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The Culling free weekend celebrates staggering patch

Cheery murdergames

Hunger Games 'em upThe Culling [official site] will be free to play in full this weekend to celebrate yesterday's launch of a big update that reworked combat and added a singleplayer wave survival mode. Xaviant Games' cheery take on Hunger Royale rode high on the Hunger Royale wave a year ago and it even pleased our Alec, who's far more of a singleplayer chap. But while the genre has blossomed, The Culling fell out of favour on its journey through early access. How is it now? How much has this update changed? Have a look!

Yesterday's update reworked combat in a fair few ways, the biggest being the return of a system that Xaviant had pulled and replaced a few months back: staggering. Melee attacks against a player who's blocking are once again staggered, though now only for 1.2 seconds rather than 1.7 as before. Unlike in some Hunger Royale games, melee is big at all stages of The Culling, so changes to this are huge. The update also added combo attacks, where players can get in an extra hit briefly after successful blocks, attacks, or shoves. This is meant to dovetail with the shorter stagger. Xaviant say:

"The new combo system allows a skilled player to punish the Staggered player and transition quickly into a block if they expect a jab-back. This generally increases the skill ceiling for combat by requiring better positioning and timing to capitalize on a Stagger (a fully charged attack is no longer guaranteed), as well as creating new decisions where a players must quickly decide how to combo their actions. A side benefit is that skilled play is rewarded with faster and more responsive combat actions."

Many of the louder complaints about The Culling have focused on changes to its combat over the past year of early access. I wonder how much this will win folks back over. Recent updates have added more weapons and a whole new level too.

As for the new wave offline survival mode, Xaviant say:

"This mode was born of a desire to give new and veteran players an offline space where they can develop their skills in an environment that concentrates the action into a fast-paced battle for survival against wave after wave of AI bots. This takes place in a brand-new arena with custom-tailored Culminators."

The patch notes also list lighting improvements, performance optimisations, balance tweaks, and other odds and ends.

While PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, the new Hunger 'em up star, is a serious affair sprawling across eight square kilometres of wargrounds, The Culling is a lot smaller and cheerier. It leans into the game show dressing of things like The Running Man and The Hunger Games. It's set in relatively small levels where players scamper, scavenge, scrap, craft, and scarper, saving up resources to buy weapon and item drops from the hosts. And while powering up in Battlegrounds mostly involves fancier guns, a build-your-own-class perk system and some nasty pointy things make melee viable here.

If you fancy a crack, the free trial weekend is due to start later today on Steam and run until 9pm on Sunday. The game will have a 33% discount over the weekend too.

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The Culling

Xbox One, PC

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Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.