I’ve played some fast-paced shooters in my years of gaming, but ULTRAKILL is on a whole new level. Taking inspiration from a slew of titles like Quake, DOOM 2016 and Devil May Cry, what we have here is a sugar rush of a FPS, and it’s so damn sweet. In it, humanity has died out, and blood-fuelled robots are all that’s left. To quench their thirst, they’ve sent themselves to Hell itself to harvest more blood. Pretty hardcore stuff, huh? As per tradition with titles like these, the emphasis is on the action. In this six-level demo, you’ll be bolting through a linear series of levels, all the while splattering enemies and dodging traps at lightning speed..
Movement feels slick and responsive, plus you’re agile as heck. You can wall jump, slide, perform a limited number of mid-air dashes, punch projectiles, and even knock enemies into the air (or just pancake them) with a downward slam. You’ll definitely need to use these if you want to survive, as the healing mechanic isn’t some mere gimmick. You’ll only replenish health in the blood of recently-killed or injured foes, and that requires getting within kissing-distance of a foe in order to soak up the good stuff. It’s always a slim opportunity, and it makes it feel all the more frantic, even more so considering the damage that enemies will inflict.
There’s a pretty sweet selection of weapons in the demo, and they never get old to use. The pistol is good for headshots, and the charged blast is exceptionally deadly. Its other alternate fire mode flicks a coin in mid-air, which you can ricochet bullets off of, providing you can hit such a small target. It’s a bit tricky to pull off, and doesn’t deal that much bonus damage, but it’s good for hitting enemies behind you. The shotgun smacks hard, and you can either fire an explosive round in its double-barreled form, or use the pump-action mode to charge up and fire pellets over a wider radius, providing you don’t overdo it and let it explode in your face. Finally, there’s the gatling gun, which can launch magnets that’ll let your bullets whiz around them, which is perfect for traps.
It’s difficult to pick a favourite, as they’re all bloody fantastic tools of destruction. Cycling between them is a must if you want to achieve the top ranks. You’ll be graded on your style, not to mention time and number of kills, so mixing up things is recommended if you want to earn higher scores and more cash as a result. On top of that, it also reveals a hidden objective at the end of the level, which is there to encourage you to retry it if you think you’re hot stuff. Some of these objectives may seem like nail-bitingly demanding at first, but a seasoned player will probably achieve them without too much fuss.
The level design is pretty streamlined throughout, though there are more than a few surprises to complicate things. Some of the linear corridors may end up spawning baddies, giving you little space to dodge them as they charge at you. Meat grinders, crushers and fans will turn you into scrap if you’re not careful, but you can knock enemies into them. Glass platforms can be destroyed with a charged blast from your weapons, which can trap or send foes to their doom, though this may complicate things if you end up smashing the only platform that’ll get you past the traps. When this happens… well, you’re probably cocked.
You’ll be making your way through plenty of arena rooms that’ll lock you inside with squads of baddies teleporting in, not to emotion the occasional boss encounter. You’ll end up improvising on the go as you maneuver around these spaces, attempting to pick them off from afar or getting up-close to drink up some of that sweet raspberry jam. The bosses in particular are relentless with their attack patterns, and will require slick, quick reaction times to dispatch. Again, it’s just so much fun having to bounce and slide your way around these more open and spacious areas in a desperate frenzy. It’s the kind of stuff that gets the heart palpitating.
There are two difficulty modes, one for getting a taste of the mechanics of the game while still delivering a solid challenge, and another that ups the ante a fair bit. However, if it’s still a bit too daunting, you won’t have to worry, as the game speed and damage settings can be tweaked in the options if you’re struggling. Otherwise, even during some of its challenging moments, what makes it difficult to put down is the fact that you can respawn back to the last checkpoint instantaneously after a game over screen. It’s great how it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the gameplay, as you can get back into the swing of things with no irritating loading screens to stop you.
Oddly, if you want to scale back the difficulty on the select screen, you’ll have to start from scratch. You won’t be able to retry a challenging boss battle without having to replay through all of the previous levels to get there. That right there is a minor inconvenience, and one of the very few criticisms I can give about the demo. Otherwise, simply trying to git gud is a viable alternative, if a time-consuming one.
ULTRAKILL is fast like a cheetah that’s been gorging on nothing but caffeine and cocaine for a week. Scattering around the walls and dodging enemies like crazy in between blasting the demons to smithereens with the kickass arsenal on offer is beautiful stuff. Plus, having to scramble for blood to stay alive is a clever feature that really ramps up the challenge. Providing you don’t mind dying a fair bit, there’s a lot of fun to squeeze out of this demo.
Check out the free demo for ULTRAKILL on Steam.