I’m surprised that it’s taken so long for games to apparently take inspiration from the sublime 2000 Japanese film, Battle Royale, itself based on a novel of the same name.
Set in a future in which sending a class of high-school students to do battle against each other until there’s only left standing is seen as an acceptable thing for a government to do, Battle Royale always seemed like it would make perfect videogame fodder to me. I mean, come on; a number of combatants fighting it out with whatever they can get their hands on in an enclosed arena? That’s the perfect setup for a competitive multiplayer game if ever I’ve heard one.
At Microsoft’s E3 conference we got to witness the announcement that the most popular Battle Royale-style multiplayer game, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, will be arriving on the Xbox One later in the year, and The Darwin Project, another Battle Royale-style multiplayer game, was also announced for 2018. The fact of the matter is, Xbox One gamers don’t have to wait for an authentic Battle Royale experience to hit their machines though, one is already available in the form of The Culling.
Released into Early Access on Steam over a year ago for PC gamers, Xaviant’s The Culling landed on the Xbox One on 2nd June thanks to the Game Preview program. As such, it’s not completely finished yet, but it’s still very playable, and more features, content and gameplay enhancements are set to be added as development progresses.
Those who purchase The Culling today on Xbox One will find that there are two expansive maps available in which up to 16 players can duke it out to be the last one standing. It’s not the type of game where you begin armed to the teeth, ready to run headlong into battle, however. Or at least not yet anyway; the Lighting Round Mode recently added to the PC version that gives everyone access to powerful weapons right from the start is currently absent. No, in your standard The Culling battle royale, each player begins with just their fists to protect themselves. The first thing on every players’ agenda then, is to find a decent weapon and maybe some helpful support equipment to go alongside it.
From health kits, to body armour, to a handy tracking device that tells you the direction and distance of your nearest adversary, finding and managing support items is nearly as important as being armed to the nines in The Culling. But you have to be quick, as once players have scavenged them, no more will respawn. It means that rounds have distinct phases, as players initially scurry to find themselves decent equipment before progressing to try and hunt other players down. Additionally, as the 20 minute time limit edges ever closer, a poisonous gas will encroach the battle arena, forcing players to get closer to each other than ever before or die a undignified and suffocating death in whichever hiding place they’ve hunkered down.
When it comes to killing your adversaries, there are a lot of options. The Culling places melee combat at the forefront, which can seem a little sloppy and chaotic until you learn to make the most of its intricacies. Whether you’re armed with a sword, an axe, a spear or nothing at all, you can block your opponents’ attacks to leave them off balance for a split second. If your opponent insists on continually blocking though, you can give them a shove to stagger them and leave them open for attack. Essentially then, close combat in The Culling is a deadly game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and that’s no bad thing.
Some players, however, will prefer to tackle their opponents from a distance, and to do that they can either throw their melee weapons or get their hands on a ranged weapon such as a gun or crossbow. Thankfully though, although perhaps rather unrealistically, firearms aren’t a surefire way to emerge victorious; ammo is extremely limited, and getting a headshot isn’t an instant kill. In The Culling, every kill has to be earned. Camping and trying to pick off players from a distance with potshots is seldom rewarded.
Spicing up the action are a number of interactables spread across each map that allow you spend FUNC, a currency you acquire as you play. You can heal yourself, buy new equipment and even call in an air drop, often tipping a game in your favour. Poisonous gas canisters can also be destroyed from a distance or manually activated, releasing a cloud that grows and chokes any opponents caught in its grasp. And finally, the organisers of The Culling events sometimes throw devious modifiers or opportunities into the mix such as Shake and Bake, which forces players to temporarily seek solace in buildings or burn to death in a blazing heat.
As you can imagine then, The Culling is a game in which you’re always kept on your toes. Matches are exhilarating and tense experiences, where danger lurks around every corner and those who are unprepared are set to fail. Those who stick with it, however, will be rewarded by the game’s character customisation options which are linked to level progression, allowing players to change how their characters look as well as empowering them with a selection of perks. The Culling may not yet be finished, but for those yearning for a Battle Royale experience on Xbox One, it’s a compelling purchase.