Early Access Review: Heavy Bullets

Heavy Bullets is a first-person shooter available on Steam Early Access program developed by Terri Vellmann and published by Devolver Digital.  It is a "rogue-like" shooter in that it features permanent death and procedural generation.  Devolver Digital has come to have developed quite a reputation for publishing highly-stylised and generally well-finished games and Heavy Bullets seems no exception to that.

One of the things which stood out for me personally was how simple but effective the enemy design was in that regard.  They put me in the mind of Descent in a good way, where each enemy was visually recognizable at a glance as a specific type of enemy while at the same time being part of a coherent whole.  Something that TF2 taught us in a big way is that, at a glance, the most visually-recognizable thing about a character is their silhouette, and the enemies all have their own outline, although there are a couple that aren't quite as visually distinct in that fashion as might be desirable.

Combat mechanics are simple but also quite punchy and effective

The combat is simple but effective, with the variety and depth offered in the enemy design rather than the gunplay, which other than some alternate weapons is restrained entirely to the revolver you start with.  The titular 'heavy bullets' which it fires are probably the games most precious resource, since they are difficult to replace, but can be picked up after firing.  This leads to situations where you may be running around like a madman trying to recover bullets out after having used them all trying to get some of the faster enemies or get an angle on the stationary turrets whose power supplies have to be destroyed to take them out - the procedural generation seems to love to place them in positions where this is difficult and that is no doubt by design.  There are a variety of enemies that are like that, but I was never left wondering how to defeat an enemy, which is the common pitfall of gimmicky enemies designed like that.  It's always pretty evident how to beat them, even if defeating some of the later enemies can become a bit hairy.

Heavy Bullets is hard, but fair

Heavy Bullets is a difficult and unforgiving game, but it's never a game that really feels inherently unfair.  The times you die are likely either because you are scarce on resources or you run into a situation without proper caution; though as enemy numbers increase and the game introduces successively more difficult enemies the difficulty certainly does curve.  I found it to be a quite enjoyable curve though, with the variety usually spaced out enough to keep things interesting.

One nice little touch about the items from both a style and gameplay standpoint is how bullets after they're fired, as well as coins, will bounce against the floor, which kind of keeps with the retro feel since old games often did similar things, but also makes it easier to make sure you don't miss such things.  Just little touches like that contribute to a game that is highly polished.

The core game is certainly there in a highly-polished form, but most importantly, what's there is worth the money.  It's solid, there's no major bugs, and its a fun little romp.  This isn't a Early Access game that sells on promise.  There's already a game here, and I had a good bit of fun with it.

The Final Word: Recommended - The question with Early Access is always whether its worth the money, since there's a fair few EA games that sell just on an idea, or future potential, and Heavy Bullets feels worth it now and then some.  It's a fun little rogue-light great for a few goes at a time which has a beautiful little retro style and some particularly effective retro sound design.  Worth a look, certainly.