Fights And Frag Checks

I don't like thing: ULTRAKILL

ULTRAKILL is getting a lot of press because of the publisher it’s with, New Blood Interactive. It’s part of that publisher’s initiative to bring back the old-school singleplayer FPS genre that’s just about blowing things up and having fun, which I admire. However, I think UTLRAKILL isn’t that good because it represents a weird departure from having multiple well-crafted aspects (level design, weapon variety, enemy behavior, etc.) to an overly-rushed combo frenzy game.

When I first booted up ULTRAKILL, the first thing I noticed was how linear the game was. There’s a railroaded path from point A to point B and I knew exactly where enemies were going to spawn from my own experience of playing this genre before. As I gradually encounter enemies, I realize that they’re not going to be that varied: they’re either going to rush at me so I can do a CUHRAYZEE mega kill or they’re gonna be ranged units that serve as combo fodder. When I encountered the first boss, I knew that the gameplay loop was just going to be like this the whole way through.

I feel that a lot of the hype surrounding the game is superficial and the people who are going to truly stick with the game are going to be people who love Devil May Cry/Bayonetta and speedrunners. To me, ULTRAKILL is a lot like Desync where the idea of killing your opponents in thrilling and flashy ways is incredibly appealing, but the mechanics are going to fall short for a lot of players. Desync had a lot of really cool promises, like juggling your enemies with rocket-like shots and landing airshots, but the gameplay loop ended up just being a string of reaction checks where I was tasked with abusing invincibility frames against melee enemies with shields that all held +forward.

I saw a lot of that in ULTRAKILL: strafe the bosses, jump once in a while, use your hitscan aim to rack up points on target practice mobs that eventually only become difficult to deal with because of the sheer volume (i.e., how many are spawned, how many times that amount is spawned, etc.). The visuals of each level might have unique textures (there’s even an outdoor level!), but the level layout is just a series of tubes at the end of the day. This is sort of how DOOM Eternal ended up. There’s still a bunch of vestiges of old DOOM still there, but it’s more of a straight path with a bit of elevation in arenas supported by CUHRAYZEE killchain maintaining gameplay, rather than more detailed arenas that compliment weapon choices and knowing when to pull back or press your luck.

I think what I don’t like about this trend is that killstreaks aren’t just being explicitly rewarded but are being used as a core mechanic: if you aren’t rushing around chaining kills, you aren’t playing right and it’s reflected in whether or not you win, whether or not you get to play with new weapons, and so on. People have equated speedrunners and Quake defrag players with how the majority of people actually play these traditional shooters, and while I can venture some guesses why (overexposure on Youtube, Twitter, etc.), I don’t really get why the majority of people who play these games at a slower pace have hopped on this weird gameplay reframing.

Sure, I think it’s good for this kind of game to exist since there are people who like this kind of gameplay, but I don’t think this is the type of game that should be the face of traditional shooters. If ya like ULTRAKILL, keep on likin’ it. It’s not the game for me, but it’s got some design facets I’d rather not see copied by other developers who want to make FPS games.