Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout Review — Don’t Get Eliminated!
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is a joy to play, fun for all levels of video game players, and will only get better from here.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout was always going to hold a special place in my heart. Around the time my late grandpa was diagnosed with cancer, the two of us got really into the Japanese version of Ninja Warrior and Ultimate Banzuke. I would come home from college and we’d spend all day watching marathons on G4. So, seeing someone make a video game partially based on my last good memories with my grandpa was pretty awesome. What makes it even better is that Fall Guys is really good.
If you haven’t seen Fall Guys in action, it’s a 60-player battle royale. Except, instead of trying to murder your fellow blob men, you’re hoping to outrace or outlast them in the most ridiculous virtual game show since Professor Genki’s Super Ethical Reality Climax.
The game currently has about 25 stages that range from races through falling, giant fruit to a four-team version of tag to several climatic last stages. My favorite of which will remind 90s kids of afternoons watching GUTs on Nick. It’s a smorgasbord of absurdity that is a joy to play.
Each round, a certain number of players are eliminated. As far as I can tell, that number changes based on which stage you’re on. I’ve made the final stage several times and almost always had a different number of new frienemies joining me. I assume there are maths involved, but who really has the time for that?
For most competitive games, tight controls are of utmost importance. You never want to feel like you don’t have control over an outcome in a game of Rainbow Six Siege. Sure, you might get outplayed, but you can understand why.
In comparison, Fall Guys is a floaty mess. The little jelly bean people flop all over the place. You point the stick in a direction, but the little dudes feel like they’re reluctantly meandering in the direction you’re pointing rather than you having full control. That left stick is more a suggestion to them.
On paper, that sounds terrible. But somehow, like magic, it works. Between the art, the premise, and just the general vibe Fall Guys gives off, this is a game where you can fail into success. If you had more control over your jelly bean, it just wouldn’t be as special.
Now, to be clear, there is skill involved. Good players will absolutely have a leg up in most instances. However, the floaty controls and randomness of the levels ensure that everyone has a chance. For me, that’s a big selling point. Fall Guys takes minutes to learn and then gamers of all sorts can hop in for some good times.
Of course, it’s not a perfect game. Fall Guys had some serious server issues on launch day. At the time of this writing, they’re getting much better though aren’t completely ironed out. That said, when you’re a small indie studio whose game hits the #1 most-watched slot on Twitch your first day out of the gate, it’s to be expected. I’m not going to knock them for it because I fully expect them to work it out by the weekend. However, it’s worth mentioning.
My actual issues are, frankly, minuscule. The camera can be a little wonky at times. I think the way your jelly bean person falls down when they jump from too high makes See Saw more of a crapshoot than it should be. At least, I think that’s what’s happening. It’s not completely clear, but it is frustrating. And the game has microtransactions in addition to charging an upfront fee (if you don’t get it through PS Plus).
That last one is a bit of a personal sticking point for me. Sure, the things you can buy are purely cosmetic. However, charging an upfront fee and having MTX and utilizing a battle pass just seems like too much. So, while buying Kudos (the game’s currency) isn’t as scummy as something like buying packs in FIFA 20, it’s still something I don’t love. Though it does help the devs keep working on the game for the foreseeable future. Which leaves me a bit torn on how to feel about it. You and your wallet will have to make your own decision on that front.
With those small things out of the way, there’s one more “problem” I want to bring up. Obviously, Mediatonic had to stop building out the game at some point to actually ship something. That said, this game is begging for a local multiplayer mode. The pure glee I would have sitting on the couch and playing with my friends is off the charts. You can join parties and play together online, but it’s just not the same. If Fall Guys were playable locally, it would finally be the game that supplants Gang Beasts in my group’s rotation.
In almost every other way, the game is just sublime. I mean, look at the levels on offer. Of the 20+ there is maybe one stinker (Hoopsie Daisy is just so meh). Other than that, they are all great.
Levels are broken into three basic categories: Race, Survival, or Team. Then, there are three others that can serve as the game’s end. As far as I can tell, you always start with one of the races. While the goal (making it to the end) is always the same, no two races feel anywhere close to similar.
One has you mastering spinning discs. Another is just a series of doors. Some of them open, others don’t. You have to make your way through as quickly as possible. Sadly, there’s no giant samurai man waiting to spook the pants off of you. Yet another is just a huge series of tiles. Seems easy, but most of them fall out from under you. You have to find the secret path to the end to make it.
From there, every other level is thrown into the hopper and one is randomly selected. In my early time, I feel like I’m seeing a good bit of variety, though some levels don’t seem to pop up until you make it to later rounds.
Which is a shame. Games like Fall Ball would be a riot if you had huge teams. The game is basically Rocket League without cars. Technically, that’s just soccer. However, since you’re using your body as a homing missile to kick the ball around, Rocket League seems like the more apt comparison. Also, there are two balls on the field. And sometimes the ball is a football. It’s wonderful.
Seriously, just take Fall Ball on its own and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had playing video games in 2020. It might be the most exhilarating 90 seconds I’ve ever experienced. Which, maybe is an indictment on my thirst for adventure, but whatever. Heck, I nearly had a heart attack on a video we put up during the beta.
Then you add in 20 or so more games and you might as well forget about it. Fall Guys is absolutely the game fans of shows like Takeshi’s Castle, Ninja Warrior, and It’s a Knockout have been dreaming about.
It’s like the team at Mediatonic took those shows, added a wacky color palette, and then just mixed it all together until they could bake a cake made out of pure bliss. Even in defeat, I always have this doofy grin on my face. Sitting here typing out this review, all I can think about is playing more Fall Guys.
Truly, that’s what you should take from all this. Fall Guys is, by far, the most fun game that’s released this year. Maybe even this console generation. It’s also something that’s going to hold a special place in my heart for recapturing the pure joy I had sitting down with grandpa on a Saturday afternoon ready to see how Makoto Nagano and the Sasuke All-Stars would do in this year’s version of Ninja Warrior.
So, in a year full of big releases like The Last of Us Part 2 and games that are uniquely up my alley like Desperados 3, it’s hard to see anything beating out Fall Guys as my favorite game of 2020. And remember what we always say: “Don’t get eliminated!”