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Sony Online Entertainment has various new free-to-play games lined up. One of these titles is the first person shooter Bullet Run. Essentially what it wants to represent is a modern version of Smash TV. For those of you unaware, this is a classic shooter where contestants fight to the death in a narrated TV show for fame and fortune. This idea can also be seen in the film Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It features commentary that usually sounds ridiculous and over the top to emphasize the zany aspect of a literal death match. Bullet Run with its grating narrators will not be any different.
Anyway, the game plays out much like any generic shooter, but with a few twists. For one, players collect more points by killing in style and gain more fame and fans this way. This means that just mowing someone down isn’t going to net as much doing a triple backflip before lodging one bullet in the exact middle of your opponent’s eyes, while the audience cheers. Furthermore, victims can be taunted for additional bragging rights and multipliers, so we’re expecting “teabagging” to become a national pastime.
More fame means more experience and thus leveling faster. Through a leveling scheme, players can upgrade abilities, unlock better weapons for purchase and so forth. Additionally, in the game itself, a set amount of fame is needed to unlock higher tiers of weapons. Everyone starts with a standard loadout, but as kills are stacked up, this can lead to dual pistols or attack drones and such. These nifty gadgets allow for even more stylish kills, which get the ball rolling faster, but they’re not without risk. Twin pistols for one offer a way to slide while shooting, but the payoff is weaker, which requires more dexterous aim. Unfortunately, weapons lack a punch and the impact created sometimes misses the gratification needed. That’s where doing insane combinations help.
The style is also affected by the match progression. For one, a person can bank more fame for taking out a direct opponent that landed consecutive kills on them, as revenge. Taking out the leader or defending critical points also yield higher scores. Smart decisions are what make the game.
So far, there are only two modes, with one being the standard Team Deathmatch and one being Dominion. The first naturally only cares about killing the most people before the bullhorn goes off. The latter however is a slightly altered control point mode. In Dominion, teams take turns being an attacking or defending side. From there, the goal is to take predetermined points on the map as often as possible, with takeover cooldowns in between. Dominion is full of suspense, due to its multilayered points and time-based captures. As no round ever becomes a landslide of dozens of points, teams are always only a few points separated from each other. Given that the 2 points offer a lot more than just one entry or takeover point adds to the hysteria that an enemy might always be lurking and ranking one more point for its team.
As an added bonus for all modes, the multiple levels offer a nice variety of approaches, both in open-ended freedom as in skillful level design. From oil platforms to distant deserts and strange construction buildings, Bullet Run has a set of expansive levels with multiple tiers, filled with claustrophobic hallways and distant horizons alike. There are hooks and crannies virtually anywhere and bottle neck areas quickly become a struggle for survival. Yes, Bullet Run knows how to make a level that will be tough to pin down, barring a few cheap camping spots, such as a singular covered high point in the desert.
It even adds a frantic reload mini-game. As players hit the reload prompt, a wheel ticks away and if the reload button is pressed again at the pinpointed spot, the recovery time is severely reduced. However, should this fail, then the player is left with a jammed gun that will take extra time to reset. Given the high pace of the game, this is nearly always a death sentence, so it’s certainly not without risk to go for a fast one. Unfortunately, even with the mini-game, reloading periodically suffered from inexplicable glitches that left guns empty and required an additional reload, even if the animation had time to complete.
While the aforementioned flaw is far from major, Bullet Run does have some larger fish to fry. The main issue and biggest damper on the shooter is its balancing problems. Leveling up and unlocking more content, also makes advanced players nearly indestructible. Once a gap of not too many levels appears, playing becomes an uphill battle that seems to be almost unwinnable. High levels are better defended, more equipped, have access to higher tiers, are more experienced and so on. The size of benefits far outweighs anything else thrown at it.
Add to this that Bullet Run offers in-game transactions to boost anything and add even more powerful equipment and a pay-to-win scheme is dead set. Often enough, the team with the most paying customers are the winners, even before the fight begins. This is definitely a point that needs immediate attention, as other shooters such as Battlefield Heroes or Gotham City Impostors have shown that paying doesn’t necessarily mean winning, just more fun. The first gives permanent access to better equipment, but doesn’t torture free players with impassable choices and the latter keeps gaps to a minimal. The latter is the scheme that would benefit Bullet Run the most, certainly given the two games bear some similarities. It could draw away the Gotham crowd.
Right now, Bullet Run is only mildly entertaining and that only depending on the circumstance. Getting stuck in pay-to-win matches can be a true mood killer. Should it address urgently needed balancing issues and revise a good part of the game, it could however start climbing up the fame rank of paragon Smash TV. There is definitely enough potential and variety to make it happen within its excellent levels. Let’s hope Sony Online Entertainment is listening and captures the idea of game show mayhem exactly as they themselves have pitched it!
|Bullet Run suffers from paying to enjoy this seemingly free first person shooter with otherwise good characteristics. It's commendable in several approaches, such as a variety of weaponry and elaborate level designs. However, it can get quite frustrating to have to resort to buying progress or having to take the back seat by default. Barring its balancing issues, it has the potential to grow out into a much stronger and more enjoyable title, if this is addressed in updates later on.|