Garbage lines the streets, guns are everywhere, and global warming is on track to burn everything down before we can fix it. It's hell on earth. But to distract ourselves until the inevitable end, a new 2D battle royale game set in the Cyanide and Happiness universe is on the way. Announced at this year's PC Gaming Show, God decides to have some fun with the rapture. With the worst people left on earth, the almighty allows the last person standing in a series of arena matches entry into heaven.
I played some for myself in a closed alpha test yesterday, and while I'm definitely not worthy of entry into heaven, Rapture Rejects needs plenty of work before getting there itself. The bare essentials of battle royale are there, but with such a diversity of experiences already out available, Rapture Rejects is both too plain to stand out in a growing genre, and not simple enough to recommend over the perfect, lo-fi distillation of surviv.io.
Not the second coming
Rapture Rejects doesn't deviate much from established battle royale rules. Up to 100 players hunt down weapons, armor and inventory upgrades, and each other while a shrinking ring of fire closes in on random areas of the map at timed intervals.
The chief difference is that there's no spawning sequence, no descent from a bus or plane or angel in the sky. Instead, you spawn at a random location on the map, subject to pure luck. Smart positioning is arguably more important than aim in battle royale, and to have that stripped from Rapture Rejects can make some rounds especially demeaning. You might spawn a few paces further from a gun than someone else, and in any other battle royale game, you'd only have yourself to blame. In Rapture Rejects, you can blame the absence of a spawning system. Hopefully one shows up before release.
The map isn't interesting enough to support to generate the stories battle royale is best for either. Encounters repeat in grid-based areas—warehouses, farms, and woods—that might look different, but function the same in practice. The tension is reduced to whether enemy players are visible or not, and whether you can get the jump on them, or if you should at all. Scoped weapons, equippable telescopes, and viewing stations increase how much of the map you can see at once, but position rarely matters. With no high ground or means of hiding, shootouts are about the only way to make it to the end.
Combat is missing something too. If hell has literally come to earth, then I'd expect more interesting weapons than the usual pistol, shotgun, automatic rifle, and sniper rifle spread. Rapture Rejects plays it safe with weapon archetypes and firing patterns, a disappointment considering the relative malleability of the 2D perspective.
With games that play almost identically sans the battle royale element—take Enter the Gungeon, for example—I'm surprised nothing within Rapture Rejects is even close to as playful. Where are the weapons that spew hellfire? Where's the obligatory fart joke gun? Garbage serves as ammunition, and the grenade is an eight-ball, but if that's the extent of Rejects' humor and inventiveness, it's going to be a dud.
In the third dimension, Fortnite continually woos me with its irreverent, swift design changes. Boogie bombs force players to dance, bounce pads pinball combatants around like, well, pinballs, and shopping carts make for a silly, disastrous mode of transit. Rapture Rejects has none of that spirit in its early state, and if it's truly based in the Cyanide and Happiness universe, then it should be wacky and weird and sad as hell in every aspect. An air-hump emote won't be enough.