The battle royale space has been crying out for a little bit of innovation. This absurdly popular and, in turn, overcrowded genre has seen a deluge of wannabe titles in recent years that riff on the same formula with little to no variation to make a quick buck, and that’s been surprising to see because battle royale as a concept that has so much inherent potential, so much room for excellent, unique ideas.
Indie development team Mediatonic’s Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is the game we’ve been crying out for. It’s a gleefully stupid, utterly chaotic, and ridiculously enjoyable game, and it delivers a multiplayer experience unlike any other. It has some issues that the developers need to work on, but all in all, Fall Guys is an absolutely delightful game that will surely appeal to a vast, vast number of people.
"Fall Guys is a gleefully stupid, utterly chaotic, and ridiculously enjoyable game, and it delivers a multiplayer experience unlike any other."
It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s different. Every match in Fall Guys is divided into five rounds, and each round puts players through new and unique games. A number of players are knocked out at the end of each round, until there is one winner at the end of the final one. These games can range from races through zany obstacle courses to team games that invite chaos and cooperation in equal measure. It is basically a cartoony video game version of the popular Japanese game show Takeshi’s Castle. It’s a game that you can play to win, play to fool around, play to mess with others, or play to just witness the absolute chaos that so often accompanies it, and each is an equally enjoyable option.
Fall Guys is at its best when you’re playing the free-for-all games- more specifically, its obstacle courses and races. These are excellently designed levels that task you with platforming challenges while also having to contend with the unpredictability that having to race against so many other players throws into the mix. The game’s hilariously exaggerated ragdoll physics have a crucial role to play here. Moments where you’re caught in a throng of players trying to make their way through a narrow gap, or when you headbutt another player with a dive and throw them off the course, or when a rotating bar whacks you in the back and flings you through the air- these are the moments that make Fall Guys shine the brightest.
It also helps that there’s a nice variety of games on offer. There’s obstacle course races, which I’ve mentioned, of course, but there’s plenty of other games to enjoy as well, such as memory games, games that are focused more on platforming, games with a more directly competitive bent, and more. Even within the obstacle courses, there’s decent variation within those as well. One might task you with making your way through a course full of rotating beams that you have to jump over while walking across similarly rotating discs, another might see you having to walk up a hill while dodge massive balls shot out of canons, while another still might be full of seesaws that have you to balance across to make it to the finish line (the seesaw course is a particular favourite of mine).
"Fall Guys is at its best when you’re playing the free-for-all games- more specifically, its obstacle courses and races."
Team games are much more inconsistent. Some of them are fun – one where you have to push a large ball to the finish line with your team before the other two teams and one that is essentially a football (or soccer, if that’s what you want to call it) game are my personal favourites – but by and large, I don’t find the team games nearly as enjoyable as the ones where it’s every man for himself. Some of them – such as Hoarders, in which your team has to hoard more balls in its areas than the others – requires a lot of cooperation and teamwork, and a game as chaotic and silly as Fall Guys simply isn’t built for that sort of thing, while others – such as Tail Tag, in which your team has to ensure it has more tails than the lowest placed team – are just no fun at all, and usually just involve a lot of running around more than anything else.
Something that Fall Guys could really benefit from is playlists that separate team games and individual games, so that team games are still there as an option for those who want to play them, but those who don’t want to engage with them – as I didn’t – can ignore them if they wish to do so. I also feel like Fall Guys would really benefit from having some level of randomization its obstacle courses. These, as I’ve mentioned, are the highlight of the game, but once you’ve played through them multiple times, they can start feeling a bit repetitive. Perhaps having some procedural generation in place for its obstacle courses could help alleviate that- another alternative, of course, would be to simply add more obstacle courses to the game.
Fall Guys also has an in-game store that is used to deck out your Fall Guy with cosmetics, which I mostly have positive feelings about. On the one hand, I wonder why a game that already costs $20 has to be saddled with microtransactions- but then again, they’re of a cosmetic nature, so they don’t bother me that much personally. It’s also worth mentioning that progression in the game has a pretty good pace, and you don’t have to grind too much to get enough in-game currency to purchase new items. As far as the cosmetic items themselves are concerned, there’s a lot to like here. There’s a nice variety of items on offer, and from funky caps to colourful lowers to bizarre skin patterns, there’s plenty of customizable options available. I do think the store needs a little bit of tweaking – it doesn’t make sense that I have to wait for it to refresh and cycle through its selection for me to buy the item that I want, rather than just being able to select it from a complete list – but again, I find it hard to be too bothered by purely cosmetic issues.
"Something that Fall Guys could really benefit from is playlists that separate team games and individual games, so that team games are still there as an option for those who want to play them, but those who don’t want to engage with them – as I didn’t – can ignore them if they wish to do so."
I’m usually not big on multiplayer games, but Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout has me hooked. It’s an instantly enjoyable and extremely accessible game, and the variety of games it has on offer has kept things fresh and interesting for me so far. Issues that I’ve mentioned here – the team games, needing more obstacle courses, the in-game store – are all things that the developers can fix, and I sincerely hope they do, because Fall Guys has so much potential. In its current state with the solid start it has gotten off to, it is already an extremely enjoyable and unique game. With a little bit of work, it might just become the best new multiplayer release of the year.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Good variety of games; Obstacles courses are a blast; A couple of team games are a lot of fun; Lots of cosmetic customization options.
Most of the team games are not as fun as individual games; Needs more obstacle courses.