Bullet Witch

March 7, 2007

What begins with the promise of a cool and inviting premise quickly turns sour in Bullet Witch, Atari’s latest action adventure from Cavia and AQ Interactive. Humanity being crushed beneath the heel of a growing pestilence makes for what should be a fantastic, albeit morbid, near future tale set in 2013. In practice, Bullet Witch’s gameplay is just as bleak as its setting, and the experience is quickly ground to a halt thanks to vapid environments, inane dialog, and plodding exploration. Truth be told, most players will be hard pressed to make it through the first level before moving on to something else, even if it’s just doing the laundry.

The game tells a tale of woe following the near global extinction of mankind, with humans numbering less than a billion and roving bands of decaying soldiers hunting down the remaining survivors. While a few humans band together to hold back the tide of monsters that have erupted to prey on the weak, none of their efforts match that of Alicia, a lone witch who walks softly and carries a big gun. Unfortunately, I had more fun writing this overly descriptive paragraph than I did playing the lion’s share of the game.

The problems with Bullet Witch are numerous, and evident almost immediately, notably due to the game’s vast yet largely vacant and all too linear environments. The game pushes you along through various areas, each sprinkled with human survivors who stumble about in a robotic manner and spout dialog that makes Oblivion sound like Shakespeare.

Even the so called geist soldiers, the most plentiful of Bullet Witch’s miscreants, feel the need to not only terrorize your ears with toilet humor, but also do so in a voice that seems sure to leave 80s cartoon icon Chris Latta spinning in his grave. The game’s developers may have been trying to evoke fear or even tension through Bullet Witch’s sound design, but the only thing that they managed to conjure was an overpowering need to turn down the volume.

Thankfully things are not all bad in Bullet Witch, as the game employs some fairly intuitive controls, particularly with regards to cycling through and activating Alicia’s abilities. The right and left bumpers are used to move through the game’s three different ability categories, with a translucent menu overlaid on top of the screen without forcing the action, such as it is, to be interrupted.

Each menu’s power corresponds to a different face button on the Xbox 360’s controller, so it quickly becomes second nature to click the right bumper and press X to activate Alicia’s Willpower ability, for instance, which sends nearby objects such as cars flying a short distance for some physics-enabled fun. Speaking of physics, the game does make decent use of this industry buzzword, but it’s overemphasized to the point of feeling forced, and before long it’s no longer cool and just another footnote in an already forgettable adventure.

Even Alicia’s catalog of attacks, while admittedly cool, lose their luster after a short while, with unique weapons such as the rose spear (which sees Alicia toss rose petals at the feet of her enemies, causing spears to shoot up from the ground and impale opponents for a fiery death) proving to be more cool than effective. Others include Alicia’s ability to summon a wall out of thin air to give her a brief reprieve from attacks, and even the rather Hitchcockian ability to conjure up a murder of ravens to attack foes. It’s certainly neat, but over the course of the ten or so hour adventure, these powers remain unused and forgotten for much of the time.

Perhaps the most unique facet of Bullet Witch is its ammo system, which uses the same mana pool as her other abilities to conjure rounds rather than have her gather up and use physical shells. Reloading slightly depletes her available mana, which slowly fills back up, but still forces you to manage Alicia’s different abilities carefully when things get hairy.

Of course, that rarely happens, with the game’s nonexistent AI being chiefly to blame. As said, the bulk of the game’s uber abilities are wasted on this game, as more times than not Alicia’s ridiculously oversized gun is more than adequate for the job. The only time when the game truly ramps up in difficulty is with the occasional one hit kills, though frustration is not a synonym for fun in this, or any case.

Other problems abound, such as the horrific dynamic shadows that look great when standing still, but quickly begin to look like splatters of black paint when in motion. However, this is just one of the many issues exhibited by what should have been a terrific game, but instead ends up being one of the worst for the Xbox 360. It’s not worth renting, and it’s certainly not worth a place in your video game library. Bullet Witch is best left forgotten.

Score: 1/5

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