E3 2012: Bullet Run hands-on
I have a soft spot in my heart for the violent game show theme. I’ve played a ton of Monday Night Combat, Smash TV, and the Professor Genki sections of Saints Row the Third. Killing an enemy isn’t as exciting as making armpit noises or waving to an adoring crowd to cement my personal victory. It’s a layer of bad attitude that doesn’t feel mean spirited, and is always a good time. Bullet Run, a free-to-play FPS, uses the violent game show theme to its advantage.
Bullet Run cares less about how many kills you have and more about how cool you look doing it. Experience is represented by fans, and the crowd watching at home doesn’t want to see their favorite player playing it safe. Bonus fans and multipliers are stacked on top of your kills when the player takes risks, uses skills wisely, and taunts to let the world know who the baddest person in the match is. Even if your shooter skills are lacking, careful showboating can lead to great rewards. It’s not always the best player that is the most popular.
The game show theme doesn’t just permeate the game mechanics, however. Little touches here and there fill out the world and create an atmosphere of light-hearted chaos. Cameras at the edge of the map do their best to follow the players and the action, reminding the player that his or her adoring fans are watching. Commentators narrate the matches and comment on specific accomplishments the player has made. Doing something awesome is its own reward, but it’s way better when someone else recognizes it. These touches may be minor, but they pull the theme together into a cohesive package.
The combat in Bullet Run is a bit typical of FPSs nowadays, but has its own touch. The guns feel powerful and fun to shoot, but they may not be your first plan of attack if you want to maximize your fans. Before the match begins, you can load up 4 of 8 skills to take into battle and as you gain fans, you gain the ability to use those skills in the match. The two most useful skills I used were a turret and a mechanical spider. The turret is pretty self-explanatory. You activate the turret and it will tear into at any enemies it can find. The cool down for this skill appeared pretty long, so you won’t have to worry about turrets around every corner. The mechanical spider ran at targets and zapped them, forcing them to stand still for a period of time. If you take someone out while they’re stunned, you gain extra heat from the crowd for outsmarting your opponent. Skills may not be new to first-person shooters, but creating a strong incentive to use them will make them more prevalent in matches.
The term "shooter fatigue" gets thrown out a lot nowadays due to the abundance of serious shooters like Halo, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, and so on. The market is admittedly saturated with that style of game, but Bullet Run manages to feel fresh because it attached itself to a theme that is relatively unexplored. Sometimes, all a genre needs is a dose of original atmosphere. Well, the adoring crowd helps a lot, too.