It seems like every other month, there’s a new game taking on the Battle Royale format. That’s neither inherently good or bad; some do it well, others vanish from the marketplace quicker than you can say “where are we dropping?”.
It’s a natural cycle of entertainment for trends to come and go, and where the MOBA was once the hot new thing in gaming, the Battle Royale is here to stay – for the time being.
It’s seemingly difficult to stand out from the crowd with so many competing Battle Royale games available. Many of them, like Fortnite, Call of Duty: Warzone and Apex Legends are functionally similar but are often neck-and-neck to improve and diversify the gameplay experience to win over players.
This has arguably been of net benefit; quality-of-life improvements from one major title have been bleeding into the next, and each have had to conjure up unique game modes to keep players from losing interest.
The most fascinating result in that regard has been the rise of the Battle Royale game that isn’t a first-person shooter. Tetris 99 was a surprisingly addictive multiplayer twist on the classic tile-spinning game, and it’s a compelling reminder that the Battle Royale genre has a lot more potential than the AAA game-space would lead you to believe. And Fall Guys delivers on that potential.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is the kind of game that’s an absolute no-brainer for its genre. It’s a brightly-coloured, fast-paced take on the format of classic Japanese game show Takeshi’s Castle, and manages to capture every bit of that slapstick hilarity while offering an edge-of-your-seat challenge in every round.
Each match of Fall Guys is broken up into a series of rounds, each whittling down the starting player count of 60 until only one is left. Some of these are much more punishing than others; how many rounds you’ll end up taking part in depends on how quickly everybody is eliminated.
There’s a nice diversity in the kind of challenges you’ll face. One round has you chasing other players around the arena in the hopes of stealing a tail from them before the timer runs out, several others are obstacle courses that will test your timing and co-ordination.
There’s also a grid-based memory game where you’ll have to memorise what kind of fruit is represented by each of the floating platforms players are standing on. A ten-second timer will flash up a particular variety of fruit, and you’ll have to rush to the corresponding platform unless you want to plummet to your death as all the others drop.
They’re mostly enjoyable challenges; which ones I look forward to playing and which ones I dread are mostly down to personal taste. The levels that can be the most frustrating are team-based ones, where simply being on a team that doesn’t work together means almost certain failure. That’s not necessarily a fault of Fall Guys itself – that’s a problem you’ll find in just about every online multiplayer game in existence. But it does make the idea of playlists for particular types of level very appealing indeed.
Art direction is without a doubt one of Fall Guys’ biggest strengths. It’s a simplistic, cartoonish style that complements the game’s light-hearted tone. Each player avatar is a goofy, endlessly optimistic little bean-on-legs who can be customised with in-game currency earned through progression or in-game purchase.
There’s costume pieces, colour palettes, skin patterns and a variety of emotes to unlock, and they can all be mixed and matched to create a hilarious Frankenstein’s Monster of a character. The character customisation is the key drive to keep playing Fall Guys, and this is both a blessing and a curse.
There’s plenty of fun to be had with Fall Guys’ physical challenges, but with only so many different levels, the gameplay loop can become very familiar after a few hours. That’s not to say it’s a game severely lacking in content – if unlocking new gear is your thing, there’s plenty to dig your teeth into.
But whether this game’s servers continue to be as well-populated as they are (and they were very well-populated at launch, resulting in frequent crashes which have mostly been resolved by this point) is a matter of whether Mediatonic are able to consistently put out fresh content.
Given that the main menu suggests that the game is currently in its first season, it’s logical to assume that plenty of new challenges and cosmetics are on their way. I certainly hope so; Fall Guys is an incredibly fun and entertaining game at its core, and it would be a damn shame for it to fall into obscurity once its player base feels they’ve exhausted everything it has to offer.
One final note: Fall Guys is best played on PC. I’ve spent plenty of time with both the PC and PS4 versions of the game, and it’s been difficult to go back to the latter. While the PS4 port looks great, it can suffer from frame rate drops and input delay which can severely affect your ability to pass stages. This is likely to change with future patches, but if you’re able to pick it up on Steam, you can look forward to high, stable performance and all the resolution and graphical detail options you could want.
Despite some technical issues with the PS4 port, Fall Guys is a laugh-out-loud deviation from the heavily-armed antics of other Battle Royale games. It’s simple in concept but does a lot with a little, and if Mediatonic keep it fresh with regular updates, I’ll be glad to keep on playing.