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 Post subject: PC Game Review: Bombshell
PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:33 pm 
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During the development of Duke Nukem Forever, the creators came up with this idea of a female counterpart to Duke Nukem. A badass chick who could hold her own against the alien forces and join forces with the king to wipe them out. The idea unfortunately ended up being scrapped due to... reasons that are frankly unknown to me, even though I could guess it had something to do with it just not fitting for the game which ended up being entirely centered on Duke, so it wouldn't make much sense to have a secondary hero character steal his thunder. But when publisher 3D Realms and developer Interceptor Entertainment (now known as Slipgate Studios following a name change after the release of this game) were working on a Duke Nukem action RPG, and ended up in a legal battle with Gearbox Software, they lost the chance to make a Duke Nukem action RPG. However, from the ashes of this legal battle arose a new chance to bring this female badass, from deep within Duke Nukem Forever's endless vaults of cut content, to the front of her own game, and finally give her a franchise of her own. The end result is Bombshell, a top down isometric shooter RPG. And here are my thoughts on it.

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The 2015 reveal trailer featured an early draft of the character that left a bad taste in most people's mouths. Unfortunately I actually kinda liked it. :P

In 2015, 3D Realms published a reveal trailer of their new game in development. The trailer featured a scantily clad female with a robot arm and a black sidecut hair that would make Skrillex jealous, drinking whiskey before grabbing a shotgun and getting on a bike. It encapsulated perfectly what the game was about but received a fair bit of backlash for its lackluster graphical fidelity and sexualized protagonist. And while I personally liked it and got hyped from it, I could see where people were coming from. Luckily, the trailer wasn't really representative of what was to come. Because Bombshell isn't really a game in the same league as Duke Nukem 3D or even Duke Nukem Forever if you ask me. While Shelly is clearly a badass protagonist, she feels entirely different as a character and never really ends up feeling like a simple genderswapped Duke Nukem.

The first thing I've really noticed about Bombshell is that it kinda takes itself seriously. The story feels like something out of a b-movie of course. The president (who is a female in this game) is kidnapped by a cyborg villain known as Doctor Jadus Heskel (totally not Doctor Proton) and a badass chick with a robot arm goes on an intergalactic trip to an alien homeworld to save her. But it's not really played up in any way that makes it self-aware or self-referencing, as most of it is taken really seriously and most of the humor is kind of tucked away in the form of one-liners and references. And this is why it feels really different from a Duke Nukem game. Because while on paper the setup feels almost like a perfect setup for a Duke Nukem game, where a Duke Nukem game wouldn't really take itself TOO seriously, Bombshell goes for a very serious tone despite the somewhat ludicrous premise. For instance, Duke Nukem Forever did take itself somewhat seriously in terms of story but it never expected the player to take it seriously and always assumed the player would be in on the joke and understand that this was never meant to be taken seriously and that it was all in good fun. Bombshell completely lacks that self-awareness and thus always expects the player to not only take the story seriously but also be invested in it. The main problem with the story though is that it's not really written well enough to draw you into it and expects a little too much from the player to be invested in it. And it lacks enough humor to really offset the amount of seriousness.

Most of the humor in Bombshell is derived from stuff like naming a weapon "Ion Maiden" (cause Iron Maiden... get it?) or "PMS" (which is basically on par with naming a town Morningwood). Or making a random NPC sound like a horrible impersonation of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's never really humor that fully lands for me and while I can get a chuckle out of a few lines here and there, I would never really call the game comedic in tone, just kind of witty at times, and it kind of makes stuff like the weapon names feel a little out of place. You thought Duke Nukem Forever had a confused tone? This game struggles to even get a confused tone, it's a straight up disconnection between what you see on screen and what the game's story is doing.

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The final design of Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison pretty much nails who the character is meant to be. A serious and badass female with a robot arm and a zero bullshit tolerance.

The game looks rather gorgeous though, especially for what is essentially an indie title. Interceptor is a fairly small development team, and they all work from different parts of the world, making it more of a virtual dev team than a physical one, which may explain a few things but we'll get back to that later. All of the levels in the game feel distinct from one another, with each sporting its own colour space and mood, ranging from a level over a deep underground lava pit, to a frozen ice level, to an industrial level with tons of awesome imagery. While none of the levels really end up feeling that original, they definitely all feel distinct enough to make clear and proper "chapters" in the game. I also rather like the cutscenes that are all done in-engine and feature some very cool animation. It's a huge step up from the comic book style cutscenes that most indie titles seem to do nowadays (even Interceptor was guilty of this with their Rise of the Triad remake, although in that game I felt it was a bit justified given it was a remake of an old game). Of course, as I mentioned, your enjoyment of these cutscenes will of course depend heavily on your investment into the story and whether you like it or not. But despite not being entirely into the story I still enjoyed the flair of the cutscenes and they do their job building up some drama between levels.

The detail is also extremely high and the game allows you to zoom in on the action to take in the amount of detail on the textures. Especially Shelly herself has some rather awesome texture work done on her. With everything cranked to the max the game definitely looks rather good and runs really well too with no hitches or stuttering (bear in mind I am running the game on the latest patch), and you probably won't need any high end system to truly crank up the graphics, as running everything maxed out on 1080p granted me smooth and stable performance on an AMD Phenom II 3.2GHz CPU with an AMD R9 280X GPU. I can definitely appreciate the work put into the graphics in this game, and it is by far one of my favourite aspects about it. It deserves praise when an indie game manages to look this good.

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The game starts out on Earth sending you into the white house to rescue the president, which ends up taking you to the alien planet Kyrr.

The game is a top down shooter despite it trying to sell itself as an action RPG. The RPG mechanics are extremely miniscule in this game. There is no real roleplaying involved as you don't play your own character, you cannot choose what to say, all of the levels are played in a linear fashion and in general the only RPG element is that you can choose which of Shelly's abilities to upgrade whenever you level up, and can choose between 2 upgrade paths on your weapons, with new upgrades unlocking as you level up. This is really not enough to warrant the game being called an RPG in my opinion and I think it's wrong to call it such as it gives the wrong expectations towards the game. The game is really just a simple isometric shooter.

That being said, as a twin-stick shooter it is still fairly competent. The game features moving with the WASD keys and aiming with the mouse, or using dual analogue sticks on a gamepad. While I might have preferred the game being made as a first person or behind-the-shoulder third person shooter, it still plays well as what it is. The camera can be a little frustrating though as the angle can make it difficult to spot enemies approaching you (though the map mitigates this design flaw a little as it shows enemy locations as red dots). The weapons feel satisfying to use, especially if you get the right upgrades for them, such as upgrading the Maxigun to fire rockets (which feels pretty much exactly like it does in the new Doom game) or upgrading the Motherflakker (basically the game's shotgun) to fire explosive shells. It gives the weapons a whole new "oomph" and dimension and makes you feel crazy powerful. I wouldn't say there was any weapon I really didn't enjoy using with the exception of the Shellshock, which I couldn't really wrap my head around using. I mostly ended up using either the Maxigun or Motherflakker with the Ion Maiden being used for dispatching small pests and the PMS or Flamethrower being used for larger miniboss type enemies. While you can definitely tell there is some influence from Duke Nukem to these weapons, they truly end up feeling unique to the game and puts their own twist on familiar archetypes (except the Shellshock, I still have no idea what it's supposed to do lol).

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The game's currency can be picked up in the form of purple orbs. At times it ends up feeling like I'm playing a strange mix between Duke Nukem and Diablo.

The level design is alright for the most part. The main gameplay rhythm mostly comprises of moving towards objectives, wiping out enemies, gathering ammo and currency, and rinse and repeat. You do get secondary objectives in some levels which you might wanna finish before moving on to the primary objective if you're a completionist, and a lot of the levels have secrets in them. A few issues I did notice though was that at times you are required to do platforming which can be tricky given the camera angle, and at times the level geometry can make it a bit tricky to move around. The aiming can also be a bit finnicky at times, requiring you to aim specifically at enemies rather in their general direction. The game also softlocked several times for me during certain quests, requiring me to restart the entire level. Not a huge deal but something you should be aware of. For instance, I never ended up getting the Electroshocker on my playthrough, despite picking it up. And I was stuck for hours when a quest bugged and leaving me unable to pick up a power crystal I needed to continue. So the game is far from perfect, but none of the bugs I encountered were outright gamebreaking and could typically be fixed with a level reset.

The soundtrack is decent enough, if you love industrial metal. It's not really my cup of tea and most of it just ended up sounding like generic background noise to me and not really with enough synth to make it sound interesting. Just generic chugs and no real themes or memorable riffs. Andrew Hulshult is a decent musician but not a really strong songwriter in my opinion. Some stronger themes would really have helped the soundtrack come a long way as I couldn't really get into it. The main theme is repeated a few times but even that isn't really that memorable. I felt he did a much better job with his Rad Rodgers soundtrack in all honesty.
The voice acting also leaves something to be desired. While Shelly herself does an alright job, it is true she kind of lacks impact. And some of the NPC voice actors straight up sound like they recorded their lines in their bedroom. Which they probably did given how Interceptor works. For the most part it's not too distracting but at times it was pretty cringe-worthy.
Luckily the weapon sounds and general sound design is pretty good. The weapons sound beefy and loud and the ambience is also really good. I just couldn't really get behind the voice acting or music. Both sound a bit bland.

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At a few points the game will offer a turret section to break up the gameplay a bit. If you hate these though, do not fear. They are extremely underutilized. The turret does feature a slow-mo function though.

So that kind of concludes everything I had to say about this game. While it's not really a bad game and definitely not as bad as some reviews make it out to be, it has a lot of missed potential. I feel with a stronger story that took itself less seriously, and with better voice acting and stronger music the game could be a real blast. Oh well, maybe Ion Maiden will prove to be a stronger experience given it's using the good old Build engine, the same tech which powered Duke Nukem 3D, the series from which Bombshell was born from? Time will tell. In the meantime, I would say Bombshell is worth giving a shot if you can find it on sale and crave a simple isometric shooter with a b-movie story and playing as a badass female with a robot arm. Because as mediocre as this game might be, Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison is still a hell of a gal and I really hope to see her in more games and watch her grow as a character.

STORY: 5/10
GAMEPLAY: 8/10
GRAPHICS: 9/10
SOUND: 6/10

TOTAL SCORE: 7/10


Source: http://alyxxgameroom.blogspot.no/2018/03/pc-game-review-bombshell.html

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 Post subject: Re: PC Game Review: Bombshell
PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2018 8:00 pm 
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Makes me think they could have made it a Third Person Shooter, and it would have been great.

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 Post subject: Re: PC Game Review: Bombshell
PostPosted: Sun Mar 11, 2018 8:24 am 
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Selous Templar wrote:
Makes me think they could have made it a Third Person Shooter, and it would have been great.

Yeah, I agree. This game has some strange design decisions all over the place in all honesty.

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