What the hell is this? First off I misunderstood the name of the title and was pleased to find out I was wrong in thinking this was something else. Gang Beasts is a beat ’em up published by Double Fine – those who dished out the Day of the Tentacle remasters (and others), as well as their own IPs – Psychonauts, and one of their latest currently on my playlist, Rad. Gang Beasts has been doing the circuit for five years now but has an imminent physical release on December 6th.
If you haven’t already played it, let me give you the skinny and tell you that Gang Beasts is ludicrous. I’d honestly have to say that it’s one of the worst examples of fighting mechanics I’ve ever experienced. If you want to punch your opponent, it’s sloppy, sluggish and inaccurate. Forget about kicking them too. The square button unleashes a kick, according to the pause menu, but it couldn’t stomp on an ant wearing stilts and sporting a top hat. Headbutts are a little more accurate, but to get anywhere in the game, you need to implement the grapple technique. Again, this is inaccurate and very hit and miss. You’re never sure if you’ll be able to pull off a move that throws your opponent into an oncoming train or off an airborne blimp. So why on earth is Gang Beasts so much fun?
There are a handful of modes to choose from, but the concept remains the same: beat your enemies to a pulp, minus the KO factor. There aren’t any health or stamina bars to monitor or a power gauge to unleash a special move. The move list is punch, kick, headbutt, jump and kick and the indispensable grapple. It’s a free-for-all battle royale where the last one standing is crowned the winner. You can pummel your opponent to wear them down, but what you will mostly do is grab hold of them and throw them into the abyss. Sounds easy but when your opponent can grip onto you with one arm and punch you with the next, it often results in you both falling to your doom. This is where the unpredictable side of things comes in to place, and it’s an absolute blast.
I initially played this with my daughter as she was keen to try it out and despite having a big steaming pile of backlog sitting on the counter featuring some triple-A games we were due to play, we couldn’t stop playing Gang Beasts. It has to be one of the most enjoyable multiplayer games I’ve played in a while, and it didn’t get old even after a couple of hours. As a reasonably decent parent, I let her win here and there, but when she improved, I pushed and got her to try harder. With Gang Beasts, I would give it my all about 8/10 times as the outcome would differ most of the time. We usually would play a best of five melee; one-on-one on random levels, thinking we had the edge on a particular stage, but something random would happen like fighting on the roofs of two moving trucks. While we were squaring each other up and dishing out fighting talk, little did we realise that two signposts would take us both out at the same time. Rather than both of us throwing our own wobbly about it, we were laughing almost hysterically. On that part, it was nice to bond together over stupidity.
Other than the melee, we weren’t fussed about the other options. The first was the wave: random AI characters would come onto the stage and bundle us until we threw them off the course or into a moving train. Sounds fun, but the difficulty was erratic, and the bots seemed to have the advantage. Next up was the football game. I was looking forward to this, but as a one-on-one, it didn’t work, and we ended up slugging it out, ignoring the ball. The other choice was ‘gang’, but again, it was only the two of us so seemed fruitless. That’s when we did something extraordinary (for me). We played online.
At first, I was a bit anti-online as assumed they’d be YouTube type audio commentaries from some goons on the other end. Thankfully, for parents and snowflakes, the only sound was the grunts and laughter from the characters. We were enjoying it, well, my daughter was as my dad gene kicked in and I was getting eliminated first in most rounds, but once we were both out, we were observing other players, and it was looooong. You can’t exit out of it, and it was getting to the stage where I was going to reset the PS4 until a countdown appeared until it reached a draw. Without health, the only way you can win a match is to grapple them and drop them off the edge of the fighting environment, but as I mentioned earlier, they grab back, hence a very drawn out game.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this is a multiplayer game, and unless you like your own company, eating dead flies and sensitive to interaction, Gang Beasts is made to play with your friends. Forget about any form of campaign or story mode: there’s nothing here of the sort. There’s no explanation on your character, where they are from or a hint at their Chinese zodiac sign. I’m a monkey, seeing as you asked. The same with the features. They’re all multiplayer based and other than online play, there’s nothing to do on your own. My internet connection is above average, and I seldom get slowdown, but it happened quite often in Gang Beasts. Not enough to quit, but enough to notice.
When my daughter went to bed, I thought I’d give it a go on my own; however, there was no way to replicate the fun we had before. The only way to enjoy Gang Beasts, in my opinion, is local multiplayer. Sure you can lure some friends or even strangers into the lobby, but as there’s no voice chat, that I was aware of, you end up chuckling to yourself (or not). You can create a character, and there’s a good deal to choose from – including a Rick and Morty reference, but Gang Beasts lacks anything else such as new moves or power-ups. The costumes are all available from the outset, which is great, but equally, there’s nothing to unlock during the game other than trophies where you pull off a dropkick for the first time or drop down a building site rubbish chute.
Gang Beasts is two different games. As a multiplayer, it was one of the most enjoyable I’ve played, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this after a few beers, smokes or even cake. You don’t need to be intoxicated to enjoy this if you’re playing with friends or even Darren from work. No one likes him. On that basis, Gang Beasts is my go-to party game now. But, the other game, a single-player? No chance. If I played this on my own, I wouldn’t have come to the same conclusion. Sure, the physics are fun, and it’s unique, but there are zero goals. You can’t unlock anything new and playing strangers online isn’t the same with say Borderlands 3. Whereas with the multiplayer side of things, the goal is fun and Gang Beasts quenches that thirst.
With all the flawed attacks, Gang Beasts showcases some of the most hilarious tussles I’ve ever had in a fighting game. Due to the unpredictable nature of combat, you never know how your character will perform, but you do have a slight say in their next action. It isn’t a complete game of chance, but at the same time, I wouldn’t put money on a match.
Gang Beasts PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7/10
A tricky one, but I’m trying to take into account the single and multiplayer versions of this game. As a single-player, it’s not great. As a local party game, a wholehearted recommendation and as it’s available physically on the 6th December in time for Christmas? Well…
Unique game physics make it a lot of fun
Lots of levels such as Ferris wheels or trapdoors where you’re hit with oversized sausages
Anyone can play this
Single-player (including online play) is a bit redundant
Nothing to unlock as everything available from the start
Severely lacking in move-sets and variety
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.