Ultrakill by Arsi “Hakita” Patala is the latest retro-inspired FPS to be picked up by indie publisher New Blood Interactive. The company made a name for themselves by publishing the hit ’90s-inspired shooters Amid Evil and Dusk, and based on the demo I played, Ultrakill looks to be a fine addition to their catalog of ridiculously violent and over-the-top shooters.
The game has no real story to speak of, because such trivial things as lore just get in the way of the game’s adrenaline-fueled carnage. All you need to know is that humanity is dead, demons use our blood for fuel, and now everyone is invading Hell to get more blood.
Ultrakill drops you straight into the action and doesn’t let up. The game’s levels are essentially a collection of interconnected rooms with combat encounters, checkpoints, and boss fights. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any branching paths, however, because each level features about three to five secrets to discover.
The goal is very simple: Kill things and get points. The more stylish your kills and combos, the more points you get. As you can probably see from the screenshots, the game features a combo system with multipliers a lot like the ones found in Devil May Cry or Bulletstorm.
At the start of each level you’ll find a shop where you can spend points to unlock new guns. The game usually introduces new weapon types within the levels themselves, with the shop acting as a way to unlock variants with alternate fire modes that you can cycle through in-game.
For example, the default shotgun’s alt fire is a huge explosive shot that you can charge up. The second shotgun variant in the demo features a different alt fire where you can pump the shotgun to load more rounds into the barrel.
This means that when you fire, you’ll basically release the equivalent of three or four shots at once. However, if you pump the shotgun too much, then it will explode when you fire it, dealing heavy damage to yourself and anything nearby.
Your character is extremely mobile and fast in Ultrakill. You can jump ridiculously high, and you have three pips of stamina that can be used to perform dash moves and ground slams. There is also a ground slide move that doesn’t consume stamina, but you don’t gain invulnerability frames like with the dash.
You can also punch enemies with your big robotic fist, though that isn’t the primary function of it. If you time your punch right, you can use it to deflect enemy projectiles back at them.
The combat in Ultrakill is, simply put, phenomenal and incredibly satisfying. Your weapons have really beefy sound effects, and even the default revolver causes the walls and floors of a level to be coated with the viscera of your enemies. Painting the walls red is also a gameplay mechanic, because drowning yourself in the blood of your slain foes is how you heal.
The game’s core mechanics are quite simple, but do a great job of emphasizing fast and skillful gunplay. There are also lots of environmental hazards you can use to your advantage, like shooting a glass floor to drop enemies into a meatgrinder.
No matter how you choose to dispose of your foes, chances are you’ll be having loads of fun doing it. It certainly helps that the slaughter is accompanied by a fantastic rock soundtrack.
Ultrakill is very challenging as well, even on the default setting. The boss fights in particular can be pretty ball-busting due to their wide range of AOE attacks and explosions. This is where the game’s emphasis on skill is most obvious, as these battles require perfectly timed dashes and stamina management to get through.
While Ultrakill might be pretty challenging, it still feels fair. I never felt like one of my many deaths were due to some poorly designed mechanic or bug, but instead simply because of my own incompetence. Luckily, the game’s frequent checkpoints and quick loading times mean that you are never out of the action for long.
Even though Ultrakill‘s level structure doesn’t involve the maze-like design of many beloved shooters from the ’90s, it still gets the look, feel, and sound of a retro-FPS right. The combat is fast, challenging, and gives you plenty of opportunities to perform really insane feats of skill.
While I may not have known about Ultrakill until a few days ago, the game quickly earned a spot on my wishlist after the demo. If you want to try Ultrakill for yourself, you can find the demo on its Steam page.
Ultrakill is set to get a full release in Summer 2020 for Windows PC via Steam.