ULTRAKILL is rediscovering DOOM Eternal
Most people (at least me) usually go to reviews in order to justify the purchase we’ve already made. To reassure ourselves we’ve made a good decision in life with our hard-earned Coin. Well, if you expected a gushing review of ULTRAKILL, that’s exactly what you’re getting.
From the tame words of my last article, it’s fair to say Eternal sits on a pedestal. Alongside games like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky, and now ULTRAKILL. These games have their flaws, no game is without them. But what they execute, they do soo exceptional, it drowns out the bad. And with ULTRAKILL, there isn’t a whole lot of bad.
ULTRAKILL showed me that Boomer shooters could be fun, not just the antiquated designs that drive its many nostalgia pandering peers. A delicious mix of DEVIL MAY CRY’s SCORING system and the combat of Quake, this is more than your typical circle-strafing, stock standard polygonal asset flip. From an enrapturing art style, music so unique yet fitting, the world-building, writing and strong story that doesn’t play off the “one badass against the world” trope.
No, you’re a robot with no interest in such displays. You have a singular purpose, blood to fuel your existence. From old-timey tunes as you browse the catalogue of carnage, music that I can’t quite put my finger on, everything screams polish and a strong, uncompromising vision that never strays off the path by naysayers.
(looking at you, aDd mUlTiPlAyEr spamming Twitter users)
With modest reception like the LITERAL no.1 highest-rated game on Steam (for months now, as of writing this), you’d be hard-pressed NOT wondering how this boomer shooter smoothie does its due.
Welcome, to my ULTRAKILL rave I mean thesis.
No, it’s actually just a rave.
Enemies beeline you, circle-strafing is VERY effective at avoiding damage, simple AI repeated throughout, weapons that have no interesting tradeoffs between them. Sound familiar?
That’s what I get from playing many Boomer Shooters. Not to knock on those games. But in my *(trigger warning)* OPINION, it's just mindless shooting. Sure they can have a brooding and sinister atmosphere, rich with imaginative worlds, but it’s just not as fun to play them. Doom Eternal ruined me, pampering me with gameplay so crisp and thoughtful that I can’t go back. Thankfully, ULTRAKILL picks up the torch.
Developed somehow by one Hakita, these are some of the most inspired and unique worlds I’ve seen, with environments that feel genuinely new.
From lonely, harrowing railroads that stretch off endlessly. The neon-lit skyboxes of Lust. A fake parading of serenity with lush open spaces, to tight industrial reckonings entangled with twisting vents and secrets amok.
A creative take on Dante’s classic “Inferno”, you’ve really, really never seen spaces like these.
And oh boy, is it fun to paint them red.
Layers of Combat
Have you ever created a magnetic bulletstorm that rips the fleshy appendages off demons, or shot a coin mid-air and deflect it into the perfect headshot?
No you haven’t. Well, yes you have, because you’ve played this game already. But on the off chance you haven’t, then no.
No, you have not done that.
Shooters are more the sum of their guns. They’re about the enemies you use them against. That’s why Halo’s revolutionary AI holds up so well. The Grunts are weak cowards, the Elites hardened veterans to be respected, and Jackals skittish and slinky. They have distinct personalities that affect how they approach combat.
Guess who flees in terror at the first sign of danger? Grunts. Guess who tactically manoeuvres around the fight, taking cover and pushing forward when you’re at your weakest? Elites. Guess who will ruin your legendary run in Halo 2?
In ULTRAKILL, the enemy designs are easily distinguishable, with predictable patterns that can shake up the flow of combat when they show up. The brawling Cerubus will put the pressure on as they bully you around the arena. Maurice will pepper you with barrages of attacks from afar, and the weak Stray will lunge at you in large numbers.
And dangerous as they are, they can ramp up into significantly larger threats with the Enrage mechanic, which grant them bonus power if you don’t respect them.
The Cerubus’s will freak if you kill any one of their group, turning it into a fine balancing act of focusing on each equally so when one goes down, the others follow soon after.
Maurice enjoys attention and can’t be ignored, and if you hit on him without at least taking him out (to dinner), he’ll go into a frenzy and shitpost about you while attacking faster.
Some enemies will dodge far too fast for the magnets of the nailgun, so a well-placed shot from the hitscan revolver makes quicker work turning them to goo. Then, for the slower enemies, you can unleash your whirlwind of bullets to shred their health.
As you intuitively learn these patterns and what is effective, you can mix things up. From tossing coins and redirecting powerful shots to pick off enemies while retreating, to quickly punching your own shotgun shells as an easy way to do instant damage to a cluster of enemies, there is no shortage of cool stunts you can pull off.
But the key is bathing.
The life force behind the aggressive gameplay, your character only saps the freshest blood, requiring you to be right next to the enemy when you fire in order to restore health. This is in essence the glory kills from DOOM 2016, encouraging you to get up close and personal to regain precious resources, encouraging exciting and dynamic gameplay as you tightly balance risk and reward, turning increasingly manic as you edge death.
Once you include the incredible movement, impeccable and crunchy feedback from the sound design. Enemy AI that DODGES (WOW) and responds with aggression? You can dash, hop and slide your way through this game, and you’ll need to. Not using the tools doesn’t just mean it’s harder to succeed, but you won’t get that euphoric ULTRAKILL grade when you kamikaze an entire room you knocked in the air with a ground pound. And you’ll want to do it again, chasing that high.
Ultrakill features a style meter that… hits the right parts of your brain to say the least.
Seeing that style counter go from a wimpy Destructive, skyrocketing up to ULTRAKILL when you punch explosive shotgun shells into an enemy you ground slammed into the air is some of the most dopamine I’ve ever overdosed on.
Oh? Not sold? How about parrying a bunch from the giant goliath of a dead God?
With an upcoming new weapon (with its own 3 variants), plus another 3 new variants to existing weapons, there’s so much more that’s in store, and what’s here is already a masterclass in cool.
With endearing charm like finding secrets by thinking out of the box. Challenges that push you into creative ways to enjoy the game if you want to perfect the end of level scores. There is so much substance to this seemingly innocuous game.
Would you like to aggressively punch a book to read exposition, then just as unbotheredly toss it aside with comedically fast physics? That sums up ULTRAKILL’s story in a nutshell. No frills and it knows what you’re here for. But a surprisingly cool and high stakes story awaits, and the set-up leaves me excited to see how things pan out.
From chilling moments that I won’t spoil, jaw-dropping reveals and surprise twists, and set-piece moments that I wouldn’t expect from even a triple-A game.
In many Boomer Shooters, episodic narratives keep things disjointed. I actually want a reason why I'm fighting all these cool armoured dudes and cultists. All the visuals can’t make up for a compelling reason why they exist and why I'm un-existing them.
…Well, I can’t keep sugarcoating it. Here’s my issue with Boomer Shooters, and how ULTRAKILL fixes it.
Putting Boomer in Shooter
I was swept into the promise of Boomer shooters having the same blistering fast engaging combat as Doom Eternal.
Dusk was… enjoyable? But something was off. It took Amid Evil to realize that circle-strafing was too effective, and meaty sound design couldn’t make up for
(don’t cancel me)
Homage to the past felt like it discarded the design growth over the years. Holding left click, circling in one direction and jumping got you through most encounters. It’s ironic that the games that breathed new life into the genre are still stuck in the past. (IN MY OPINION)
ULTRAKILL changed that. A deeply satisfying game with in-depth mechanics, enemies that don’t automatically render themselves useless with bunny hopping. And some of the most stylish weapon combos ever.
The amount of polish with sound design, mechanics, mods and enemy variety is astounding.
Comparing it to the resurgence of retro shooters is to do it an injustice. Most of those are merry go round simulators, moving fast and dodging attacks while holding down the left mouse button. It’s too easy to execute one effective strategy.
Ultrakill has dashing. Sliding. Wall jumping. Slide Jumping. Ground slams. On top of all the orgasmic weapon synergy built-in, it’s a wet dream. Enemies are RELENTLESS and the final boss of ACT 1 literally tore me a new one. It’s fucking incredible. Get it when it’s not on sale. It’s a steal already, and the devs earned it tenfold. If you in any way enjoyed DOOM Eternal, this scratched that itch for me.
What ULTRAKILL accomplishes is making me go into a state of flow. Succulently put by Eternal’s director, Hugo Martin, as the fun zone.
In ULTRAKILL, stylish play is incentivized by… well the style meter. But you learn that some of the most stylish strategies also give off powerful rewarding results. It’s a cascade of cause and effect. Sure you can get by with basic controls, but learning the movement mechanics will help you speed through levels as fast as you zip around arenas. The coolness of tossing a coin is furthered when you realize that it locks onto enemies even if you can’t see them, so you can retreat and toss coins in the air to take down enemies as you back off, or redirect one of your most powerful attacks straight to an enemies weak point. It might seem stingy the parry window they allow, but once I realized that parrying your own shotgun is a fast, on-the-fly way to deal area of effect damage, I started incorporating it into my movement patterns, flying over enemies as I punched explosive shrapnel into their skulls.
Where Doom Eternal pushed you into its systems through difficulty, punishment and death, ULTRAKILL pushes you through rewarding smart play and a bright bold ULTRAKILL style ranking when you nail that sick combo. It’s like when you make a sick play and you don’t have a friend to tell. Well, ULTRAKILL’s scoring system pats you on the back- no it slaps you and hands you a shot of beer. It’s euphoric, cathartic, and insanely fun. ULTRAKILL is like rediscovering Doom Eternal.
As we move into ACT: 2, this highly polished gem continues to impress with mechanics that push you out of your comfort zone, making you engage with the game in succulent ways that are just as appetizing a meal as the first time you sunk your teeth into it.
From the floor is [REDACTED_rlyHOT.exe], or forcing you to consider enemies that can’t be healed off of, it spins even the dreaded suicide enemy types and puts them right at home in ULTRAKILL’s frantic gameplay loop. Its systems, music, aesthetic, gameplay, just everything about it.
This is well worth a look, many times over. If you’re a fan of skill-testing, fast-paced, stylishly sleek combat and movement, ULTRAKILL should already be in your library.
-END OF ARTICLE BELOW IS MY SELF HATE AND PILE OF SHAME YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED-
why are you down here shoo go away this is my pile of shame im too attatched to delete.
some self awareness thoughts. this is a horrible review. it reads like a 17 year old who just discovered beer for the first time and is raving about it on whatsapp without much thought. I get that. It’s hard to follow, but well written. It repeats itself and it’s too fluffy and self important for it’s own good.
But god damn i love this game.
The mobile enemies will dodge your hook(explain it),
weapon synergy and specific weapons have effectiveness. some flying enemies will dodge too quickly for the magnets of your nailgun, so a well-placed shot from your hitscan revolver makes quicker work turning them to goo. Then for the slower enemies, you can create a whirlwind of bullets to shred their health, and a well-placed shot can detonate the storm to unleash hell upon anything hit. and you can toss a coin, shooting it mid-air to critically damage any enemy within line of sight. mix in the redirection that works with ULTRAKILL’s version of the BFG, the Rail-cannon, and you can rain pain and giblets everywhere.
personal preference but weighty movement feels like it adds meaning to my choices. doomguy is actually quite slow, it’s specific decisions to dash (Angrily) that increase my mobility. the feedback is instant and result is visible in comparison to if everything was high octane speed. besides bunny hopping, there’s really none of that. circle strafe and spam jumps? always effective and always available to be the default option. doom balances dizzying speed by making it controlled and visual feedback to the player, along with pauses to contrast it with glory kills, chainsaws and the like. weapons are all looks, but the same. they do varying amounts of damage, and arbitrary differences we’ve seen so many times. rocket launcher is slow and powerful. single shot power weapons with low fire rate. high fire rate low damage to clear trash mobs. it makes the most jaw-dropping weapons feel uninspired. which is a damn shame. weapons and enemies can be designed to counter this, but it isn’t in these two retro games. i think they’re perfectly good as retro throwbacks, but they haven’t evolved with the genre and years of lessons learnt.
And oh the movement.
incredible mechanics polished with impeccable sound design. enemy ai that dodges your attacks and responds with challenging aggression? wow. You can dash, hop, slide your way out of danger, and you’ll need to. not using the tools at your disposal won’t just mean you’ll have trouble succeeding, but you won’t get that europhoric ULTRAKILL grade when you kamikaze a entire room you knocked up with a ground pound.
Or how about blasing a railcanon into a coin you threw in the air, redirecting it? mixed with infatuated charm, tossing coins in fountains, challenges get you to creatively sniff out hidden ways to have fun. Parry a punch? From a giant goliath of a dead god? Was that even possible?
You might even want to enrage just to give yourself a challenge and another boost to the meter.
The character oozes from V1 attacking books to analyze them, and just as quickly discarding them when he’s done reading boring exposition.
instantly it’s unforgiving the parry windows and shotgun projectile boosting (explain!), but once
into an amazing care package that feels