This is the one we’ve all been waiting for. How did the PUBG climbing and vaulting update shape up during its brief time on the test servers?
1. It actually works!
Call me cynical, but after all of PUBG Corp.’s caveats and downplaying of expectations, I wasn’t expecting much from the PUBG climbing and vaulting test. To be honest, I thought it was going to be downright broken.
Imagine my surprise, then, when approaching a knee-high wall – the sort of thing that may as well have been fifty feet high for the obstruction it usually causes – and hitting space, that I vaulted clean over it. I went back and forth over that wall a few times, just to be certain it wasn’t a fluke, and sure enough it worked (almost) every time.
The world of PUBG, and the island of Erangel, aren’t exactly built for climbing and vaulting. Usually when you’re designing a game with climbing components, you’ll put action zones or anchors on the edges of the things you want players to be able to climb in the back-end, and visualise this for your players somehow to make it obvious. Think of the tantalising white edges to handholds in the Uncharted series, and you won’t be far wrong. But when you retrofit climbing into an open-world game, after the fact, seemingly on a bit of a whim? It’s hard work.
What they haven’t done, is gone back and rebuilt all of the environments. Instead, that means that the team have had to build in logic to the character/client end, to determine on the fly whether things can be climbed based on their height and shape. And for the most part, things can indeed be climbed.
There are a few things that I might have expected to be able to climb but can’t – like hoisting up onto a shipping container from ground level, or onto camper vans and other tall vehicles – but on the whole, the climbing logic works consistently and well.
2. It’s contextual and (mostly) quite clever
If the thing you want to climb is quite short, like say a picket fence or a low wall, then your character will just hop straight over when pressing space. If you’re travelling at enough of a lick, you might even jump clear over the top of it without vaulting, just like you would before the PUBG climbing and vaulting update.
If the thing you want to climb over is a little taller, up to around waist height, then your character will put a hand or two down to vault or clamber over the obstacle. If you’re moving slowly, that’ll be a hop up and a drop down the other side. If you’re sprinting at full tilt it’ll be more like a Starsky and Hutch bonnet slide. And while we’re sure it’s still quicker to get in the wrong side of the car and switch seats than it is to slide ass-first across the bonnet, it’s certainly much cooler to do it the seventies cop show way.
And if the thing you’re trying to climb is quite tall, say up to around head height? Your character will holster their weapon or sling it on their back, then use both hands to mantle the obstacle.
It’s smart and it works well, and definitely removes the frustration of tripping over foot-high barbed wire fences in the fields, but it does lead to a new aspect of control fiddlyness: the speed at which you’re approaching the obstacle (and the height thereof) will determine the type of climb or vault you do.
If you’re moving forward as you approach a stack of tyres or a crate, for example, then you’ll vault straight up and over. If you’re standing stationary at the side of them, on the other hand, then you’ll mantle it and stay on top of the obstacle without jumping down.
It’s fairly intuitive when you’re running away, which in PUBG you do a lot of the time, but if you’re trying to be sneaky and climb up to a vantage point, it’s – to a certain extent – not much less awkward than the old jump-crouch-climb manoeuvre. You’ll still spend a lot of time swearing because you accidentally jumped off the end of something you wanted to stand on top of; it’s just animated a lot better than it was before.
3. It’s not nearly as dramatic as we were led to believe
Remember the video that Bluehole showed, back at Gamescom in summer, that first showed the PUBG climbing mechanics? It’s this one, in case you’re struggling:
In reality, it’s not quite like that. The video isn’t entirely inaccurate, but there are definitely some things that haven’t made the cut.
I have not, for example, performed a forward handspring tucked roll across the bonnet of a car. Nor have I done a full-on John Woo head-first dive through a plate glass window. The latter is disappointing, but the former is probably for the best; it would be embarrassing getting your squad killed because someone saw your legs flailing about in the air above cover as you gymnast-vaulted over a small cardboard box.
What I have done is either slowly climbed up onto, and then down the other side of, larger obstacles, or leapt across smaller ones putting one hand down as I swing my legs through. These methods are more subtle and less dramatic, but they do the job.
4. Windows won’t replace using doors
One of the telltale sounds that gives players away in PUBG is the opening and closing of doors. There’s a soft click as you open a door, and if you close one behind you – so arriving players on the outside don’t know you went in – nearby players will hear the slam up to around 30 metres away.
You might think, then, that clambering through windows might be the stealthier alternative to using doors. You indeed can climb in and out of windows to enter and exit buildings without using the doors, and it absolutely would be stealthier… if they didn’t have glass in them.
Confession time: it took longer than I’d care to admit before I realised I didn’t have to break the glass before jumping through windows. I was running around, shooting out glass panes with my pistol before leaping through the aperture like an action movie hero for a little while, before I forgot to do it one time and realised climbing through the window breaks the glass anyway.
But the point is, breaking glass makes a lot of noise, and making a lot of noise gets you killed in PUBG. It’s probably somewhere in between the volume levels of opening and closing a door, and like the telltale sign of a door left open, shards of glass on the floor will also give your position away.
And if you find a window with no glass, either on a building type that doesn’t have any (like in Mansion) or because it’s already broken, then you can climb through almost silently. But if the glass is already broken, perhaps you need to be suspicious as to why.
5. Windows will absolutely revolutionise combat
While climbing through windows isn’t going to make building ingress and egress more stealthy in PUBG, it sure as shit makes it a lot more fun, and opens up a lot more routes for creative traversal in urban areas.
We’ve all had that horrible moment before, where you’ve become trapped with your partner or squad mates in a single upstairs room or small building, and it’s painfully obvious to everyone else where you are. You wait. You peer out the windows, if you can, looking for enemies. To work out if they know you’re there. To see if you can open the door and run. To see if you can strike first.
And then you hear it: the tinkle of broken glass, followed by a gentle clunk of the grenade hitting the floor. You’re done, and what’s worse, is that so is everyone who can revive you. Game over, man. Game over.
But with the PUBG climbing and vaulting update, you can make a break for it out the window. Yes, it won’t be quite as dramatic as that Gamescom trailer above, but it’s certainly a better way of making your escape than opening the door and trundling down the stairs. (Pistol-based glass breaking as you sprint towards the window is optional, but badass.)
You can also break the glass to make opponents think someone is coming out the window, then come out the door anyway. If you’re in a big enough room, you and your squad can all come out of different windows, removing the choke point of trying to get everyone out of one door at once.
Basically, the option to use windows is an absolute game-changer for urban warfare. Scenarios like jumping out of the top floor of an apartment building window (risking damage from the ground over a fight you know you can’t win) or jumping in through the window to disrupt an enemy who’s not prepared for an assault make for thrilling rolls of the dice that you just couldn’t have before.
6. The new PUBG meta game is: “Can I climb that?”
If you think determining the client-side logic for PUBG climbing and vaulting was hard for the development team, the mental acuity to judge the likelihood of whether you can climb an object will become a new challenge in itself.
Just like players learn the map, to know the best ways through dangerous areas or what line to take when driving over a blind hill so you don’t hit a really big rock, we’ll all need to learn an approximation of the game’s climbing logic to use it to its full effect.
For the most part, that’s relatively simple: “What height is the thing I want to climb or vault over compared to my on-screen avatar?”
But in first-person perspective, with no character model as a frame of reference, that’s tricky enough. Then you have to take into account the terrain around you; something that you were able to climb at the previous group of houses might not be accessible here, for instance, because the terrain dips slightly lower around it.
Even windows that look outwardly identical can have different climbing mechanics.
Take the small sheds or huts that you see in most every hamlet, village or town. You all know the ones I mean: they’ve got a door on the right, two small windows on the left, a set of shelving on the back wall, and a few barrels or crates in the left-hand corner.
They’re quite high windows, and they’re quite small windows, but you can absolutely get in… through the right-hand one, at least. The left one, on the other hand, has about eight pixel’s worth of barrel ever-so-slightly obscuring the bottom-left-hand corner of the window, which means you can’t climb in through it.
You won’t know that until you try, and fail, to get through a window of that type. And then you’ll need to collate that information amongst all the other useless PUBG shite, the nonsense that has accumulated in your brain, if you want to be any good at this game. And then you’ll need to trust that all the other buildings that look identical (but might be ever so slightly different because this is a massive map and there’s lots of room for variance and human error) behave exactly the same.
And that’s before we get onto the fact that maybe half of the windows in the game have metal bars or security grates, which are quite small and you usually can’t see until you get fairly close to them. I’ve found myself cornered and tried to escape through a window with bars on it on more than one occasion, even in that short time with the test server.
7. Bonus: People are jerks on the PUBG test servers
There I was, in the ‘new’ town North East of Stalber, having a merry old time climbing in and out of windows. I was testing the boundaries of what I could do and what I couldn’t, partly because I was preparing for this article, and partly because I’m a good PUBG citizen and I wanted to send some useful test data to PUBG Corp. on their climbing and vaulting test.
Also, referring to points one and two above, I was impressed with how good the climbing felt and I was quite enjoying the new degree of mobility I had been afforded. Lord knows I missed it when I switched back to the regular servers later.
Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone watching me across the street, as I came in and out of various windows. They were staring for a little while, gun holstered. I thought maybe they weren’t sure what worked and what didn’t with the climbing and vaulting update, and were learning from me.
Then as I turned and climbed through a small, high window, they shot me in the ass.
Then on my next game, someone else shot me in the ass as I was climbing in a different window.
We were there to test climbing and you all can’t contain your competitiveness so badly that you shot an unarmed man, in the ass, as he climbed through a window in the name of research!
You’re all jerks and I hate you!