Since the release of The Hunger Games, there have been several homages to it in gaming. Whether you want a Minecraft server, or a mode in Gmod, creatives are not short of taking existing games and creating new modes out of them. The Culling is something created from scratch, putting you on an island, fighting against those around you, with no choice but to kill.
It is exhilarating and thrilling when your crate opens and you look around to see if there is anything near you that you can craft. After a quick tutorial you’re familiar with the basics, two stones makes a knife, albeit not a good one. You can run to a building where there is the chance of better loot, but of course, there’s a chance of bumping into somebody who will want to pummel your face in.
There is a big element of luck in The Culling. It depends on what direction people go in, what loot spawns, who you fight and how good they are. That doesn’t mean it’s completely unfair, but it does mean that a new player should be expected to lose several times across their early Culling career, rather than walk into the fight and emerge bloody and victorious.
The tone of the game is confusing, albeit pleasant. The narrator, who voices the machines and the death announcements, seemingly as if it was a fan cut of The Hunger Games with the voice of the machine from Bioshock over the top. The announcements are often silly, but never funny, and brings a strange and uncanny feeling while the health station is cracking jokes, while you’re listening for the sound of rustling in bushes. The weapons are balanced, some you can find hidden in lockers, others you can spawn by using the game’s currency system. Guns are rare, and it’s more likely than not that you’ll be fighting your adversary with a melee weapon, and, if you’re lucky, it won’t be something low level that you’ve had to make yourself out of branches and rocks.
The island that The Culling takes place on is equal parts beautiful and bland. The scenery, the grass, for example, tends to be stunning. There’s also a genuine sense of creativity in the way you can get around, hide, and use the layout to your advantage, and have it be used against you, too. Though, the buildings are uninspired. Open spaces once inside with their only use being the lockers and machines nearby, some occasionally resemble a garage or a factory, but more often than not it feels like a hollow shell on an otherwise beautiful environment. Another element that would serve the game better is a better use of its environment, as the main ways it can currently be used is making bridges collapse temporarily, and sending enemies (or, perhaps, you) to a painful plummet. Other than traps, there isn’t much. One of the most powerful, and brutal moves a player can do is enable the gas that exists on each part of the map, making that area uninhabitable. Once the timer of the game ticks on, a kill switch is initiated in the centre of the map, meaning that once pressed the players have to congregate in the middle for a final showdown, or suffer at risk from poison.
There’s no single player to choose from. The action of the game happens online, and is the only choice, save from tutorials and fighting against other bots. Players with experience in multiplayer gaming know that while bots can be fun, they’re a far shot away from the sneakiness and unreliability of a human opponent. No single player in The Culling works, however, as the story puts you into an arena to fight, and detracting from that would just mean that it was trying to be a game that it’s not, so you best put a rock in your hand and send you running towards an enemy.
The Culling is certainly fun, but it’s also extremely frustrating. Whether you get struck down in the first or final minute, players will often be cursing at themselves wondering what went wrong, what was unfair, and get ready to load up in the next game. It’s a strange combination where luck and skill meet in the battlefield. If The Culling stays how it is, it will have a following that will dwindle, but remain loyal. Yet, if its developers stay dedicated for its growth in the future, it may one day become one of the most unique and fun multiplayer games out there.
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