A lot of the struggles developers are facing with the genre involve encouraging people to hop back into the queue after they've died, and Battlegrounds is no exception. These are problems that have plagued H1Z1 — which licensed King of the Kill mode originally from PlayerUnknown and mechanically feels incredibly similar to Battlegrounds, although is, to my mind, much worse — and other survival titles: Another player gunning you down in the distance, executing you with precision before you've even seen them. It's as annoying and unfair here as it is in these games, but the sound design is top notch, and if you keep your ears open and avoid sprinting headlong across any open fields, you should at least hear the guy that gets you.
Best of all, kills here feel hard-earned and are rewarding because of it. Every time I bag a fellow player in Battlegrounds, I find myself mashing the button to save the footage because every single one has a story behind it. There's the player I ambushed hiding in a toilet stall with a semi-automatic shotgun or the guy that surprised me when I was clutching nothing but a pistol, and missed, going down in a hail of gunfire as the noise of his ineffectual shotgun blast echoed around the room. Hell, as I wrote this preview I nipped on for a few rounds, y'know, for research. Trying to outrun the lethal smoke that rolls in, tightening the playing area repeatedly, I found myself wounded and on the run from several players as I scaled a mountain.
As I neared the top of the mountain, I heard a shot. I panicked, hit the ground, and waited for one of the longest 30 seconds of my life. Mercifully un-shot, I edged my way closer up the mountain to see a player with sniper rifle and scope laying on the ridge, totally unaware of me. I gunned him down, and he had the medical supplies I needed to patch myself up, and I felt like a hero, raising a fist in triumph.
Not two minutes later I got a bullet to the head and went down instantly, a central character in another player's anecdote.
This heady mix of triumph and defeat, often within seconds of each other, is all tied together with some of the best shooting I've encountered outside of ARMA. Guns kick and bounce in full auto, iron sights suck at any range, and if you're standing too close to a wall, your rifle will get stuck on it. A mix of little details means there's a reason to opt for pistols or shotguns instead of grabbing a military-grade rifle and sticking with it, and it also means if you're one of the guys stuck with just a pistol, you can try to engineer a situation where things are in your favour.
Gunshots are pleasingly lethal - essential in a game where ammo is limited - and most of your engagements take place at 200 metres. It takes a bit of getting used to, trying to hit a guy as your AK is trying to eject every round in the magazine in seemingly random directions, but over time you'll learn.
That's when Battlegrounds hits its stride, too. When you start to work out how to shoot, how to loot, and the steps you need to take to win. The game won't be for everyone - there's only a single map and not a mass of launch weaponry - but this was a game created to serve a very particular audience, and if you're reading this eagerly, that person is you. Get some, tiger.
Battlegrounds is already an impressive success, making $11m in revenue in just three days and shooting to the top of Steam's most-played charts. All I'm saying is, believe the hype. There's a great game here, and if you can convince a few friends to pick it up with you, it's one of the most tense, but most rewarding, co-operative games I've played in the last few years.