Over the last few years, the "last man standing," battle royale scene has been growing larger and larger. Starting off mostly as mods for PC games, they have grown into a life of their own. It has grown large enough that the hugest title on PC, PlayerUknown's Battlegrounds, is getting an Xbox One port and Fortnite received a free Battle Royale stand-alone extension.
The Culling falls right into this genre, pitting 16 people against each other and a 25-minute clock. A few elements immediately set The Culling apart from other big games of this type. The Culling is in first-person, and you do not parachute into a Battlefield. Instead, you start in a small pod that comes up from the ground that will open after everyone has loaded into the game. Once free, you must craft weapons and scavenge the world to find anything you can to survive. Remember, though; there is a clock ticking that will slowly close the map, forcing a final encounter whether you're ready for it or not.
Here's what I liked:
Airdrops — These are precisely what you think they are: crates that you call in full of goodies just for you. Keep in mind though; it can be taken by anyone in the game. The landing zone plays loud music while you wait that everyone can hear, and the drone bringing the crate leaves a trail of smoke behind it and can be shot down early. So although this thing will help you, it will also draw a lot of attention to you. Airdrops can be small and straightforward, containing a single knife or gun or large and bountiful with a bat, chest armor, gas grenade and stick of dynamite. Some crates, such as a bait crate, which explodes upon opening, can be called in from the very beginning of a match. But the larger and more impactful crates will take longer before they're available for you to call in. Another factor that plays in is each crate requires a certain amount of Flexible Universal Nano Compound (F.U.N.C.) to have been collected.
Money, Power and Crafting — F.U.N.C. is spent to purchase weapons, heal yourself and craft items during each match. You earn F.U.N.C. by killing players, selling equipment to 'recyclers' or picking up the rotting pieces of the dead. Weapons range from simple 'shanks' crafted out of rocks to rifles purchased or airdropped into battle. There are also snares, poisoned spikes, smoke and gas grenades and a variety of bows, guns and blow darts that can be found, crafted or bought throughout every match. Most of the weapons, however, regardless of the amount of damage they can do, are of the melee variety. With most fights being up close they feel vastly intense, and you become rather acquainted with the combat system. What's nice though is that crafting items helps level the playing field, allowing players to create ranged or melee weapons, armor or bandages to heal themselves. Crafting means even if you weren't the luckiest to find a bunch of awesome things or F.U.N.C. for your airdrop, you can still craft several items and have a good fighting chance.
Perks — In The Culling perks are divided up into four categories: Utility, Survival, Combat and Movement. They are the same for every player. You can equip three perks at once, but here's the catch, you can only use one from each category. The perks can completely control how you play a game, as some start you with more inventory slots or a weapon, while others might let you regenerate health or run faster when empty-handed. These extra perks can be especially helpful depending on what type of weapon you tend to use, what airdrop you have your eyes set or even just to boost your specific play style. There are also three perks that are earned and permanently equipped after your first three kills. These perks add 10 points to your health and stamina and 10% to your attacks, they each have their own in-game requirement to activate and are available for all players to earn and use.
Events — There are eight events in total with three being played every game. They are designed to persuade players into the same general area, whether on purpose or by accident. Each one adds a sense of urgency, curiosity and fear that wasn't there before the announcer broadcasts whats coming. I don't want to spoil all of them, but I will tell you about my two favorites. The first one is called 'Shake & Bake' which means the sun is going to get so hot it will burn you to death, so everyone must get indoors within 30 seconds. The fear of someone else running into your building can be unbearable at times, especially if it is a multilevel building with entrances on more than one floor. My second event of choice is 'Gold Rush,' which means a golden crowbar and crate have spawned in the middle of the arena. You must grab the crowbar and hit the golden crate with it three times to open it revealing the scariest weapon in the game, the CHAINSAW. The sound of this thing is dead on and will cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up the first time you hear it revved.
Here's what I didn't like:
Training – Now to be fair, it does have a mode that will teach the basics, but I do mean the bare bones basics. It shows you how to craft and the mechanics of hitting and how to block and push and the effects they will have if used correctly. It doesn't, however, tell you that you can craft way more than they teach you or that there is a 'recipe' list located in your pause menu. They also fail to explain to you what any of the symbols on said 'recipe' list is, so you're stuck guessing or searching google. They also fail to mention traps on the ground can be navigated safely by simply crouching before you walk through them. I shouldn't learn that my trap isn't full proof by watching my killer walk through them after I'm dead.
Partner placement — In single player, your starting point seems to be random, and that is okay. But this seems to be the case in Duos as well, and that makes it no longer okay. When you are playing with a teammate, you expect to be side by side with them. I mean, that is the point of having a partner, right, to work as a team. Instead, the placement seems to be done randomly forcing you and your teammate to try and make it to each other alive. Spawning apart wouldn't be so bad if everyone started that way. But in every game one or two teammates seem to end up next to each other and kill two or three singles right away. I would say that in 60-70% of my matches, my teammate and I never saw each other as one of us was killed off by a team who happened to spawn together. This made it almost pointless to play with random teammates as you only get proximity chatter so that you couldn't coordinate with them. Even with a teammate in party chat, there were still plenty of times all I could do is be supportive as he is stabbed to death.
Loot boxes — The Culling's version of a loot box are called 'Cull Crates' and unlock every time you go up a level. Now it doesn't have some fancy opening animation like Overwatch, and no they don't affect the gameplay in any way at all. They only contain cosmetic items and Cull credits, another form of in-game currency that you can only use to buy cosmetic items name banners and emotes. Now I'm not complaining because they're overpriced or constantly hounding me to buy them. I am complaining because I can't use real world money to buy more crates! Why is this not a thing, how much screaming, yelling or begging do I have to do; before you realize all I want you to do is: TAKE MY MONEY!
The Culling started off slow and slightly unimpressive, mainly due to the lack of training up front. Though as I stuck with it and played match after match and learned nuance after nuance, it slowly started to grow on me. Each game brought a new experience showing over and over how you can never know what to expect. Each encounter was different; sometimes you immediately start brutely bludgeoning each other to death and other times we both went running for our lives the moment we spotted each other. There were even matches where instead of killing each other we just stood around and talked and emoted till someone finally ran up and murdered us all. I have laughed, screamed and even felt like I wanted to cry because of this game and its players. I have convinced several friends to buy this and have all intentions of continuing to play this game with my friends long after I post this review.
Score: Highly Recommended
The Culling was developed and published by Xaviant Games and was released on October 5, 2017, for $24.99. A copy of the game was provided for review purposes.