REVIEW: Fall Guys - PS4
Not everyone has fallen head over hills for this one...
I’m willing to accept it’s probably a case that I simply don’t "get" this one. There’s been a lot of news in the press and positive reviews of the game which I won’t question, but I will go as far as to say that I’m not impressed with the limited experience on offer here.
So Fall Guys can be summed up quite simply as a digital take on Takeshi’s Castle or Total Wipeout (in the UK), which are shows which involve “normal” people completing obstacle courses and the like with the aim of being with the fastest across the finishing line. There’s more, sometimes it’ll be a time-limited event and upon the final bell, if you’ve not satisfied a certain criteria, you’ll be eliminated.
60 players take part over 5 rounds of ever decreasing numbers until the final winner is crowned. You're character is one of the titular Fall Guys, who are these strange, androgynous things which waddle around like someone in a fat suit.
Onto the gameplay. So on an average game after pressing the aforementioned “go” button we’re zipped into the random level selection. After a handful of goes both solo and with 2 compatriots in my lobby I’ve seen around 9 variations of the levels provided in this 1st build. These vary from assault course style runs over seesaws or rotating platforms (First X amount past the finish line), team based “catch the tale” arenas and rolling giant balls against another 2 teams to reach a goal first. Also in there are hoarding based collection missions which eventually degrade into thieving and bullying away each others hard earned
Of these events, I found the latter the most enjoyable. Watching tactics switching from making your own efforts to get to the goal degrade into sabotaging another teams, doesn’t fail to raise a smile. Catching tails is a janky affair with lag and loose controls resulting in an inability to snatch whilst opposing teams snatch from you at a distance preventing it making for a rewarding experience.
In fact, loose controls in general take away a fair portion of the fun. On the obstacle races, you can barely make any of the required jumps without taking a couple of second penalty for rolling around like tantruming toddler before slowly rising to your feet to do it all again. I’m reminded by a friend that the game is called “Fall Guys” but the fact so much control of your actions is removed makes it very difficult to accept that failure is any fault of your own.
Upon the final whistle being blown you’re immediately aware whether you’ve proceeded to the next round or been eliminated. The game ends as soon as winners are determined so if you didn’t finish, you didn’t win. Despite this, the game insists that it share the outcome with everyone via an elimination screen which is entirely redundant given that everyone knows their outcome. It would make more sense to let the event finish without telling players whether they’ve qualified in order to give this some tension.
Not only that but once eliminated you’re left to watch the remainder of the players continue the remaining rounds as a spectator by default. Whilst comradery is encouraged if you’ve still got some teammates left in the game, playing solo there’s little joy watching a troupe of near-identical anonymous people continue without you when the time could be spent playing the next round yourself. A missed opportunity here would be to allow spectators back into the game in the event a current contender is logged out (though careful thought would be needed to avoid people scamming their way back into later rounds...)
My main gripe on this one is that it VERY closely follows the free to play model which has been made popular by Fortnite and its ilk. Rather than provide you with any options around accessibility, difficulty etc. you’re immediately introduced to a silent title screen then thrown straight into a VERY limited avatar customisation and lobby. Then that’s it, you GO! Oh wait, those customisations can be broadened by spending more on the in-game currency of course. Whilst this is largely to be expected in the current climate the main point that’s missing here is that simply, it’s not a free game (yet).
We were “gifted” the game from PlayStation Plus this month (August 2020) and are told it holds a value of £15.99 and I think this is the part that I’m too heavily judging it on. I can foresee this jumping straight onto F2P as soon as the initial hype subsides, much to the disappointment of the early-up-takers (and us poor PS+ members who frankly weren’t given the option).
When looking at other ways to improve the experience the first thing to come to mind would be a couch coop option. This was acknowledged early upon release yet it’s not here. Having a friend or sibling beside you playing or competing would definitely increase the enthusiasm in my household. It’s a game that encourages non-gamers to join in but from my experience most wouldn’t do that in a solo battle royale setting.
Another thing which would go a long way is to give some control to the game that you’re going to be participating in. A simple voting system for the remaining competitors would make the most sense (or even including the previously eliminated giving them some additional interaction).
Of course, all these things can be implemented along with, I’m sure, some much more imaginative and positive adjustments as time goes on. All of this is sort of fine for an early build of a F2P but I can’t shake the feeling that we could’ve learnt more from what’s already out there rather than starting with the same problems that were being faced 3 years ago when that model was new. The discussion on games being released before completed and requiring day 1 patches is an old one but selling me something that doesn’t feel finished then (I imagine) giving it away when it’s finally done really doesn’t sit right with me.