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ups: Huge bosses, neat physics, can be fun at times, inspired art design, one awesome plot moment
downs: repetitive gameplay, controls a little funky, heavy framerate drops, game world feels empty

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Bullet Witch Review
game: Bullet Witch
two star
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Atari
developer: Cavia
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ESRB rating: M (Mature)
date posted: 02:05 PM Fri Mar 16th, 2007
last revision: 02:05 PM Fri Mar 16th, 2007

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Click to read.I feel guilty. I should hate Bullet Witch, a game that propogates a kind of passive-agressive misogynism with it\'s quiet, scantily-clad female protagonist and her giant gun-phallus - pardon me, the technical term is Gun-Rod. I should hate its overly simplistic storyline, and the way some enemies say \"Now I can do whatever I want to her\" after you\'ve just succumb to a few too many shots to the head. Great, all I really need is the image of being raped after just having been murdered. I should hate it, but I don\'t. Sure, the game is buggy, and the graphics look worse than Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay on the original Xbox, but something about the game, something buried under heaps of clunky code, makes me smile.

I think it has what is called character. Not the characters in Bullet Witch, really, because they\'re flat types straight from the heart of any low budget anime series, but the game\'s sense of style. The way it feels both artistic and surreal, a game that does not propose it is anything but a game, perhaps, and doesn\'t need to be more.

Bullet Witch is a shooter with a shoulder level viewpoint, similar to Gears of War. It is set in a post-apocalyptic future where mankind is on the precipice of annihilation, like gears of war. And in it you run from point A to point B gunning down enemies and uncovering the origins of those enemies - again, like Gears. Only thing is they\'re not creatures from beneath the surface so much as demon-spawn from the gates of hell, so more like Doom, if you\'d prefer. Comparisons aside, it\'s your standard run-and-gun kind of game.

The main character is a mysterious beautiful witch named Alicia Claus who could make any child anime character from a Hayao Miyazaki film immediately jump into puberty. Alicia, our Bullet Witch, can manipulate the elements of magic and use this enormous broom-weapon - subvert image of homemaker? check - to blast pretty much everything to smithereens. The game has sexual repression hovering above it from the get-go, but doesn\'t really go full-blown until you meet your counterpart, a young commander who has spunk, and let\'s us know it, more than enough for his whole platoon.

The story progresses as the two team up and attempt to find the origins of the demonspawn. Luckily, our strapping young lad has the important plot points and clues at his disposal from the get-go. So off you go to silence the damned.

The enemies of Alicia are mainly of two types. Mindless ones and bosses. Bosses are great because they follow set patterns, like the bosses of yesteryear. Other enemies in Bullet Witch just fire at you or run at you with little hesitation. I never had the feeling that there is an intelligence behind them, but sometimes they dodge and seemingly coordinate when there is a red-hat geist standing around. But this \"AI\" is fairly sparse and you\'ll find some enemies forgetting you are there altogether.

There are a variety of demons: Geist soldiers, the \"grunt\" form of enemy who wield guns (of differing types) and are the same enemy that wanted to rape me, Gigas a huge lumbering creature with a throbbing heart (hint, hint) and a giant gun on it\'s arm, and walnut heads floating demons with giant pulsating brains who have the ability to hurl objects at you with their mind-powers.

There are a couple different versions of geist soldiers such as the red-hat variety, snipers, and quick ones sporting a single massive eye. But the real treats of the game - and what hooked me into the gameplay - are the massive, old-school bosses with attack patterns and weak-points. One memorable battle has you fighting atop a 747 as it is attacked by a flying whale-demon. Pretty cool.

The main way you will dispatch your foes are with one of the four gunrods - the machinegun, shotgun, cannon, and gatling. Secondary to that are your magical abilities, which range from summoning a wall for protection to raining down meteors from the sky.

And this is where Bullet Witch comes into it\'s own: everything is destructible. Or nearly everything. Buildings, trees, cars, those massive structures in the distance...nearly everything. Kudos goes out to the folks over at Ageia for creating an awesome physics engine for Bullet Witch.

I don\'t hate Bullet Witch, but I don\'t love it either. Bullet Witch has its fair share of problems that will turn gamers off. First of all, the controls could have used some tightening up, especially the aiming in which there is no assist of any kind, making it frustrating. You can dodge, which is a neat maneuver, but you cannot fire while you dodge, so it\'s more meant to get away. It is difficult to attack from anywhere but around corners and at a distance. Up close, even with the shotgun, Alicia is very vulnerable. Gamers will also notice the lack of a traditional jump button, which could have helped to get past all the debris from your Meteor spell.

The framerate takes some major hits, which is surprising because the graphics are really just so-so. But it mostly does it to particle effects and when buildings break into pieces.

If it weren\'t for the destructible environments, the game wouldn\'t even hold water - there is little else in the world except enemies and human allies that you can heal. There are no \"pick-ups\" for Alicia who uses her magic to create more ammo (a nice gameplay feature, in my opinion) and so the world feels stale. Also illicit in this regard are the long distances you\'ll have to walk in order to get to the next wave of enemies - I often wished there was some quicker means of transportation, to wit, are there any cabbies in this post-apocalyptic future?

When you want to use one of your magic attacks, first you have to tap the Right or Left Bumper to toggle the transparent menu, then hit the corresponding X,Y,A, or B button to use it. The menu actually gets in the way and could have been implemented better. Often I would be toggling through the menu and trying to evade at the same time, which is nearly impossible. My guess is that the developers wanted to slow the action down so there could be a struggle, but I would rather struggle against my objectives than a menu.

As a single player game, which is really all of the game, Bullet Witch clocks in at five or six hours. There is no multiplayer, but there are leaderboards and the promise of downloadable content (there is none at the moment). There are extra difficulty levels (and a hidden one) if you desire to do it again, however there is little incentive for the gamer beyond the first run through. The amount of time you will be willing to spend in the game is tentative, depending on if you feel compelled by the main character\'s mysterious plight or if you\'d rather engage yourself in another, better game, like Crackdown, or Gears of War.

The gameplay is fun if, and only if, you enjoy shooting things over and over again. If that is your bag, you\'ll enjoy Bullet Witch. If not, well...

To my mind, Bullet Witch feels not so much a game as a physics demonstration, and a glimpse of things to come. It has it\'s personality and some inspiring enemy designs, but little depth. For what it does, though, it may set precedents with destructible environments and get more Japanese developer support for the Xbox 360.

I will give it this, though, Bullet Witch has its moments. Bravo to Toichi Take for some of the more enjoyable moments a game has given me this year. One cutscene (they are done with the in-game engine, by the way) takes the plot of the game in an unexpected one-eighty, and really wowed me. These are the wow moments game plotting should aspire to. I loved that moment so I don\'t want to spoil it. But for a few minutes, the duration of the scene, I felt the game was more than it pretended to be. That it was smarter than it appeared on the surface - not just a mindless shooter.

But Bullet Witch is, essentially, a mindless shooter with quite a few technical problems and so I cannot recommend this game for anything more than a weekend rental. It is too bad, because every bone in my body, I suppose, wants to love this game. I enjoyed it quite a bit, especially the final few levels (there are 6 total) and the hugeness of all of them. It feels as though BW wants to be more than it is, that it is a complicated spell-casting shooter with a heavy anime influence instead of a simple, if stylized, rail-shooter.

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