Fights are exciting. Not arguments, either, I’m talking straight-up fisticuffs. Anyone who’s ever witnessed a fight break out knows there is an electricity in the air compelling us to pay attention. Call it instinct, call it morbid curiosity, call it WORLDSTAR, but we love a good fight.
We’ve been fighting a long time. Not just in the real world, where we’ve elevated fighting into a multi-trillion dollar military industrial complex and a bevy of professional leagues and martial arts disciplines, but in gaming, too. Fighting is a core component of many video games and a genre unto itself.
But the fighting genre can be a bit inaccessible. The hypercompetitive spirit behind fights leaves little room for amateur exploration, and most fighting games offer mechanics tailored to that pursuit. Precision timing, lightning reflexes, and a studious approach drive our most popular fighting games. But what about those of us who want the thrill of a good fight without the daunting challenge? Is there a game that levels the playing field for all skill levels while providing the thrill we’re looking for?
Gang Beasts, from British indie studio Boneloaf, is a fighting game for people who don’t like fighting games (and even those that do). The claymation style isn’t just an aesthetic, it informs the physics in a very real, very unpredictable way. Your fighter is a small, rubbery little guy who flops and stretches as they kick and grapple. The goal is to knock your opponents off the map, or into one of the many industrial hazards inside Beef City.
The magic of Gang Beasts is in how difficult it is to execute these moves. Unlike traditional fighters which are precise and responsive, these blubbery brawlers are clumsy and slow. Fights involve a lot of frantic button mashing and trying to will your fighter to possess a flash of coordination and manhandle an opponent. This is coupled with hilarious ragdoll effects and a heavy dash of luck that make this silly fighter one of most raucous multiplayer experiences out there.
The volume of fighters adds to the chaos. This is an up to eight-player battle royale (or four players local) so the first few minutes can be positively mad. This is largely due to the unique control scheme. There are no combos or hadoukens here. You have three attacks - punch, grab and kick - with punch and grab mapped to either your left or right side. So to perform an effective grab you need to hit both buttons (LB and RB) simultaneously. Or as close to simultaneous as you can manage. The sluggish, sticky movements are difficult to time out at first but that’s half the fun. You can also sit and lie down to try to play defense against being hoisted and foisted into hazards.
The goofy aesthetics add a lot to the vibe here. There’s a lot of customization options for your fighter, all purely cosmetic. Fans of Fall Guys will feel right at home perusing the library of capes and hoodies and silly hats. There's also different game modes involving footballs and AI enemies, so you can mix things up when things get stale. This isn’t a serious game, which makes it a breath of fresh air in a genre that takes itself very seriously. Plus, that makes it a perfect Game Pass experience. You can enjoy the novelty with a few friends then move on to something else. Maybe go find a good bus fight to watch?
Gang Beasts is available now on Xbox Game Pass, as well as for sale on PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.