I really wanted to like Gang Beasts. Really, I did. It’s got a silly concept, a ridiculous structure, and some outlandish presentation. Unfortunately, the whole ordeal comes off as frustrating and tedious. In essence, Gang Beasts is a competitive brawler in a Human: Fall Flat skin. Nothing more, and nothing less. If that appeals to you, fill your boots. That being said, I’ve no doubt that the game will find its following, but I do doubt its ability to maintain a player base due to the lack of gameplay variation. Perhaps we should take a few steps back.
There’s no story to be mindful of here, in fact, it’s one of those games that throw you at its menu and then leaves you to crack on. You’ll find a few modes to toy with, such as Gang, Melee, Football, and Waves. Now, as you can see from the titles, everything is fairly self explanatory. In Gang, you’ll pick a side, pick a map, and dive on into the fray. In Melee, it’s every player for themselves. Waves and Football offer the most distinction. In the former, you’ll take on a growing number of enemies as you fight for survival across several waves.
In the latter, on the other hand, you and your opposition will be spawned onto a small football field-esque map, and must score goals in the opposition’s net. It’s straightforward, and it’s daft, just the way I like things. So, what’s the problem? Well, the whole physics-based play just doesn’t at all suit the multiplayer concept. I’ve enjoyed watching footage of the game, and I’ve enjoyed seeing other people play the game, but when it came to me playing it myself, I could barely stand it. There’s a learning curve to be mindful of, of course.
In Gang Beasts, your avatar (to which there are several, several cosmetic variations to select from) walks about like they’re made of jelly. I fully appreciate that this is the norm in games of this type; I’ve played Human: Fall Flat, and I’ve played Goat Simulator. However, many physics-based games are fun because there’s no pressure. They’re fun because you can take to them at your own pace and just piss about doing whatever it is that you do best. Throwing all of that to a competitive multiplayer framework just throws things off balance.
It makes what should be a straightforward brawl much more drawn out, and something akin to a bunch of mindless drunks squabbling over supremacy. Yes, that may sound exciting on paper, but in practice, it just isn’t. It’s a mess. Worse, it’s a mess that just doesn’t add up. Whatever the case, when you’ve selected your mode and your map, and whether you intend to play locally (up to four players) or online (up to eight players) you’ll be ready to wreak havoc. Just, expect to spend quite a bit of time getting used to the game’s handling.
Much like Human: Fall Flat, you’ll control your avatar with independent functionality. Movement is tethered to the left stick, with a left punch tied to LB, a right punch to RB, and a camera toggle to the D-Pad. Outside of that, you can jump with A, headbutt with B, kick with X, and lift with Y. You’ll need to utilize some of these functions together to achieve some outcomes, mind, such as climbing. Climbing consists of approaching a structure, slapping the corresponding punch buttons, and then pressing these punches in unity with a gradual rise.
It’s a tedious process that’s far more trouble than it’s worth. Nine times out of ten, you’re far too likely to get to the top of a structure, only to fall at the last stretch because your hand didn’t properly connect with the environment. Further to that, there’s very little reason to climb at all. Most of the action takes place on ground level, and the game never really encourages you to go elsewhere; save unlocking an achievement. The crux of play is to beat your opposition by knocking them unconscious, and then throwing them into a hazard.
This hazard can be off the side of a map, in an incinerator, down a grinder, or many more dangers besides. There’s no shortage of ways for you to be cruel, but being cruel, as alluded to above, is going to take some work getting used to. Obviously, football is exempt from those rule sets. Here, you’ll find no hazards. Just a ball in the center of the map, and two goals. Waves, Gang, and Melee, all play in a similar fashion. Stay alive, and kill your opponents. That’s really all there is to it. The biggest drawback is with the game’s fluidity.
Despite a well mapped controller, none of the commands make any real sense. I’ve no idea what use the kick is for when half the time my avatar misses the mark or stupidly stumbles out of place. The same can be said about punching. The only feasible attack is the headbutt, but even this doesn’t seem to have any consistency. Opponents appear to decide when they’re concussed, and even then, picking them up and throwing them is a chore in itself. Instead, I found myself simply button mashing my way to the quickest death. It’s not fun.
The sheer lack of consistency hurts the experience, which further emphasizes my point about physics-based games (like this) not suiting a competitive component. You”ll get some laughs here, but you’ll be laughing at it, not with it. I’ll credit the game’s map design. Most of the game’s maps have quirks in them that can be fun if you’re lucky enough to execute them correctly. Whether that’s cutting the cables of an elevator, or smashing the stairs of a towering structure, but it all means very little in the face of the above problems.
Trying to perfectly headbutt or kick a cable can be painfully hit and miss, never mind trying to get the hell out of dodge when dealing with the consequences. Whatever the case, that’s what awaits you within. If that sounds like your proverbial cup of tea, be my guest. Just be mindful that this game is a game that alienates newcomers and makes them feel totally out of their depth at all times, with next to no incentive present to persevere and get good. In regards to the game’s overall audio and visual design, Gang Beasts just about gets a pass.
Whilst I’ve commended the variation of maps on display, I cant be quite as kind about the detail within. The game’s visual presentation is standard at best, with no real care or attention to detail present throughout. Whether you’re staring at the ugly UI, the bland character models, or the diverse maps, it all looks about as exciting as the gameplay itself. I can say the same about the game’s audio design, with generic and boring cues present from beginning to end. This is one physics-based game you’ll want to stumble away from.
I will say this. Gang Beasts is clearly for a specific crowd. It’s for a crowd that can embrace this daft framework and find the patience to get by its downfalls and pull some skill from it. Sadly, I don’t belong in said crowd. The game just does a poor job at giving you a basic grasp as to how it should be played, and because of that, it’s very much marmite. Hell, the only logical place to learn the fundamentals is over in the Waves mode, but its terrifyingly evil AI is likely to pitchfork you straight back out again. First impressions are important. Gang Beasts missed that memo.
Gang Beasts is a competitive brawler in a Human: Fall Flat skin. Nothing more, nothing less. The physics-based play doesn’t always suit the multiplayer concept, and as such, the whole ordeal comes across quite tedious and frustrating. Whilst I’ve no doubt that it will find an initial following, I do doubt its ability to maintain a fan base due to its lack of variation. You’ll certainly have some laughs here, but you’ll mostly be laughing at it, not with it.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.