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SOS Hands-On: A Battle Royale Game that Makes Your Mic a Vital Tool, and Why that May Be a Mistake

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Everyone is a performer, and it can get very annoying.

One of the first things developer Outpost Games told us at a preview event for their upcoming battle royale shooter SOS was that your microphone was one of the most important tools in the game. I immediately got nervous.

Generally in online games, I’ll quickly mute the mics of opposing players to stem the tide of obscenities being hurled my way, but SOS has decided to embrace the microphone. The 16-player FPS casts every participant as a member of a fictional reality TV show similar to a high-stakes Survivor. You win matches by searching an island, finding one of three relics, then escaping with it on a helicopter – but that’s only half the game.

The other half is about how you play, and the show you put on while doing it. SOS is tied into Outpost’s custom-made stream-integrated platform called Hero. The idea is that players can stream their game, giving viewers a chance to weigh in on their performance with emoji reactions and votes on what supplies will be in the next airdrop.

In addition to regular matchmaking, your in-game Fame score will pair you with other popular personalities, or people you might have had previous beef with, artificially creating exciting “episodes” for viewers familiar with them. Put on a good show and build your following and your Fame will rise. Play stone-faced and boring and you’re not likely to get noticed.

It was like trying to play a video game in the middle of an improv comedy show that I didn’t want to be a part of.

What that means practically is that everyone is trying to be funny all the time, which almost immediately got exhausting for me. It was like trying to play a video game in the middle of an improv comedy show that I didn’t want to be a part of – and I say that as a person who did theater and improv for nearly 20 years and whose day job is literally to play video games on camera. I’m sure there are people out there excited by the idea of having a more accessible and interactive platform for streaming, but many others will be horrified by the idea of being inescapably told to dance for a crowd in order to play.

And I played SOS in what is likely the best-case scenario. About half of my group were members of the games media, while the other half were livestreamers who had previously been active members of SOS’s closed alphas. They were friendly, funny, and fully understood what this game was trying to do.

That breaks down when you inevitably queue into a public match and some idiot starts shouting about the horrible things they claim they did to your mom the night before. An inherently competitive game with open mics relying on the civility and participation of internet strangers is a risky proposition, and one I find difficult to have faith in.

Apart from Hero and the Fame system, SOS seemed like a pretty fun (if still early on) battle royale game – sort of like PUBG meets Nickelodeon’s Legends of the Hidden Temple. I especially liked that you had to make alliances to form a team mid-match, not in a pre-game lobby, and appreciated that it’s exploring the idea of a battle royale game where “be the last one alive” isn’t the only win condition.

Concerns aside, I did enjoy my time with SOS. But I can’t shake the fact that I’m skeptical about its real-world playability. I’d likely be interested in watching more, given the right streamer and the right opponents they are playing against, but it seems unlikely I’ll want to get back on its stage myself.

That said, if you are interested in trying it for yourself, Outpost is running a closed beta all next week that you can sign-up for here.

Tom Marks is an Associate Editor focusing on PC gaming at IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.


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