Ultrakill is still in early access on Steam, but it still manages to easily beat the majority of mainstream FPS titles in terms of content and in quality. Its story and characters are all endearing, with excellent level design, but where it truly shines is in its fast-paced combat. With AAA titles like Doom Eternal and Titanfall 2 increasingly few and far between, indie titles have come to make up the majority of fast paced combat as other mainstream titles shift to a more tactical emphasis in terms of gameplay. Ultrakill is the prime example of this contrast, and is all the better for it thanks to creator Hakita and his small team of passionate developers.
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One-Way Ticket to Hell
Let’s start with one of the less discussed elements of this title. The lore of Ultrakill is simple, but its presentation is effective. “Hell is full, blood is fuel.” Playing as V1, you go through different, awesomely designed enemies. Each one has such a visually striking appearance that makes them easy to distinguish in combat, with the bosses being especially fun. It is quite tragic hearing the lore of some of these bosses, with some having fallen from grace and power to where they are now. Every boss and enemy fits well within their areas and levels, with some being initially gorgeous and serene just before looking like you entered the brutal, hellish inverse of it. Each depth of hell is unique and visually interesting,
While there is tragedy, there is a sheer sense of balls-to-the-wall insanity with others. While you face whole different kinds of magnificent creatures or demonic beings, the mostly robotic bosses prove themselves to be highlights. Each boss is designed in such a manner that they feel like they are beyond proper, complete comprehension, and are all interesting on at least a basic visual level. Bosses that you struggle to fight using your initially small loadout become easier enemies later on, a gimmick found in other games, and they always feel like they have a certain rhythm and pace to them. V2 is your bitter rival, a faster, better version of you, much like Sasuke is to one’s Naruto. Swordsmachine is a fast and quick opponent that is an exciting enemy to fight. You get the feeling they were designed to kill specifically you. The latter is a pure killing machine, while the former has a startling introduction so cool that I’d dare not spoil it. These are just some of the many fascinating characters, with a certain antagonist coming on later down the line with impressive voice acting and a compelling antagonistic personality, along with some of the game’s absolute best boss battles.
One of the biggest selling points of this game is its fast speed in combat. With every room you find yourself trapped in, you have to dash and slide around. Doom Eternal and Titanfall fans will find themselves comfortable here, as the game gives you a multitude of options. As is standard for fast-paced shooters nowadays, you get a grapple hook that functions less like Titanfall and Dying Light 2 and more like Dying Light 1 and Doom Eternal, the latter specifically. You pull yourself closer to big enemies and pull smaller ones to you, and designated big markers allow you to traverse big gaps and come in for a kill.
Titanfall 2, Bulletstorm and Turbo Overkill players will find themselves familiar with the sliding in the game, and while it doesn’t have instakill slides, it is fast, fluid and a reliable substitute for when your dash is on cooldown. Movement isn’t so overpowered that you feel able to move like The Flash, but it is fast enough that you feel like the threat that you are, coming in from all sides. Ground pounds to quickly bring yourself back down to hell also work well in mixing things up and keeping you from staying still. Movement in this game is so fluid there’s even a challenge in one level devoted to purely sliding through an area. Though you won’t always get the best times at first, once you get better, the times get shorter, and your final score increases.
Kill the Dead
Go on X/Twitter and you’d likely see a Call of Duty player doing wild slides with a likely unhealthy sensitivity on. That is how it feels to play this game, but with a lot clearer, less shaky and more natural vision. You’d start off with a few enemies, then a dozen in a room, but that number will rise, and so will your skill. Playing the game on Violent is the way to go about it, as the game manages to find a difficulty balance that isn’t overly punishing with lenient health regeneration courtesy of enemies’ blood mixed with information in their descriptions providing clues as to what their weaknesses are.
Keeping your enemies close through jumping or sliding at them is a great way to see their cool designs up close, and it is made much more exciting when you see them explode from a shotgun blast or when you spam coins to land a massive critical hit. The weapons and their unique modifiers all provide a good amount of variety for players, and as the levels progress, added verticality within the layers of hell provide more options to sweep up the demonic and hellish leftovers. Combining the fluidity, violence and freedom of explosions of Doom, Turbo Overkill and Titanfall 2, it feels like the best possible combination of the best the genre has to offer. The combo meter reminiscent of Devil May Cry also allows for increased emphasis on variety, with more combinations of weapons and shots making for bigger scores alo, very much helping with Ultrakill’s already high replayability factor.
The movement and fluidity of the brutal combat combined with the simple enough yet exciting lore only bode well for the title’s legacy as a shooter. It is a game that should be looked upon for future influences as it manages to have some of the best mechanics and storytelling in the genre. With its latest update adding yet another layer to hell for players to wreck through, now is the perfect time to get into the game as it ramps up its difficulty and story.