Bullet Witch Updated Hands-On
We go hands-on with the localized version of this Xbox 360 occult shooter.
Bullet Witch is a third-person shooter for the Xbox 360 that combines elements of occult horror, sci-fi technology, and postapocalyptic grimness--with a bit of dark humor and sex appeal mixed in for good measure. The former comes from the geists, zombielike enemies with a penchant for wise cracks and wearing human-skin-like T-shirts. The latter comes from the titular heroine of the game, whose real name is Alicia. As we discovered in our most recent hands-on time with the game, Alicia is much more than a pretty face, thanks to her powerful magical spells and her bullet-spewing gun-rod.
The last time we played the game, it was a bit tough to follow the plot beyond the basics--the world was destroyed, humanity was more or less wiped out, and Alicia was about to exact her revenge, gun-rod style, on a hoary host of well-deserving demonic types. The game's plot and dialogue have been localized now, and guess what: We pretty much had the gist of the game even when it was all in Japanese.
Of course, there are a few details that slipped by us the first time--such as the strange voice that speaks to Alicia periodically. He's known as "the Darkness," and it seems like his main role in the game is to act as a guide for the Bullet Witch, to keep her informed of her objectives, and to fill in the backstory of the gameworld along the way. We also learned that the mere presence of the Bullet Witch on a planet that has been wiped out by disease, famine, war, and demon invaders is no accident; there may even be a connection between the disasters and Alicia herself.
So how has the game changed since the last time we saw it? For one, Alicia's Gatling gun has been nerfed a bit; producers said it was too powerful in previous builds of the game. As well, the spells available to Alicia can now be accessed by just two button presses, as opposed to three in older versions of the game. The game still has its issues--it still takes too long to bring up your weapon into firing position during combat and the ancient wall spell doesn't last as long as we would like it to--but, quirks aside, it's really easy to jump right into the suburbs at the start of the game and fill geists full of magical lead.
As you might expect of demons, the geists have a cruel streak in them, and they enjoy shooting the last remnants of humanity wherever they find them. If you come upon any injured civilians, you can heal them up using your sacrifice spell; Alicia will then patch them up with a life-giving gush of blood that spews from her hand (yeah, it's gross). Despite the gory nature of the spell, the civvies don't seem to mind, and they'll often offer you a thank-you item in return, such as food, which will restore your health. In a later level of the game, you'll be battling demons alongside resistance fighters, and you'll want to keep them healthy and fighting as much as possible to even the odds.
As for new weapons in Alicia's arsenal, we had a chance to check out a couple of the spells she picks up later in the game. The first, called rose spear, begins with Alicia casting out a handful of rose petals at her enemies. Before long, the petals magically transform into razor-sharp spears, impaling any enemies that happen to be in the way. Another spell summons a murder of crows to confuse enemies, leaving you ample time to gun them down. The most powerful new spell we saw summoned a huge tornado that sucked up practically everything--including enemies, buildings, trees, and vehicles--into its deadly funnel.
In addition to her spells, the Bullet Witch also wields a massive weapon known as a gun-rod. In fact, Alicia can have several permutations of her gun-rod at any given time--we saw the regular machine gun, the shotgun (good for up-close-and-personal firefights), and the sniper rifle. The scope on the sniper rifle isn't incredibly powerful, but the gun works well at long range. With a little patience, you'll be gunning down enemies at a distance with ease.
With all those bullets flying and spells casting, it follows that things should be blowing up real nice in the game, and Bullet Witch doesn't skimp here. Whether it's blowing up cars with your machine gun, tossing around hunks of scrap metal with your telekinesis spells, or exploding a gas station with a lighting bolt (our personal favorite), the destruction and mayhem possible is impressive to say the least. Even better, many of the objects you encounter demonstrate real physics, so that skyscraper's water tower you shoot will inevitably crash down to earth, crushing anyone who's unfortunate enough to be underneath. In essence, how you approach each level and each set of enemies is up to you, and the game provides you multiple ways for disposing your foes.
Graphically, the game is looking good. A good portion of the design work went into Alicia herself--her alluring costume, intricate hairstyle, and oversized weaponry definitely seem influenced by the Final Fantasy school of character design. As for the environments, while the beginning of the game is spent in the suburbs, and a large portion of the game involves battling through urban levels, we also got to see a rural forest level that put Alicia and her resistance-fighter comrades in the open, where they could be picked off by geist snipers hiding in the hills. Other levels in the game will take place in a subway terminal, at an airport, and even on top of a 747.
With her arsenal of spells and outlandish weaponry, there's no doubt that the Bullet Witch is a formidable foe. Alicia is due to begin her battle against the demonic army in early 2007 when the game is released. We'll have a full review of the game when it hits store shelves.
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