Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout loosely translates the experience of game shows like Wipeout and Takeshi’s Castle into the realm of video games. Up to 60 players compete for the top spot by partaking in a series of mini games that will have you running, jumping, working as a team, and more. Are you ready to wear a silly costume and race for the goal?
Conceptually, it’s amazing that a game of this style hasn’t really existed before. Competition shows in the style of Wipeout date back to the 80s. Online play has been around for decades. And players have been platforming for almost as long as video games have existed. To its credit, there are a few aspects of the Fall Guys experience that make it shine beyond the sum of its parts.
For starters, it makes a great first impression. Taking place in a bright and colourful world, players waddle through each challenge in their silly outfits. A far cry from the visuals of other battle royale style games such as Call of Duty: Warzone or PUBG, Fall Guys looks like the battle royale game for everyone else.
Once you take control of the characters, there are a few subtle design choices that really make this game work. Even though there are a number of different mini games to play, the simple controls stay the same throughout. If you’ve ever played a video game before where you run and jump in a 3D space, the learning curve is fairly low.
Beyond that, there are two core tenets of its design that make the game shine that are easily overlooked. One, the characters move kind of slow relative to something like Mario in Super Mario Odyssey. That might sound like a knock against it, but its somewhat slower pace actually makes the game playable with so many others on screen at once.
The other key to its magic is the game’s physics system. Jumping from certain heights, landing at specific angles, or colliding with other characters will cause you to stumble or fall. Developing a feel for how to move without falling over goes a long way toward’s one’s success.
Movement and physics are standard, but the challenges you’ll partake in will vary from round-to-round. Oftentimes, you’ll partake in races to the finish line, but you’ll also encounter endurance matches where you’ll try to avoid falling off a platform, stealing tails from others in a closed arena, or partaking in chaotic team games.
Having a lot of variety is great at a surface level. That said, it feels like the game leans heavily towards selecting certain games over others. Even after many hours of play, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen its rarest challenges. Meanwhile, I’m so sick of recurring staples like Whirligig and Door Dash.
Furthermore, the quality of each game varies wildly. At its best, games like Hex-A-Gone are really exciting, as they put players strategic thinking and physical dexterity to the test. Meanwhile, many games like Door Dash and Tip Toe feel half-baked, as they reward players for waiting on others to fail before you find the right path. Team games are incredibly tilting, as you can get eliminated from the game by virtue of having crappy teammates. Then there are games that are simply dreadful to play, such as Egg Scramble and Hoarders.
Undermining the experience even further is the game’s online stability issues. This may get resolved as its popularity cools, but right now the game is a mess. Objects such as balls move at a different frame rate than the rest of the game as it struggles to keep pace. Worse yet, disconnects occur way too frequently, causing you to lose all of your progress. As tilted as I get from losing a team game, I want to smash my controller every time I lose my progress to yet another disconnect for reasons beyond my control.
Conceptually, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout knocks it out of the park. This repackages the battle royale format into something that can be enjoyed by a wider audience. Even with its myriad of flaws, it can be incredibly difficult to put down once you get started.
But I can’t ignore its faults, either. As it stands, there are too many bad games in its rotation, poor randomization, and technical hiccups that prevent it from reaching its full potential. Considering its monstrous success thus far and the live-service nature of the game, I’d expect it to only get better from here.
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