PUBG Mobile has, for a long time, ruled the mobile battle royale roost. Ok, so there's been the small issue of Fortnite, but PUBG's real challenger comes in the form of Activision's latest, Call of Duty: Mobile.
Both these games are looking to draw on an element of realism - to some degree - while giving you a blend of intense combat, variety and differing gameplay modes and massive multiplayer action.
But what's really different about these mobile games?
Graphics: Unreal Engine 4 Vs Unity engine
We'll not labour this too much, but PUBG Mobile is powered by the Unreal Engine, while CoD: Mobile runs on the Unity engine. While, ultimately, this doesn't hugely matter, Unreal is often associated with photo-realistic visuals, while it's said that it takes a lot more work to get Unity games to look as polished.
That's one of the differences you'll immediately spot in these two games. Graphically they have very different character. PUBG Mobile appears to have a lot more fine detail, while CoDM feels graphically dense, with a lot crammed in, but not quite the same level of clarity.
PUBG Mobile also feels like everything has a little more breathing space, there's a greater sense of open space, while in CoDM things seem a little more thickly plastered, certainly in terms of the maps. You'll find that finer details, like the type of ammunition lying on the ground isn't as clear in CoD as it is in PUBG.
CoDM doesn't look bad, far from it, but it's also portraying a slightly different world, one that's designed to reflect the CoD experience from other platforms - and that has advantages in different areas. In fine details we don't think CoDM is as clear - recognising different types of ammo scattered about the place doesn't seem as clear as it is in PUBG Mobile.
One element of CoD: Mobile we like about the gaming environment are some of the destructible environment - there are windows to break and fences that smash - while PUBG Mobile doesn't have much in the environment you can destroy. That makes CoD: Mobile feel a little more dynamic in some areas - there isn't a single window in PUBG Mobile and the only environmental element you can destroy is doors. That means that there's sometimes more going on in CoD: Mobile than in PUBG Mobile.
CoD: Mobile also has a lot more in the way of explosions, which you don't really get in PUBG: Mobile.
PUBG is battle royale. There, we said it. It's been a genre-defining game with many looking to recreate the sort of multiplayer battles that it offers. With Tencent involved in both games, it's no surprise there are similarities, especially around the controls, which are similar both in layout and on-screen elements.
PUBG feels like it's battle royale first, with a range of Arcade modes second. Those Arcade options in many cases are also battle royale in style, but a little shorter - sniper training or mini zone are basically just like an extract of the main game.
CoD: Mobile feels different. It opens with multiplayer instead, a 5 vs 5 battle in smaller areas - crash, killhouse, crossfire, Nuketown and hijacked and in a number of different modes - frontline, deathmatch, dominations and search and destroy. It took PUBG a year or so to offer this type of multiplayer and CoDM immediately feels more engaging and dynamic - you can do more and it plays better with a range of difference maps to play on.
Conversely, battle royale in CoD: Mobile is currently on one map, with zombies (although we're sure this will change soon enough) and it's not just a copy of PUBG Mobile. There are gameplay elements that PUBG Mobile doesn't offer, like helicopters and the ability to revive your teammates after they are dead, that brings a dynamic in battle royale that makes CoD: Mobile different.
While CoDM feels like you're a Tier 1 operator, PUBG feels like you're a regular Joe and that defines the big difference between these to games.
Upgrades and loadouts
One of the big differences between PUBG and CoD is how upgrades work. PUBG Mobile is often about costumes, themes and skins with the ability to start the game wearing a steampunk outfit or be dressed like a clown. CoD: Mobile is a lot more straight-laced, because you're an operator, going to battle.
CoDM offers a collection of character styles and some accessory details like the colour of your wingsuit or 'chute, but not the option to choose all your clothes and body features.
In PUBG you start with no weapons in battle royale, while CoDM gives you a knife and some skills, so you can do a little more from the get go. But playing arcade modes you get a lot more freedom from CoD. You'll get the chance to choose and upgrade weapons and choose your loadout - with the option to have a variety of loadouts you can change to suit the map.
Playing the game and levelling up unlocks different weapons and you then make the choice of what you'll have as you primary and secondary weapons, unlocking and upgrading as you go. Whether this means that those who buy passes have a real advantage remains to be seen, but weapons upgrades are fairly easy to accrue.
Both have a freemium approach, where you can buy passes or credits to then buy crates or skins - so the most customised players are likely to be those who spend the money in the game - although we can't see that there's any real gameplay advantage that comes with paying in either game.
Call of Duty Mobile lets you do more
One of the big differences is everything you can do in gameplay. PUBG Mobile is a fairly simple survival game at its core: you parachute in, gather, survive and win. In Call of Duty Mobile you start with little, gather more quickly, but also have a full range of skills that PUBG doesn't offer.
A lot of the stuff is the same, like airdrops, ground vehicles and maps with varied terrain and vehicles, and a decreasing game area.
But CoD: Mobile often lets you get to bigger weapons faster. You'll find a rifle with a scope and you'll be good to snipe or you'll find a truck with a minigun mounted on it and you'll tear the place up. There's rocket launchers, sticky grenades and things like drones and UAVs to remotely locate and attack other players, all of which expand the range of combat options.
Then there are zip wires to get around the game area and a lot of automated chatter from your teammates that bring atmosphere that PUBG lacks, making it feel busier - whereas PUBG can have moments of immense calm, when you spend 20 minutes gathering without seeing another soul.
While the movement and control is basically the same too, Call of Duty: Mobile adds things like skidding, so you get more movement options too.
On the flipside, PUBG Mobile feels a little more edgy. You can't take a lot of damage in PUBG - a couple of hits and you're critical, whereas in Call of Duty it feels like you can unload a mag into an opponent and they're still standing. It encourages slightly more cavalier behaviour in CoD: Mobile, because in a face-off you'll probably come out alright.
And if you do die, your teammate can scan your tags and you can drop back into the game on a revival flight a few minutes later.
The exception to this is snipers. While you can often take plenty of hits from smaller calibre weapons, we've found that sniper shots are often fatal in CoD: Mobile. That also happens in PUBG Mobile, but often you'll take a couple of shots before you're dead. It might be that PUBG is giving snipers a longer range to shoot from because of maps that are more open.
Summing up: Which is better?
PUBG Mobile has been on the scene for some time and Call of Duty: Mobile is certainly enjoying the hype of being new and shiny. Any PUBG Mobile player will instantly know how to play CoDM because they are similar enough to just transfer your skills over.
But we've got to say that we think Call of Duty offers the better arcade experience. It just feels better for face-paced action, sliding around, launching hunter-kill drones and getting up close to the enemy. It's a blast and it's something that we don't think that PUBG does quite as well.
When it comes to battle royale, we still think that PUBG looks better and the pace of the game feels very different. But that same logic applies from arcade modes - if you're the sort of person who always jumps into Pochinki for the immediate fight, then CoDM might suit you well enough.
If you're the sort of PUBG player who likes to avoid contact and use stealth to get to the last 10 players before picking off your remaining rivals, you might not find that in Call of Duty.