BulletWitch Review

Paul Michael

The year is 2007. A calamitous event has caused demons and evil supernatural beings to walk the planet. The human population is decimated, reducing the number of humans to a mere one billion. Demon armies called Geists are deployed to further annihilate humans. Human kind as we know it is on the brink of total extinction...

Six years later, a beautiful witch named Alicia makes her way a coastal city in the US. With the guidance of her inner, formless demon known as Darkness, she forces her way in the city, saving civilians and meeting up with the last armed forces. Their battle for survival starts from there on.

Bulletwitch is a third person shooter released on February 27, 2007. It is developed by Cavia, also responsible for the PS2 hits Drakengard and Drakengard 2. The game features no multiplayer support but players can participate for online score ranking competition via Xbox Live.

The heroine Alicia wields a gun rod that can change into a machine gun, sniper rifle, shotgun and gatling gun. This weapon is also used to cast spells. The gun rod’s default form is the machine gun but additional types can be unlocked by allotting skill points that players acquire after completing a level. The gun rod has unlimited ammo, but consumes MP when reloading. Alicia can also dodge attacks by acrobatically jumping out of enemy fire, and is capable of a two-hit melee attack that is unfortunately dull and proves quite a challenge to hit moving enemies.

You just got pwned… by a chick.

As previously mentioned, Darkness is Alicia’s inner demon, guiding her on missions and also allowing her access to more powerful spells including offensive, defensive and even of the healing variety. Her HP and MP recover automatically, although when damaged or casting spells the maximum limit is also reduced. HP limit is increased to full gradually while MP limit is increased by killing enemies. The game features no "pick-'em-ups" or scattered items so this is really essential. Some spells require a larger amount of MP before they can be used so increasing your MP recovery limit is essential.

Spells can be employed by the player for various tactical uses. They can throw vehicles and other objects towards enemies, blow up gas stations with powerful spells like Lightning, or even deploy temporary walls to block off attacks, especially handy when faced with rushing enemies. Now, another thing about using spells that may frustrate players is that when you pull up your spell menu, you will be prone to enemy fire. Of course, active combat oftentimes require active spell casting but how can you do that if casting a spell means you are an open target? You may find cover here and there which might prove useful for the defensive variety, but for offensive spells you obviously need to be in front of your target... A target that is currently shooting at you while you do your chant. The spell selection layout is quite cumbersome, not to mention it will block most of your view. If at least the game was paused while you are selecting a spell, or perhaps by making the spell easier to cast during active combat the spell casting experience as a whole wouldn't be this uninteresting and inconvenient.

One roasted demon coming right up!

Players can only save when they reach pre-determined checkpoints or savepoints in the levels, with the option to freely select the missions being unlocked upon game completion. Completing a level will allow players to earn skill points based on their performance, evaluating you on the number of enemy kills, number of checkpoint restarts, and the overall time it took to complete the levels. Better rankings yield more skill points which can be used towards unlockable weapon types, new spells, upgrading their gun rod’s weapon types and even their HP and MP recovery.

The main enemies are grotesquely deformed demon soldiers called Geists. They tend to use submachine guns as their primary weapons and they always come in numbers, although the poor AI makes them more like moving targets that sometimes shoot back. There will be instances that enemies will ignore you even if you are already riddling them with bullets, and for some reason a single hit from a flying object can kill your character instantly as well as being at a short distance from a falling object, without any sign of fatal impact. Allied NPCS will just keep on wandering around firefights, blocking your line of fire. They are immune from your shots which obviously sparks frustration, as you’ll find yourself tempted to end their sorry lives just to get them out of the way.

This is what happens from playing COD4 too much.

Controlling Alicia is simple but her moves are quite limited. She can jump acrobatically to evade attacks by using either of the two bumper buttons. She can also perform a two-hit melee attack to dispatch enemies up close. Her melee attack can take down Geists if the two hits connect. Sadly, her melee attacks doesn't get better than that...

Full time action is just composed of running and shooting at the same time. Unfortunately, the game's poor shooting dynamics shadows the concept of active shooting. Though having an auto-aim feature may raise brows to some shooting aficionados, this may seem necessary since even with skilled hands players may tend to miss more shots than land hits. When facing multiple enemies at an average distance, a player may need to pump several rounds to a single enemy before killing it. The game does mention that accuracy is higher when crouched or by zooming your sights but with all that enemy fire thrown at you, you may want to stay on your toes while shooting. This game ought be at its best during active combat but somehow it falls short in this area.

Stage progress is sometimes obstructed by indestructible barriers, erected by a special kind of demons. Players will need to scour the area to search and destroy this demon to destroy the barriers and continue with the stage. This is pretty repetitive all throughout the levels. Since the game features no collectibles, secret locations or items, exploring each of the levels thoroughly (aside from hunting the barrier demons) will be pretty much useless. The environments are almost barren, with the game throwing in some random civilians and enemies along the way.

The game is only composed of six stages. If a player didn’t get stuck in some tight situations, the game can be finished in just 4-5 hours. It’s a very short and shallow experience, considering that you will just be shooting demons all throughout the game. For an action adventure title, it falls behind the genre in that whilst it can give players a bit of adventure it lacks a great deal of action. If more detailed and careful consideration has been taken with the game's battle mechanics, then it should’ve been better. Fortunately, the game’s short levels can be expanded by downloading new missions from XBL. Alicia can also equip alternate costumes that players can download free.

The visual presentation of the game made Bullet Witch an underachiever and outdated compared to the titles that were released during its time. At least the cinematics and the menu layout are nice on the eyes. With pixellated shadows and poor rendering, the game doesn’t utilize the Xbox 360’s full potential. Floating bodies can be seen around, limbs protruding from a wall or any solid structure, and even shadows placed well off from its source. Physics have anomalies too; projectiles can’t go past the see-through screen fences and sometimes enemy gunfire can hit you even while in cover behind a solid wall. Not only that, glitches in the game are rampant. There are even instances that the game will lag even without any enemies or Alicia gets stalled by a seemingly unseen barrier.

Bulletwitch's near complete silence in some parts of the game adds dread to the dark and hopeless atmosphere, which is perfect to this post-apocalyptic setting. However, when present the background and ambient sounds lack too little intensity or detail for players to get drawn to the game. The explosions, screams of enemies, and resounding gunfire can get on your nerves after playing it for a while. Though the sounds are not the worst ever featured in a game it just feels completely lacking and uninspired.

Fair voice acting, battle effects and incantations.

Cinematics and spell casting effects are great. However, overall environment design and enemy models are not that good and uninteresting.

Easy but limited controls. The aiming is horrible and the spell casting layout is cumbersome. The long wandering through plain environments, repetitive backgrounds and the same enemies are some of the game's challenges to provide a good gaming experience.

Being a third person shooter, the game fails to offer extensive and worthwhile action for most players and seasoned shooter fans.

The saving grace of the game at least, is probably the easy to average achievements. Players can get an easy 60 points for just completing all the six stages in any difficulty. They will get another 50 or 100 just by finishing the game in easy and normal modes respectively. The secret achievements are few but rack up quite large points. For example, finishing the game in Chaos Mode can unlock a whopping 250 pts. This shouldn’t be hard since the game is quite short. Due also to really poor AI programming, you can just run/ jump past enemies, unless the path is blocked.

Overall the game suffers a variety of technical issues and a number of shortcomings. The game’s lack of interest and uninteresting gameplay may keep players away from this title. The game and the console’s potential altogether were not put into good use. Achievements are quite easy to acquire, which is good for boosting a player’s GS. However, playing this game and enjoying is an entirely different matter and will absolutely depend on a player’s preference.

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