OutRage: Fight Fest is a nifty 16-player brawler that's trying to do punch-'em-up Fall Guys, but I'm just not sure there's enough depth to get people hooked

It's Steam Next Fest—which means there's gonna be a whole bunch of demos to whet your little gamer teeth on over the next few days. Included in the free-for-all is OutRage: Fight Fest, a party-game style brawler being developed by Hardball Games Ltd. The demo actually came out over the weekend, but it's still part of the festivities nonetheless.

The core concept at play here is that the more you throw punches, the bigger you get—the bigger you get, the more things you can throw. Players who play more aggressively should, in theory, be able to push around and bully everyone else, rewarding proactive (and skillful) play.

Matches take place in small arenas with a variety of game modes—a capture the flag-style mosh pit, a set of elimination rounds, and so on. In terms of structure, I'm reminded of a lot of Fall Guys—OutRage: Fight Fest feels like it's trying to marry a fighting game with a looser party atmosphere. Give players simple mechanics, and they'll stretch those mechanics to their limits in pursuit of glory.

The only issue is, I'm not really sure there's enough here to get players hooked.

OutRage: Fight Fest's mechanics feel far too flat at the moment. You can kick, punch, and grab enemies. Grabbing them flings them backwards, punching them sends them upwards, and kicking them sends them forwards. I can't imagine why you'd ever opt for the punch finisher, though—after you chain three combo hits together, your opponent's sent skyward or away from you, becoming invulnerable for a time.

This means that there's no real way to land extended combos in OutRage: Fight Fest. You get your three whacks in, throw them at a wall, and then reset to do it again. This isn't criminal, mind. Games with low barriers to entry can have great skill expression. Divekick is a great example—that game has two buttons, but introduces a bunch of strategic play by focusing on spacing.

OutRage: Fight Fest, however, doesn't have a great spacing game, either. You only have access to a dodge roll and a very limited sprint. To engage with the enemy, you pretty much just have to hope your opponent doesn't clip you for another one-two-three on the way in. Fights play out like a game of rock, paper scissors without the paper. Sometimes without the scissors, too.

I think Hardball Games has missed a trick, here—Fall Guys took off because it was casual, but you could get good at it, mastering its chaotic stages and learning all sorts of tips and tricks. Similarly, Smash Bros is a game with a low skill floor and an astronomical skill ceiling, with an unimaginable amount of tools in the box for players to use.

I imagine you could get good at OutRage: Fight Fest if you really want to, but it'd feel like it would be in spite of what the game's giving you.

It doesn't help that the game's player base hasn't formed yet. Right now, your OutRage: Fight Fest games will be populated by bots that spend most of their time in impromptu mosh pits. Even if there is some deep and complex meta-game I'm unaware of, your average joe won't get a peek of it—they'll just bounce off the game, causing matches to have more bots, and so on and so on as the snake punches its own tail.

The moshpits also highlight another issue—if you're in a bad spot, your counterplay is to essentially just mash the dodge button and pray. Even the game's selling point of getting bigger to get more threatening isn't really applicable, here—you'll still be stunned and knocked into the three-hit juggles just as easily. The only upshot is that you can throw slightly larger objects at people.

Anyway, I hope OutRage: Fight Fest isn't K.O'd yet—for all my complaints there's something here. The artstyle's fun, and I do think there's a cosy niche for a game just like it. It just needs a little more butter on its bread to give it a chance at finding "inexplicable FF14 crossover" levels of success.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.