Karakin is PlayerUknown’s Battlegrounds’ newest map and also its smallest. Its size, combined with its layout and faster-moving circles make it one of the most frantic and fun PUBG experiences so far. But none of those features are what truly make it special. What brings me joy is the fact that it’s littered with tiny explosives that you can stick to practically anything.
Karakin is built around the conceit of destructible environments. PUBG Corporation studio director Dave Curd told Polygon in a phone interview that the premise was “what if, in the final circle, you could have an entire city that was half exploded?”
This kind of wholesale destruction comes through with the game’s new Black Zones, missile strikes that can level entire city blocks. The impact zones are small, but when you’re nearby one, they’re terrifying (something Curd said was very much by design). Since buildings on other maps are the pinnacle of safety, watching one get destroyed is unsettling. But, while Black Zones are somewhat anonymous, Karakin also offers devastation on a more personal level. That’s where Sticky Bombs come in.
Players can throw these new explosives and they’ll stick to whatever they hit. After a short time, the phone attached to the explosives rings and the charge detonates, blowing away doors, crumbly walls, and players in its path.
It’s a satisfying explosion, but it’s also surprisingly funny. Every sound in PUBG, until the introduction of Karakin, was grating and blunt, like the bangs of gunshots or the dull thud of explosions. But Sticky Bombs’ ear-shattering boom is always preceded by a cell phone ringer. As it turns out, when every other sound in the game lands with a crash, hearing a ringtone that sounds like Nokia rejected it in 1998 can be both hilarious and absolutely panic inducing.
PUBG’s regular grenades roll or bounce, but Sticky Bombs can be attached to just about anything, which means they can come from any angle. And while frag grenades can be cooked to explode instantly, the Sticky Bombs’ cacophonous cell phone has its own sort of comedic timing.
Curd himself mentioned a Reddit clip he saw where one player chased another into a small closet. The player outside stuck a Sticky Bomb to the closet’s metal door and opened it inward. Suddenly, the closet-dweller could either run out and get shot, or die to the explosion after listening to the taunting cell phone ring. The player, paralyzed by indecision, just let the bomb kill him.
“I just had proud daddy tears down my cheek because it’s like, holy shit,” Curd says. “We [as designers] know all the shit that it sticks to, but how fast the players grok it […] I was expecting to see content like this online. I didn’t think we’d see it so fast.”
But inventing new and more torturous ways to win isn’t the only thing these new Karakin explosives are good for. All around the map are Zelda-style discolored walls and each one of them can be destroyed with Sticky Bombs.
Curd calls this idea a “lock and key mechanism.” In this case the lock is a solid wall and the key is an explosion. He says that this was something he and executive producer TS Jang came up with as part of the map’s initial pitch, but the idea was to use crowbars to pry open special doors. Eventually, he explains, that turned into explosives. This change let the team create breach points, which open up new ways to play around buildings.
Breach points make every fight in Karakin’s few cities feel different. They make for unique offensive tactics, so you can storm a building from an unexpected angle, but they’re fantastic tools of evasion as well. In more than one game I’ve listened to the footsteps of enemy squads as they stormed my building, blown a hole in the wall next to me and, jumped out, with the ringing cell phone acting like a taunt to the approaching enemies as I leave from an exit that didn’t exist seconds ago.
Sure, I could have fought the other squads in any of these situations, and if I won those stories would be fantastic. But I’ve got every other PUBG map to do that on. Only Karakin lets me bust out of a building like a Looney Tunes character with a stick of dynamite.