Sometimes, great games spawn from pretty ludicrous ideas. As we'll explain in this review, Cuisine Royale is one of them. The game started out in 2018 as an April Fool's joke by its publisher, Gaijin Entertainment, as part of the work on World War 2-themed shooter Enlisted. Almost two years on, Cuisine Royale's servers are still filled with players. Moreover, it's free-to-play, and so we took our time to judge the quality of the game underneath the comical veil.
At its core, Cuisine Royale is the same as other games in the genre: a steadily shrinking map brings surviving players ever closer together. Cuisine Royale features Solo, Duos and Squads gameplay and allows for both first- and third-person perspectives. As the name implies, food and culinary items are the big cosmetic element in Cuisine Royale. Players can pick one of four characters to play, who start out mostly in their underwear for each new match. Instead of scavenging for serious armour and consumables, the Cuisine Royale world is littered with a variety of pots, pans, grocery bags and other kitchen-related appliances that serve as your character's armour.
You might shield your buttocks with a waffle iron and your head with a metal colander, for example. Likewise, health can be regenerated by consuming the food plates you collect and loot chests come in the form of refrigerators. These provide further comical boosters such as speed-increasing bunny slippers or a health-regenerating IV bag. When playing together with friends, in particular, this side of the game stays hilarious and really adds to the overall fun factor.
Adding depth to the gameplay is a progression system that allows you to unlock new underwear or face masks that provide a small buff, but there are also so-called 'Mystic Signs'. When you spray one of these signs you can receive boosters or set traps that become increasingly potent as the map shrinks. For example, traps you unlock early include those that increase someone's recoil or throws them up into the air. Other signs provide boosts to your HP regeneration or affect all players simultaneously. The most potent ones are unlocked after a considerable investment of time, such as a sign that summons a zombie attack or one that turns all of the wooden toilet outhouses in the game into portals. Lastly, each character has their own special power, such as a beast mode or a thunderous hammer strike. In order to use these and the Mystic Signs, you'll need to collect souls, which naturally you earn by killing other players.
Owing to its origins as an Enlisted mode, Cuisine Royale is partly set in a WW2-themed carousel of maps, complete with trenches, bunkers and vehicles. Other maps include Mexican desert and jungle-themed arenas, with lots of open ground, hacienda-style buildings and towering jungle temples. All of them look very good visually, as well as providing the right amount of cover, with room for battles out in the open as well as close-quarters combat. Despite the fact that your character might be walking around in underwear with a pot on their head, the atmosphere in the snowy map in WW2 France actually comes close to the Norway one in Battlefield V's Firestorm mode.
Whether playing solo or with friends, we found the game to be a lot of fun. We like that there's no parachuting at the start, meaning you can jump right into action. Playing together is thrilling as player numbers dwindle and the map shrinks, and cooperation using the signs, different weapon types, and utilising the environment is a necessity if you're to survive and prosper. Part of the fun stems from the Battle Royale core concept, but Cuisine Royale also executes it in a very solid and accessible way. For example, it doesn't have the build-as-you-shoot element that Fortnite has, so even players who prefer a slower tempo have a good chance to win a match.
What's important is that the gameplay never falls victim to its ludicrous approach. Firing a sausage gun would probably have ruined the experience, for example. Other Battle Royale-inspired games such as Apex Legends feature all sorts of novel and fancy-looking fantasy guns, however, when firing the Kar98k rifle or PPSH41 submachine gun, guns that we know from so many classic games, it's nice to immediately know what to expect. The Mexican-themed maps also feature modern weapons, such as AK-series rifles. The weapons in Cuisine Royale are reasonably balanced, but carrying at least one SMG or shotgun does seem to prolong your life a bit longer.
Requiring around ten gigabytes of disk space and with equally modest system requirements, Cuisine Royale is both accessible for a large PC audience as well as being surprisingly good-looking. What's more, it boasts a number of fun features such as the Mystical Signs but the devs have been able to mix them up with familiar overall gameplay features and just the right amount of comical sauce. Throw in the fact that it's free to play, and we heartily recommend anyone who likes the genre to give it a try.
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