There was a lot happening over the weekend of Summer Game Fest. It started out with Geoff Keighley's Summer Game Fest, continued with several livestream presentations on Saturday, and smoothly went into Sunday's Xbox + Bethesda Games Showcase and the PC Gaming Show. However, lost in all the hoopla of these events was Iron Galaxy flipping the switch on a fresh network test for its upcoming battle royale brawler, Rumbleverse. Those able to jump in likely found themselves playing something that's quickly becoming a standout in the genre.
First revealed at The Game Awards back in December, Rumbleverse puts 40 people in an abandoned metropolis, cheekily called Grappital City. The object, like other battle royale games, is to be the last person standing. However, there are no guns or explosives. This game is basically Iron Galaxy (old Killer Instinct lead combat designer Adam Heart and co-CEO Chelsea Blasko, in particular) saying, "What if we made a battle royale, but all of the characters are Zangief from Street Fighter?" It's a premise that works beautifully, as evidenced by a wildly chaotic 24-hour cross-platform playtest.
The main takeaway from this network test is that the player base is rapidly getting the hang of Rumbleverse's main rock-paper-scissors formula, in which players must navigate between physical strikes, command grabs, blocks, and dodges. Over the course of the game, players can learn more powerful moves by finding loose magazines and speed reading through them. This is the main challenge of Rumbleverse's first few minutes, as picking up a magazine, remembering the right button prompt, and waiting the precious few seconds to learn the new move can be stressful. Using any item can be interrupted by another player and other players will often fly in out of the blue, whether they're coming down from the sky or suddenly coming in from off-screen with a dropkick.
While the story of the first Rumbleverse network test was players getting used to the moves and the timing of making them work, the latest test was all about clashes. If two players go for a certain move at the same time, sometimes one will overpower the other. Other times, they'll cancel each other out and both players will push each other apart in a stalemate. This happened to me more than a few times and the victory would ultimately go to who could react the fastest from that setback.
After a few sessions of getting used to the action, clear strategies were soon present. In a session I captured for the Shacknews YouTube channel, I was able to take the Poison Sumoslap (think E. Honda's classic Hundred Hand Slap move) and stun an opponent in order to set up a powerful Superkick, straight out of the Young Bucks' playbook. This, along with collecting stars from across the map, helped me build up my Super Mode meter. Super Mode gives players access to an ultra-powerful finishing move, but it can also be used to help recover health and stamina. Strategic usage of the Super Mode quickly proves to be a key to victory.
Hunting down items is another critical skill. Boxes are everywhere in Grappital City and in addition to new moves, they'll contain items that help recover health and stamina or even increase their caps. Certain items can be banked away for later and mapped to the D-pad. Again, here's where the length of time that it takes to consume items and the potential for interruption can be an issue for some players. Once a player has their sights set on you, they will often pursue you relentlessly. If you can't lose them, you won't be able to consume that chicken leg to recover your health. Worse, if you run out of stamina, they will catch you and you'll be too worn down to defend yourself. While Rumbleverse is a grappling game at heart, it has those horror moments where you'll try and run from danger, only to find out there's no hope of escape.
There's substantial room for growth with Rumbleverse, especially with an ample amount of cosmetics set to be made available. There are already cool clothing pieces, like luchadore masks, referee shirts, and cosplay outfits. Iron Galaxy is clearly watching user feedback closely, responding to the last batch of player impressions by delaying the game and returning to the lab for refinement.
Rumbleverse is still in line to release later in 2022, at least for now. Look for it to release on PC (via the Epic Games Store), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
This preview is based on impressions from the PC version of the Rumbleverse cross-platform network test conducted on Saturday, June 11.