ULTRAKILL (Early Access Review)

Genre: First-Person Shooter, Spectacle Fighter

Original Release: September 3, 2020 (Early Access)

Developer: Arsi “Hakita” Patala

Publisher: New Blood Interactive

Platform: Steam

*NOTE: This review will only cover Act I: Infinite Hyperdeath. The game is currently under development and future developments may render parts or all of this review moot.*

You have been warned.

A few years ago, I was talking with my older sister and my brother-in-law regarding what I would later discover to be a depressive slump. I didn’t know what to do or where I wanted to go in life, when the latter pointed out that I tend to really like action games. He said that I enjoy the sense of control over my decisions and having the tools that I needed to handle whatever came my way. Maybe not in as many words, but the point still came across effectively. And you know, some of my recent game choices (i.e. DUSK) have really reflected that. I like a challenge, I like action, and I like the intensity.

So around Christmas time last year, ULTRAKILL came onto my radar. I had seen some people talking about it previously, mostly on Twitter, but once I started seeing fan art of V1 (shown above on the featured image), something just clicked and I felt a need to learn more. So I checked the listing on Steam (funnily enough, the url devilmayquake.com also describes the gameplay better than I probably could here) and while I was initially deterred by the combat rating portion (ranging from Destructive all the way up to SSShitstorm, then finally Ultrakill), it didn’t take long to get over that.

Few things are as satisfying to me as absolutely destroying everything in front of me with a few well-place shots.

As the redirect URL suggests, ULTRAKILL’s gameplay is one part Devil May Cry, and one part Quake. At time of writing, I’ve only played the first Devil May Cry and my Quake experience hasn’t changed since I wrote the DUSK article last year. I really should get back to that at some point. Anyway, your performance in combat (your style) is rated based on a number of factors: kill speed, weapon variety, whether you or the enemy are airborne, and environmental kills among other things. At present you have four different guns available, each with its own variant. The pistol, for example, can switch between charging a piercing shot or tossing up to four coins in the air, allowing you to ricochet your shots into the nearest enemy or enemies (and these coins can be chained together as you feel comfortable to some wonderfully explosive results), while the shotgun can either lob an explosive shot or be pumped up to increase damage output or, if necessary, launch yourself. Obviously everyone plays games differently, but damn if ULTRAKILL doesn’t make me want to get as good as I can with the gameplay.

But what about the story? Why are we a robot making its way progressively deeper into Hell? Fortunately that gets answered right away, it’s even in the steam description as well as the poster art!

Does this make V1 the blood god?

Not only does this sum up the in-universe reason for machines rushing to Hell, but it also explains the method by which you heal. In classic vein of retro FPS, you don’t regenerate health over time. No, you have to get up close and personal to bathe in the blood of husks, demons, and even your fellow machines if you want to heal. Punch them, shoot them, blow them up, whatever gets more blood into your system works just fine. You can even jump into the air and then slam back down into some of the smaller husks to reduce them to a fine paste underfoot and it’ll work. This provides a neat risk vs reward balance for the player, encouraging them to play aggressively but also remain aware of the situation around them. I like that.

Obviously there’s a bit more story as you go, but you guys know I try not to spoil the story because I like the feeling that comes with seeing things play out for yourself. Needless to say, on finishing what was currently available, the only thought running through my head at the time was “I need more.” And it’s a good game that invokes that kind of response in me.

I like to think of Hank as the buddy that just tags along for the wild ride V1 is going on throughout the game. Can I prove this? No.

Fortunately, the game has a mode of play called the Cyber Grind that lets you hone your skills against progressively more difficult waves of enemies. As you survive, you’ll earn points for each wave that can be put toward upgrading your weapons if you haven’t done so already, and it becomes something of an endurance test, with the arena cycling through different configurations with each successive wave. My current goal is to hit wave 30, but I’ve managed 28 this far and I feel really good about it.

Yes that is Dave Oshry’s face on the arena proper. Yes I find it hilarious that it’s one of the default options. No, I don’t find it as horrifying as other people seem to.

So I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to see me say that I highly recommend ULTRAKILL. It’s fast, it’s chaotic, but it gets me pumped like few other FPS have in recent years. Just the other day I found myself shaking and short of breath like I had just come down from an adrenaline rush. I haven’t felt a high like that since the first time I was able to take down Kel’Thuzad in Wrath of the Lich King. Interpret that as you will.

Once again, you can find ULTRAKILL at devilmayquake.com if you’re so inclined. Act I is excellent, and Act II is currently under development. I cannot wait for more story and whatever else comes with it. I’m going to hell and it’s going to be a hectic, bloody ride. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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