There has been a massive push in the last couple years towards games with persistent death. Games like Spelunky and Rogue Legacy come to mind. These games are built on the idea of runs. You make a run through the game, and when you die you go back to the beginning and start all over. The big draw is trying to get that golden run where everything goes right. Classifying these games is always the subject of heated debate. Is it a Rogue-like? A Roguelike-like? A Rogue-lite?
To avoid that shitstorm entirely, I’m going to quote from the game description. Heavy Bullets is a “Dungeon Crawler” FPS. Each “run” through the game is unique, death is persistent, and nothing carries over from one run to another. So far I’d best describe Heavy Bullets as a cross between Spelunky, Doom, and Hotline: Miami. That actually makes it sound WAY more appealing than it really is, but it’s an interesting and potentially fun game nonetheless.
There isn’t much to say in the way of setup. You start each run with 6 bullets and 3 grenades and try to work your way through several rooms towards a hatch leading you to the next level. The next level has more difficult and plentiful bad guys. Each enemy drops coins and ammo when killed. Ammo is pretty scarce and a few missed shots can easily leave you completely helpless. This isn’t a bullet-spraying shooter. Your ammo is precious. Money can be spent at vending machines for ammo, items, or upgrades, or you can deposit your coins for later use. Any ammo or upgrades do not carry over to the next run. They’re single use only.
The only thing that does carry over from run to run is money you’ve deposited in your bank account. So, for example, if I wanted to buy a health upgrade for 60 dollars I would have to save up 60 dollars and find an upgrade machine before I die to buy the upgrade. OR I could collect 30 dollars and deposit it in the bank in one run, then withdraw it on the next run towards buying the upgrade. My strategy was to go through a bunch of runs grabbing money and depositing it all, then every 5th run or so I’d withdraw all of it, buy a bunch of upgrades and go for a progress run. The problem is, the money-collecting runs aren’t very fun, and the progress run has a lot of pressure on it and is very dependent on luck, both in the spawn of the enemies and the location of vendors and the end of the level.
I think the money depositing mechanic is interesting, but it kind of places Heavy Bullets in a position to get the worst of both worlds compared to Spelunky and Rogue Legacy. In Spelunky nothing you did on one run carried over to the next run, which is rough, but at least that meant you didn’t have to do farming runs to support your real efforts. In Rogue Legacy all your upgrades were persistent, which meant any run that yielded enough money to buy an upgrade was fruitful. Heavy Bullets occupies space somewhere in the middle. If you’re carrying a bunch of money and you die, it’s just gone. If you buy an upgrade and die, it’s just gone. If you save up hundreds of dollars over dozens of runs and withdraw all of it at once, you could die on the way to the vendor to spend it, and it’s just gone. There’s a chance a single death could screw up hours of work.
In addition to rogue-likes, I also said Heavy Bullets reminded me of Hotline: Miami and Doom. Hotline: Miami is purely because of the aesthetic. Everything is plastered in this insane neon colour palette that just screams drug addled 80’s movie. The music and menus provoke the same feelings as well. It reminds me of Doom on speed. You are absolutely truckin’ through the levels. Things are moving really fast and you have to keep on the run to stand any chance of success. I started by playing with a controller, but I can’t recommend playing this way. The game is too fast and requires too much precision for a controller. Keyboard and mouse all the way, and this is from someone who really prefers to use a controller.
Overall, Heavy Bullets didn’t really click with me. While I enjoy the odd FPS and rogue-like game, Heavy Bullets never really managed to grab me like I hoped it would. Do not get me wrong Heavy Bullets is a competent arcade shooter and rogue-like rolled into one. The cheap price is another bonus. Yet there are just a few too many aspects about the game that I didn’t find entertaining at all.