I haven’t attempted to properly critique an element of PUBG Mobile since that time they released a genuinely entertaining live-action drama series in a country that soon moved to ban the game entirely, but the new ‘React Survival’ mode has reignited that spark tonight. This new mode, clearly modeled after the ‘Red Light, Green Light’ challenge of Squid Game‘s first episode, is both simple enough to work wonders, but lazy enough to have me feeling it could have been a real asset to the game.
For those who may have missed the announcement, PUBG Mobile today released a new game mode that tasks a bunch of players to reach the other side of a massive open-air arena without a big, scary animatronic bunny catching them in the act. And it’s not hard. The mechanical monstrosity at the other end always turns around to “catch” players a second after it stops a song at the exact same part every single time. In the Squid Game episode that inspired it, on top of betting on their life, players have to contend with their own balance. If the machine turns around while they’re mid-sprint, they’ll need to stay balanced on one foot until it turns back around. Any slight slip and they’re dead.
Not so in PUBG Mobile. So long as you take your finger off the screen, stopping your character’s movements in the process, you’re good. It doesn’t matter whether your character was technically in free-fall at that moment, they’ll freeze up like a block of ice the instant you stop sending that signal. But it could have been so much more. In an instant, my head had jumped to a simple fix that could have added an extra layer of immersion and skill to the game, and it came from a classic game from decades ago that only recently came back into the spotlight — Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Virtually any extreme sports simulator uses the feature I’m talking about here, but the Pro Skater games are probably where most will picture them. To add an element of human balance to the PUBG Mobile React Survival mode that could have brought it so much closer to its source material, all it needed to do was incorporate the same balance mechanic used in these extreme sports titles. Whether you’re trying grind across a long pole or use your skateboard like a pogo stick, these games have always had you fight to keep an increasingly volatile gauge from hitting either side of its meter and knocking you on your ass. That tiny challenge, which simulates balance, between each turning of the animatronic bunny could have made all the difference, making it increasingly unlikely that entire lobbies would clear the mission unscathed, which already strips the life-or-death game of its allure.
Better yet, the added challenge paired with actual rewards for overcoming it could have been a great way to catch a whole bunch of hackers in the act, literally shooting their character to death for (hopefully) the last time. PUBG Mobile recently introduced device bans after years of struggling to curb cheaters. Luring them into one quick and easy game based on a hit show and dangling a sweet, sweet, carrot in front of them could have been a great opportunity to test their tech, locking the accounts and devices of those who’d choose to ruin the experience of others for their own selfish gain. I know I probably sound like a crazed vigilante at this point, but I know any legitimate PUBG Mobile player would have loved to have seen a lobby full of hackers get deleted by Squid Game‘s now-iconic game of greed.
Announcing, and then releasing, the PUBG Mobile React Survival mode in just a few shorts days already had me thinking the mode was being sent out to die. It seemed as if the PUBG Mobile team felt like they’d missed the boat on the Squid Game hype and sent their homage out to fill a content void that didn’t even exist. Given Roblox developers were pushing out near carbon copies of the Red Light, Green Light challenge hours after its premiere, seeing PUBG Mobile take months longer to develop something with no unique addition of innovation is a little sad. Especially given my mind was conjuring up ways to spice up the challenge within minutes of seeing the end result — ways also lifted from other IP.
PUBG Mobile‘s nod to Squid Game could have been something great. Something they could even have used as a respawn mechanic like Warzone‘s Gulag in other game modes, but instead, it’s another mode we’ll forget ever existed in just a few short days. And that’s a real shame.
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