Fun with freeware: Heavy Bullets

Heavy Bullets (PC, Mac, and Linux) is a game in pre-alpha, which should mean it’s too early to show off yet.  What’s actually here, however, has off a level of polish and design that I’ve seen full retail games fail to attain.  Admitted, that’s not a particularly high bar to overcome, but the point is that I just lost two hours of my day to a clever little rogue-like FPS, and could cheerfully lose a few more.  They’d all end in failure, of course, because it’s going to take more than a couple runs through the levels to see the end of level 4, which is currently the last area.

Like a lot of games that borrow from the rogue-like playbook, a large part of the fun is finding things and figuring out how they work while running through randomized levels, but Heavy Bullet’s core gameplay is pure FPS with a unique twist.  You have one gun, a six-shooter, and six bullets to stock it with.  Bullets are infinitely reusable, but you need to pick them up from where they land.  Shoot a critter and the bullet will lie on the ground, occasionally hopping  while going *plink* to let you know it’s there.  You can find or buy more bullets, which is useful when the enemies start getting more numerous or the moving and dodging means you can’t be quite as precise as you’d like with bullet placement.  Hitting reload only chambers one bullet in the six-shooter (unless you buy an upgrade), so spraying and hoping is a great way to end up defenseless.  Still, this isn’t Serious Sam, so a little care in shot placement and paying attention to ammo count should see you through the busiest rooms without too much problem.

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As you run through the levels you’ll find vending machines, and these are stocked with a variety of items and services.  Life insurance is cheap and will place some of the money you scavenge from defeated enemies into your bank account on death, while the more expensive Last Will and Testament deposits your entire fortune.  Or you could spend everything you find as soon as you get it, of course.  Whichever works.  Having a nest-egg to get an early edge on the next attempt is nice, but there’s no guarantee you’ll find a vending machine with bank access when you need it.  You’ve got a gun and six bullets, after all, so everything else is bonus.

While the shooting feels solid and the action is nicely zippy, this is still an ultra-early alpha and there are a good number of bugs, although none that I’ve run across are game-breaking.  A few graphic glitches, and the random generator once put a rock in exactly the wrong place to block a thin passage, but otherwise it’s been smooth sailing.  Heavy Bullets is in active development, and there have been two updates already since its 9/24 release.  There’s a good way to go before the final version, but even in its early state Heavy Bullets is a great little time-waster that’s well worth the tiny download.  Check it out, and good luck with the quest to see level 4.

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