I used to think the Battle Royale formula was one that wouldn't change much. Between titles like PUBG, H1Z1, and Fortnite, mechanics and overall design are very similar. Each game has its differences, of course, but at their cores, they all focus on the same thing: 100 players, expansive maps, and a mix of long- and short-range combat.
The Culling, though, stands as an exception. And while the repetitive gameplay and awful optimization hold it back from achieving its potential, it's nevertheless an experience that remains unique among others in the genre.
Up close and personal
In The Culling, there is a heavy emphasis on close quarters fighting.
The main way in which The Culling differs from the usual Battle Royale structure is the reduced size of both the player count and the map size. Instead of the typical 100 players, only a minuscule 16 compete in each match of The Culling, and the map is smaller as a result, containing lots of cover and sightline blockers to ensure that players won't be easily spotted from afar.
Because of the lower amount of players and reduced play space, gameplay naturally is centered around close-quarters fighting. Very rarely do you engage foes with guns across several meters. More often than not, you'll be fighting them face-to-face with a melee weapon.
Rock, paper, scissors (kind of)
Where most Battle Royale games only encourage gunfights, making melee weapons useful only as early game rush tools or last ditch options, The Culling opts to make them an integral part of the combat system. You can attack, block, and push in melee combat, and these three options can cancel each other out. Attack beats push, block beats attack, and push beats block.
This is a pretty fresh and fun experience, but only when it actually works. There are times where blocking doesn't stop attacks at all, or when the enemy spams push and you're never able to attack them in order to break free of it. These occurrences are extremely annoying and led to several deaths in which I should have won because I chose the correct action.
It also isn't helpful that the animations are choppy. Good melee combat systems need smooth animations, and sadly The Culling fails to deliver on this front. Trying to react to enemy swings or time your own is difficult because of this, and it really hinders what could have been an excellent part of the game.
Due to the incompetency of the melee-focused design overall, the game ends up feeling extremely repetitive as you end up sprinting at foes and hoping that the mechanics won't screw you over. I'm not opposed to the idea of a lesser focus on ranged combat, but if you're going to make melee the focus, then melee in the game needs to feel good. It doesn't here.
One good thing to note is that the game features a team mode. You and one friend can team up to battle seven other two-man squads. The inclusion of this mode is much appreciated, as playing with an ally shakes things up a little and makes for an enjoyable experience.
The pinnacle of Battle Royale customization
Customization depth and variety are two of the best things about The Culling.
One area where The Culling flawlessly succeeds, though, is in the customization system that's built into the game. As you play, you'll earn numerous different outfits that you can equip for your character. From silly to serious, there's always cosmetic items that fit the bill.
Even better, the customization extends to more than just apparel. You can unlock special perks for your character that can give you a slight edge in-game depending on the situation you're in. This allows you to pick a bonus that suits your own play style, giving you some options in regards to how you play the game.
Visuals and performance
The Culling's biggest flaw is the fact that it runs terribly. During my time with it, the game crashed seven times. On top of this, I experienced framerate drops and screen freezes constantly. In a few cases, this happened during combat, and I was killed because of it.
Despite these glaring issues, though, the game looks nice. The Culling features a stylized and detailed art style that feels unique among other games in the industry.
The Culling for Xbox One review conclusion
Overall, The Culling is a title that offers a unique approach to the Battle Royale genre, but it doesn't hold up for long thanks to terrible performance and a melee combat system that is heavily exploitable. If you can look past this, you'll find that The Culling is a decent, slightly cheaper option than other games in the genre.
- Unique take on the genre of Battle Royale.
- Excellent customization options.
- Enjoyable, pleasing graphics.
- Terrible performance.
- Exploitable, glitchy melee.
- Repetitive after awhile.
You can pickup The Culling for $24.99 on both Xbox One and PC.
This review was conducted on an Xbox One, using a review copy provided by the publisher.
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