Running up an inflatable obstacle course and dodging random objects in hopes of being the first to reach a giant golden crown, only to be beaten by another jelly bean-shaped creature in a pigeon suit, was the most painful part of my weekend. That didn’t stop me from instantly diving back into another weird and wonderful match of Mediatonic’s Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, a game that has the potential to become one of the biggest titles this year. Getting hands-on with the technical beta, it became clear that many others would agree.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is a multiplayer party game where you are one of 60 players who must fight your way, either solo or as a team, through various rounds of minigames to claim victory. What makes this competitive knockout so endearing is its TV game show theme. Matches are aptly named shows, and after each round, you watch as the disqualified contestants get knocked out of their Hollywood Squares boxes until the winner is crowned.
Much like the best competitive reality television series, Fall Guys offers a wide variety of minigames that have different categories such as race, team, and survival. The mix of individual and team rounds created a really nice change of pace that also allowed me to blame my (many) losses on someone other than myself. During my time with the beta, I played a tremendous amount of shows and still didn’t play through every minigame currently available. Granted, some of the race levels did repeat consistently in different shows, but the randomness that occurs when 60 people are scrambling towards a finish line ensured it never got stale.
The gameplay is incredibly addictive because the minigames are so engrossing and offer such different challenges. I would shout in fear every time the Fruit Chute game would appear, a level that sees you waddle up a treadmill towards the end zone while avoiding gigantic pieces of fruit, which I was horrendously bad at. Finally managing to conquer that level was a highlight of my weekend, if not my year.
Then I was thrown into a minigame that involved memorizing where fruit symbols were placed on a grid before having to find a specific fruit tile and stand on it to avoid getting eliminated. This logic challenge felt so different to what I had just experienced and was a fantastic change of pace, even if it has left me slightly traumatized by fruit.
The team minigames were potentially some of my favorite content in the game, which says a lot because I loved the individual minigames. Team Tail Tag was so much fun. Chasing after bizarre little creatures to steal their tails as a team brought back childhood memories that have now been tainted with my adult aggression because I wanted to win so badly. The great part about these team minigames is that they force you to work together before turning on each other in the next round, causing the utter chaos that makes Fall Guys unique and exciting.
There is a lot of satisfaction to be found when qualifying for the next round in Fall Guys. I couldn’t help but yell and cheer with delight as my team made a massive comeback when pushing a giant ball down a slope or when I finally made it through the gauntlet that is the Slime Climb — a large, Wipeout-style obstacle course that has rising slime to eliminate you should you falter for too long. Every small win really did feel like a victory, which helps when the odds are so low to actually claim the top spot. Even when I lost, they were dramatic and meaningful because they only made me more determined to keep playing and claim a win.
From a technical perspective, I had a near flawless experience with the beta. I was almost instantly able to find a match, and the game never crashed. The only minor issues I encountered were some strange physics in levels that involved knocking and pushing balls. Considering how derpy the characters are, this didn’t feel like a bad thing, but hopefully with time, this and some greater rotation of the minigames will help create a stronger experience.
Beyond being unbelievably fun to play, Fall Guys is entertaining to watch. The competitive nature and quick rounds are the perfect combination for streamers that want to share their triumphant wins and shameful losses with their community. Add to that the over-the-top reactions that this game provokes and Fall Guys will be an undeniable hit, as seen with its Twitch numbers over the weekend.
Fall Guys will also feature a seasonal battle pass system that, at the time of writing, is included with the game and unlocks a variety of fun cosmetics and emotes for your character, allowing you to personalize them in a way that is as ridiculous as the rest of the game. Getting to progress through this system during the beta was a fantastic way of showcasing the reward for continual playtime. Whether this is enough to maintain interest for extended periods of time remains to be seen.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout has that elusive X factor that needs to be played to be understood. The old saying of “Just one more match” dominated my entire weekend as I desperately failed my way through every show towards those oh-so-satisfying wins. For a technical beta, Fall Guys did a lot more than just test out its technical limits; it showcased the game’s charms to a wider audience and got a whole lot of people, me included, excited for release.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout will launch on PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam on Aug. 4