Thunder Tier One review – PUBG dev’s tactical shooter is tough but fun

Lloyd Coombes
Thunder Tier One review header showing gameplay

PUBG developer Krafton’s latest game, Thunder Tier One, swaps Battle Royale for top-down tactical shooting while losing none of the tension.

It’s almost pitch black as a squad of spec-ops soldiers creeps along a dusty road. On the left, a small farmhouse that needs to be secured, with an external building out front. The task is simple: get in, take out any enemies, grab some intel and get out.

The team of four creeps through the front gate, splitting off into the brush. From there, they spot one, then two, tangos. The sound of gunfire rings out, drawing more attention to their position as they flank around the target building. Crouching before the rear window, enemies can be heard scurrying and whispering. One of the team pops their head up to peek in – and is promptly executed.

This is Thunder Tier One, an impressively tactical and tense top-down shooter from Krafton, developers behind the PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds franchise – and it’s the kind of game I didn’t know I needed.

Thunder Tier One – Key details

  • Price: $19.99 (USD) | £16.99 (GBP)
  • Developer:  KRAFTON, Inc
  • Release date: December 7, 2021
  • Platforms: PC

Thunder Tier One trailer

Thunder’s comin’

Thunder Tier One screenshot showing combat
Combat is challenging and flexible.

That small anecdote is taken from Thunder Tier One’s first mission, which will be players’ first chance to get “boots on the ground”. Except, in many ways, you’re not on the ground at all.

That’s because Thunder Tier One’s squad is commanded from an isometric perspective. You’ll control one soldier, while barking orders to others, and there’s a lot to learn. The game’s initial tutorial factors in the basics like movement, aiming, firing, and lobbing grenades, but also concepts like restraining an enemy you’re holding at gunpoint, blowing open doors that can’t be kicked, and using a fiber wire camera to peek beneath doors.

It takes a little while for everything to bed in, perhaps a side-effect of being so used to aiming down the sights with my own virtual peepers for so long. Instead, Thunder Tier One feels like classic Rainbow Six action, with a little Full Spectrum Warrior in there, too.

As a big fan of turn-based tactics titles like XCOM, I initially felt a little behind the curve as enemies swarmed in. “But it’s not their turn,” I’d tell myself, rewiring my brain to react with a well-placed burst of bullets.

Thunder Tier One screenshot showing character customization
Spend your points wisely.

Still, with each successful sortie, you’ll be able to equip your soldier with new gear and equipment. While it’s tempting to load up on weapons, it became clear that information is key – so opting for items like the fiber camera to identify guards before breaching a room, and silenced weapons to get the drop on enemies before they spot you and radio in are much more useful than grenades (although those have their place, too).

Each of these new pieces of gear has a cost, though, so you can’t expect to stroll into a mission with every possible weapon equipped like Schwarzenegger in Commando. That means you’ll invariably pick apart your defeats just as much as you celebrate your victories, tweaking your team’s setup as you reckon with the game’s learning curve.

Thunderclaps back

Thunder Tier One screenshot showing an urban area
Visibility is key to success in Thunder Tier One, for both you and the enemy.

That learning curve can feel more like a wall at points though. In the campaign’s second mission, players are tasked with securing a high-value target and extracting them from the area.

While things started promisingly, my squad was able to dispatch the first few sentries silently thanks to suppressors, it didn’t take long for the alarm to trigger – sending our target sprinting to an APC to extract. It makes the mission tense, but while those initial guards posed no issues originally, in the second attempt, the guards were inexplicably alerted to our presence despite using the same tactics, prompting a mad dash to the target.

While squad management is pretty intuitive, your squad is occasionally liable to walk straight into an enemy’s line of sight. That can be frustrating, but there is the option to play with other players in co-op, too.

Coordinating strategies with your teammates is great fun in the campaign, but Thunder Tier One also offers co-op skirmishes with Domination. This mode pits players against the AI in a tense fight to secure checkpoints and disarm explosives.

Then there’s PvP combat across Deathmatch and Advance and Secure (holding control points), with mod support through Steam workshop post-launch. Thunder Tier One is a comprehensive package of tactical combat that’s likely to grow if it finds a strong community.


Thunder Tier One is an exciting tactical feast for both solo players and squads alike. There is some wonkiness to its AI, but its tense shooting mechanics and focus on information and visibility make it hard to overlook for fans of hardcore military shooters and tactics game experts alike.

It’s not an easy mission, but it’s one you should definitely take on.

Reviewed on PC