In a remaster that absolutely nobody saw coming, Bullet Witch, originally released for the XBOX 360 in 2006 to universally mediocre critical reception has landed on PC courtesy of XSEED Games. Has it gotten worse over the years, or somehow… better? Let’s find out!
A game released at the turn of a console generation. It’s always fascinating to see what developers and publishers were trying to accomplish in a different time, perhaps a simpler time. In 2006, the seventh console generation was underway with the XBOX 360 and the PS3 competing for the money of consumers by offering games with better visuals, better physics, better simulation and better sound.
A large focus in games from this era, like Far Cry, or indeed, our own Bullet Witch, tended to be the destructible and interactive environments that were open to manipulation from the player. An attractive female Japanese witch, coupled with Call of Duty-esque shoot-em-up scenarios. Throw in a zombie apocalypse here and there, and what could go wrong?
So much, so so much.
Almost everything enjoyable in this game is unintentional – nothing about the objectively bad level design, visuals, or the floaty control scheme is fun. The most pleasurable parts are the so-bad-it’s-decent campy story. This is a shooter you play with friends and drinks over a night and forget about immediately after.
But critics have been yelling all that stuff for years, let’s start with details about the PC port, shall we?
PC Port Report
If you’re expecting anything over the bare minimum, walk away.
This is what you’re greeted by when you first launch the game, if you’re lucky.
I cannot confirm if it was an isolated case, but when I first tried to launch this title, it would immediately crash to desktop.
I fiddled with redownloading the game files and checking my own configuration before ultimately resorting to using another computer.
This is the first game that I’ve ever experienced such an odd issue with.
Anyway, there seems to be support for arbitrary resolutions, although if you play at anything that’s not 16:9 aspect ratio, expect black bars. The game seems to support capping the framerate at 30 FPS, 60 FPS, 120 FPS or having it unlimited – I have been unable to disable VSYNC despite all my efforts with this game so I cannot confirm how the ones above 60 FPS perform with regards to physics – but generally performance is stable and the game could run on your average toaster.
What’s disappointing however, is that none of the game’s assets have received any overhaul – the menu screen is still stuck at an absurdly grainy resolution, and the cutscenes are locked to 720p and play out at a stuttery 17-21 FPS like the original title 12 years ago. Disappointing, but oh well.
The Game Itself
Quite a humdrum affair, plagued by late sixth-gen jank.
The control scheme for this game doesn’t seem to make sense to me, at first I thought it was because the keyboard and mouse controls were shoddy from the portjob, but honestly after picking up a controller it’s even worse somehow.
There’s something clearly wrong with the camera in this game, it’s incredibly floaty, with different sensitivities for both axes, and if you move it while you’re in a dash, it’ll skip to the new viewpoint without any turning animation. I can’t fathom what the design logic behind it was, but if you’re willing to get used to it, it’s just barely serviceable enough.
It ends up feeling like a PS2 game trapped in a shell of an XBOX 360 game trapped in the shell of an awkward PC port.
The textures are bland and flat, there are only a handful of character models in the entire game, and the lighting effects result in a lot of flickering and horribly pixelated shadows, even on the highest settings. The sound in the game isn’t much better than the presentation, either. The voice acting in the cutscenes is horrendous and isn’t done any favors by the awful dialogue (this can be enjoyable with some drinks). The game does have some good music, which isn’t especially memorable but fits the game well.
I was told by some hipsters that this was like Bayonetta, and I honestly feel like the titles are literally polar opposites. One is a tightly designed linear game with a well developed combat system, and the other has directionless design with bad controls, AI, collision detection, and so many other flaws.
The moment-to-moment gameplay in this game feels bad, Alicia has a repetitive 1.5 second long windup animation every time you want to start shooting anything, the enemies give no feedback until it’s time for the dying animation to play, the dodging is slower than walking away, sprinting locks you into a straight line with no control, and all the sound effects made by the enemies never change up for the duration of your extremely repetitive 5 hour playthrough. You have to eliminate hundreds of identical demons throughout six different stages. You start in a suburb, work your way through a city, head out into a forest, and end up back in the city. There’s not much diversity to the stages, and each one is very linear, with strategically placed barriers to keep you on track. In most stages you run into a mob of enemies, kill it, and then run a short distance down the path and do the same thing again. The combat is very dull, because you’ll face the same idiotic demons throughout the game in a series of bland settings.
The big selling point of this game is the destructibility – you can blow up most things if you shoot at them with your chaingun for long enough. However, the collision detection in this game is so bad that if you blow up a car in the tutorial like the game tells you to, you die. Be sure to avoid obstacles by a safety margin of about 15 meters. Sure, there are some spells you can unlock that showcase an awesome level of destructibility – but you unlock these in the last hour of the game, and they use up an entire mana bar (which you need to reload your chaingun).
Speaking of spells, they are EXTREMELY cumbersome to use! I could not wrap my head around how useless they seemed. It seems that casting spells requires you to cycle through an awkward spell wheel and then press a corresponding button. So to cast a lightning spell, you have to press the right or left bumper three times, then press the A button, and then AIM AGAIN (yes, it resets your camera), find a target and press the right trigger to finally cast the spell.
Once you get in the groove of this awkwardness, it can be tolerable until the physics engine clips you through the floor and you die. Or if an enemy throws a projectile near you and you die. Or you shoot something a hundred meters away and die from the explosion.
Bullet Witch is just as bad today as it was in 2006 – whether that’s a good thing or not is up to your personal tastes, but in my opinion, the game requires far too many friends and alcohol involved in the action for the campiness to be tolerable. At least it didn’t get worse, right?
I give Bullet Witch a 5/10