Preview: Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Battle royale games feel like a dime a dozen these days, but there have been one or two that I’ve come across that I actually dig. Tetris 99 is the first thing that pops into my mind here, naturally. Admittedly, I’m happy that there’s more variety here. But I’m sure that some people in the gaming space would balk at the prospect of yet another battle royale game. Saturation with a popular genre just seems to perpetuate itself generation after generation, and battle royales are no exception.

Developer Mediatonic decided to jump into this space, but they really want you to remember the ABC game show Wipeout (no, not the racing game) while also giving it a cutesy aesthetic to even out the battle royale ridiculousness. Boy, is it cutesy.

Published by Devolver Digital, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout will release on PS4 and Steam on August 4, 2020. The Steam version was played for this preview.

The flow of a typical Fall Guys “show” can best be described as chaotic. Before you throw yourself into the arena, you can customize your pill-shaped Fall Guy with different skins and costumes that can be purchased or unlocked through normal play. Mediatonic has mentioned that additional costume packs will be available via DLC upon launch, but unlocking the base stuff through in-game Kudos or Crowns (gained by winning a show) is absolutely possible. Any microtransaction purchases made here are purely cosmetic, thankfully.

Now that you’re ready to stumble into a round, waiting for the “show” to populate is usually pretty quick. This was pretty regular during the beta testing period that I was able to play this in, and I suspect it should be just as quick when the final build drops. Since each round is randomized, the order of the events being played is usually inconsistent. Playing with a party of two-to-four players is also possible here, which is nice.

This specific build provided us with a limited amount of events. Based on what was included, though, it’s not hard to glean what you’re getting into with the final release. All of them have goofy names, and the vast majority don’t take much to understand. It’s really easy to pick up and play as a result.

For instance, several events felt like a jacked-up Double Dare obstacle course. The main task being to simply reach the goal before most of your opponents do so. Other events include playing soccer (with two soccer balls!), grabbing tails off your opponents, jumping through hoops, or hoarding eggs into your own team’s net.

Most of the time having your wits about you and the possessing the right reflexes usually gives you the edge. Though having to fluctuate between team play and singular play is honestly a neat concept. Being wary of your surroundings is usually a good strategy. Thankfully, the controls and movesets are simplistic and work well enough. Most of the time, you’re doing pretty straightforward platforming in the midst of 59 other players and going down from there. The stages that do require platforming aren’t super complicated, but they’re not so simple that it ends up being boring.

More importantly, this is pretty fun. Part of me wishes that the developers would expand on it in a way that could include a local multiplayer party mode on top of the already compelling battle royale format. Maybe that’ll come later down the line, or so I hope. This has Overcooked levels of mayhem written all over and I’m here for it.

Looking at the game visually, it’s quite colorful and non-threatening. Your Fall Guy is a blank slate because of the customization options at your disposal. But the costumes and skins you unlock are pretty varied. Some skins bear a lightning pattern, other costumes might make you look like a bird or a wolf. Even without the supposed DLC packs that will expand this costume set, I’d hazard a guess and say what’s in the base game will be more than enough for most.

Depending on the type of event, the environment design is appropriately sized for the type of event in question. Not too small to cause player traffic issues, but also not too big to make the competition seem trivial. Not to mention that the deliberate Wipeout-inspired feel covers everything in a thick layer of safety foam and slime. It fits within the character design aesthetic. The design of each stage is varied enough to keep the fun going, too.

Unsurprisingly, the sound design is quite bouncy and silly. I wouldn’t say that it’s completely nonsensical, but it definitely feels like I’m watching a Saturday morning cartoon to a certain extent. Running into your opponents elicits varying degree of Fall Guy squeaks and yells, and the music is equally energetic. It’s fun all around is what I’m trying to say.

While the final game is squarely on the horizon, I suspect that there will be plenty of fun to be had with this one when it releases proper on current platforms. Part of me thinks that this “beta” period was more of a network stress test for their servers, because the release date isn’t very far off to begin with.

Regardless, it feels like this game is going to gain some sort of traction based on its aesthetics. Not only that, but the focus away from combat and towards competitive silliness will have a broader appeal for sure. Couple that with simplistic controls, and I wouldn’t be surprised that this game might make some waves when it drops proper. I’m hoping that the full suite of events will sweeten the pot even more.

Keep an eye on this one. I had enough fun here that I feel confident that the final game should be worth a pickup.

Preview code provided by Devolver Digital for Steam. Featured image provided by publisher. Screenshots taken by writer.