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Have You Played… Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout?

Competitive ragdolls

"That is genius," I said to myself as I caught my first glimpse of the colourful chaos of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout on YouTube, and my Takeshi's Castle-filled childhood came zooming back to me like at the end of Ratatouille. How is it that, before this point, no one had thought to take the all-too-familiar battle royale formula, and make it about ragdoll characters propelling themselves through obstacle courses and messing each other up along the way, rather than the typical smorgasbord of guns, looting, and ignoble deaths?

On second thought, there are ignoble deaths aplenty in Fall Guys. The game thrives on them.

The premise of Fall Guys is mercifully easy to explain, which has only made the game more popular. Each match pits you against a lobby of 60 players, and you must guide your bouncy, loveable little ragdoll character through various physical challenges inspired by game shows like Wipeout, It's A Knockout, and the aforementioned Takeshi's Castle. A majority of these challenges are obstacle courses, where you must race to the end quickly enough to ensure yourself a place in the next round. But there are also myriad last-one-standing challenges and group games inspired by various well-known playground games (tag, football, the floor is lava). After multiple seasons of new content, the pool of possible challenges is now impressively diverse.

What really makes and breaks this game is the imprecision of your actions. It's not something many competitive games can get away with in the way Fall Guys does. Imagine you were in a fight in Apex Legends, or Call Of Duty: Warzone, or Fortnite, and you tried to shoot an enemy but your gun jams. Or you tried to strafe into cover, but your character remains rooted, because they're in the middle of a second-long animation. Players would be up in arms. But when your character in Fall Guys fails to jump when you tell them to jump, or takes several more steps than you intended in a certain direction and plummets off the platform to their death, that's accepted. Just like the ragdoll physics, this imprecision deliberately injects chaos and hilarity into every round, every tussle with another player.

It also means you do need luck to win, regardless of how skillful you become. So if you play Fall Guys as though it were truly a competitive game, you'd likely end up extremely frustrated and disappointed. But that's because it really isn't a competitive game. Don't be fooled by the battle royale trimmings: this is a party game, through and through. There's a big difference. And when it comes to party games, Fall Guys is the current king.

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