Upon booting up Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout for the first time in months, I immediately wondered why I hadn’t been playing it all along. All the classic elements of an addictive game are there: easy to pick up and play, yet difficult to master; sounds and visuals that pair perfectly with its game show format; a vast array of collectible items for a high degree of character customization.
Fall Guys is funny, fast-paced and totally original, blending elements of platforming, racing, battle royale and party games. So why was it missing from my rotation?
The reason can be found in why I decided to revisit Fall Guys in the first place. Season 4 launched Monday, and with it came the addition of Squads, a new mode that allows groups of players to take on the Wipeout/MXC-inspired obstacle courses together.
This is what you call a literal game-changer. At least it is in theory.
The issue with Fall Guys, for me, was while it looks and plays like a party game, the online multiplayer experience wasn’t built to suit it. One person could be eliminated during the opening round, but their friends might continue qualifying all the way through to the fifth and final contest, leaving the awkward decision of whether to wait for the show to end for everybody (potentially upwards of 15 minutes) or jump into a new match solo.
Yes, I understand this is how battle royales work. Going all in on the mechanic just felt like a misstep by developer Mediatonic here. Anything that elicits so much laughter and has so many “OMG did you see that!” moments is meant to be shared. In that regard, Fall Guys wasn’t maximizing its potential.
I set out to see if Squads resolves arguably the game’s biggest shortcoming.
It’s like having four lottery tickets
The TLDR answer is yes, this is obviously an improvement. The option to squad up in groups of up to four people finally gives Fall Guys the true multiplayer experience it was lacking.
Squads doesn’t remove the battle royale aspect from the game, but rather adjusts the formula by using a points system to determine how groups qualify for the next round. So, if you fall in the slime or fail to cross the finish line, you aren’t necessarily knocked out as long as enough of your teammates survive and fare better than the competition. And when you inevitably drag your friends down with you, well, at least you’re all losing together, right?
There’s an added benefit to this mode, which is if one of your teammates wins a competition, you all win, allowing everybody to progress through the game and earn rewards and achievements faster.
Seeing as at my current skill level the chances of my emerging victorious from a maximum field of 60 players are roughly equal to or worse than the odds of winning the lottery, I don’t mind that. Now, it’s like having four lottery tickets.
Squads isn’t perfect. Lobbies don’t seem to fill up or populate as quickly as standard play — the games I was in on a PS4 seemed to max out at 44 people — though perhaps that’s related to its newness, as players may need to adjust their “show selection” settings to play the mode. And while this is probably wishful thinking, I personally would prefer to see Squads somehow melded with the standard game if these lobbies are at all at risk of going quiet.
As far as gameplay goes though, this was no small upgrade. I want the ability to play with my friends, without having to watch and wait, and squads mode offers that much.
My Fall Guys wishlist
If Mediatonic is serious about supporting Fall Guys for the long haul, the introduction of Squads should be only the beginning.
What the game really needs more than anything is local split-screen multiplayer.
It’s a bit of a misnomer to describe Fall Guys as a party game because only one person can play at a time per system. The truly all-time memorable, Hall of Fame party games — the Bombermans, the Rock Bands, the Mario Karts and Smash Bros., or whatever it may be in your circles — are great because of their inclusivity. They’re accessible to anybody and can be played in a room together.
Fall Guys could easily land in that category. Put it on the big screen and people of all ages and every type of gamer from hardcore to casual would gravitate to its vibrant presentation, complex courses, whimsical characters and comical nature and naturally want to try it, especially when they see how easy the controls are.
The ability to invite more than four people to an online game is another option that should be supported, and a few weeks ago we explored why cross-play would be beneficial. As of now, it’s unclear if Squads mode is even permanent.
Yet, the lack of local multiplayer feels like quite possibly the biggest missed opportunity of all. Fall Guys is a fun game that I want to share and experience with friends.
The game’s limitations are still the only thing standing in my way.
Lead image credit: Mediatonic