The Culling Early Access Review
There's not much to say about The Culling, really. It's the kind of game that, if you like arena-based deathmatch shooters, you will probably like. If you don't like multiplayer arena-based deathmatch shooters, you will not like it. That's pretty much the delineation.
Granted, as far as arena-based deathmatch shooters go, I like it a lot more than most, but it's going to be pretty clear when I describe the mechanics whether or not this is your kind of thing.
The Culling is a game that functions on a simple premise: You have signed up (or maybe been coerced) into the internet's leading game show, a deathmatch where you are packed up in a crate and dropped on a tropical island to murder complete strangers with a variety of implements, most of which you will have to make yourself. When you are murdered, you are out. No respawn, no "back to start," you can spectate, or you can bounce.
So that's pretty much it. Simple. Run around, kill other people, don't get killed.
But what makes The Culling interesting is how it deals with those details. First, everything involves an in-game currency called FUNC. Want to craft something? You need FUNC. Want to heal? FUNC. Access the higher-level airdrops you can call in? More FUNC. It kind of allows for prioritizing your sources for the most part-- it might be better to save up and get the airdrop rather than opening the crate near the center of the arena, or even better still to roll your own weapons and avoid using much of the currency at all, saving it to heal. The ability to craft weapons also adds some strategy, allowing for both ranged and melee options.
And melee is actually now a huge part of the game. The Culling does away with the usual run-n-gun in exchange for tense melee fights between you and your opponents, with the optimal tactic seeming to be a "hit and run" approach where one swings wildly at their opponent, or turtles while waiting for an opening, constantly moving in and out and in and out in an attempt to gain the other hand. It's a marked change from bunny-hopping and circle strafing (though people who have tried that met the business end of my taser pretty quickly).
Also, the sound design is amazing. This may be one of the few FPS's I play with headphones on, because sound matters that much. You can hear the direction your opponents are coming from, the whirr of nearby cameras, and just about everything else. It's also direction-dependent, with sounds popping up in the proper location, allowing you to plan or run away when someone gets too close. It feels like the noise has reason and body, which adds another dimension over the usual run-n-guns.
And finally, the game actually has a good sense of humor. While the callouts might get annoying and repetitive, there are some amusing moments, and the tutorial doesn't actually make me want to rush through it immediately. Overall, it's not bad.
I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product when all is said and done. There are some good ideas here, and while the single arena offers no real variety, it's nice to have something familiar and figure out the ins and outs of where you find yourself. The game definitely could benefit from more models and better options, but in its current form, it's beyond solid.
This game was early access. The reviewer was provided with a release code.