E3 2019 Hands-on: Fall Guys

Everything being or becoming a Battle Royale has been one of the gaming memes of the moment over the past year or so. It makes sense though: with the massive successes of games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, of course there’s going to be other developers that play follow-the-leader. While we do get franchises like Call of Duty and the recently announced Fallout aping the style of the aforementioned juggernauts, others are going more experimental.

Some studios are breaking the Battle Royale idea down to its most basic level – a large-scale muliplayer match with the goal of being the last person standing – and applying it to other genres. Occasionally, we get some strange surprises out of it. Seriously, who ever expected Tetris to go Battle Royale before the release of Tetris 99? Developers Mediatonic are going their own way with the genre, applying these mechanics to something much different: a wacky game show.

Taking inspiration from Takeshi’s Castle (perhaps more well-known in the West by it’s re-cut version MXC), Fall Guys is an upcoming release pitting up to 100 players against each other in a number of colorful and off-kilter elimination challenges. The developers were showing off a pre-alpha build of the game at Devolver Digital’s off-site E3 event. I had the chance to go hands on for a few rounds against three other attendees in probably the most unique environment I’ve ever demoed a game in: a pastel playground.

While the final game will apparently feature a number of unique and randomized challenges, this build had three static ones. The first round had me racing down a track having to break down blocked doorways, with only some being actually breakable. The second was like a game of tag, where the goal was to steal a tail off of another player and hold on to it until time ran out. Lastly was a race up a colorful pinball-like board, complete with giant balls being launched at the competitors, to be the first player to reach a crown at the top.

The games were simple, with the most fun being in how they brought out the competitive spirit in the four of us human players competing. We went from cheering each other on to get through the first rounds to jeering at one another in the final race to be the singular winner. Despite the enjoyment in this local multiplayer setup, the developers told me that the game is focused on online multiplayer, although they are considering split-screen and local options.

I can find this understandable, as the final game won’t be intended to be played the way we experienced it, four human players and sixty AI bots. Fall Guys is about gathering up to 100 human players together to have them fight it out in this brightly colored insanity. The devs say the game is pretty stable so far too; they have tested the current build with up to 80 human players connecting at once with no issues or instability.

The demo experience was short, but it showed off everything it needed to. Really, Fall Guys is a party game through and through, and a much less serious take on the Battle Royale trend. I’m hoping that Mediatonic will continue to consider split-screen and local options, as half the fun I had here was due to playing against others in the same room.

Fall Guys was developed by Mediatonic and will be published by Devolver Digital on PS4 and PC sometime in early 2020.

Screenshots courtesy of Devolver Digital.