and you can stay in the squad after the round has finished and play again.For a game to get this right so early in development is a big plus as many games have struggled to get a decent squad system at release. I have seen some complaints where three friends have been unable to quickly get into a game because for some reason it takes an age to find a fourth person and the game doesn't allow you to play as a squad of three. These are fairly minor issues which I'm sure will be ironed out in time.

As the game is technically not finished hopefully a lot of the issues will be resolved. The game does feel like it was released too early and that may be due to Microsoft wanting the game released before Christmas. The success of the game will now rely upon the developers ability to resolve the issues with the game engine. Patches will need to be frequent and effective for the game to appeal to a wider audience. If the game can be brought up to the expected standard in terms of performance then we could be seeing an absolute gem of a game that would be essential for most gamers out there. If the naysayers are right and the Xbox can't provide enough horsepower then I'd advise people to avoid it. Only time will tell.