Ultratron is Bringing More Twin-Stick Goodness to Consoles

Nobody would fault you if you argued that Resogun is still the best game on the PlayStation 4. Now, for my money, I’d argue that outside of The Last of Us: RemasteredHotline Miami 2: Wrong NumberTransistor, and the first two episodes of Tales from the Borderlands are the cream of the crop on PlayStation 4. Of course, there are some of you out there who think that independent games are not of the same quality as their AAA counterparts, and while I respect your incorrect opinion, the PS4 is quickly becoming a hotbed for quality indie titles. Back to Resogun, one of the best aspects of Housemarque’s latest gem is how well it controls. For all of the twin-stick shooters out there that force you to deal with trigger inputs, nonsensical commands, and general excess, Resogun takes a simple set of controls and makes them work perfectly.

While Ultratron, the 2013 PC game that Curve Digital is bringing to PlayStation 4, Vita, PlayStation 3, and Wii U this year, isn’t in the same league as Resogun (quite frankly, few modern games are), I did get some Housemarqe-esque vibes from the quirky shooter. I’m in the strange camp that believes that twin-stick shooters should place the firing command on, well, the right stick, unless of course they’re leaning more towards precision aiming than bullet hell. Much like first-person shooters almost always map the aiming and firing commands to the triggers, PlayStation 3 games notwithstanding, the best twin-stick shooters take a standard control scheme and build novel ideas around it. Ultratron is more chaotic than the likes of Hotline Miami and Helldivers, which is why it was such a joy to use its tight, stick-based controls to blast countless robots into oblivion.

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Ignoring the fact that I’ve transitioned into becoming a writer who enjoys multiple introductory paragraphs, let’s dive into what exactly Ultratron is. Obviously, the following description assumes that you aren’t the type of person who spent time killing everything in sight back when it was first released on PC. Essentially, Ultratron tasks you with destroying waves of enemies with a bizarre, gliding robot that seems to have as many bullets as he does foes. In this level-based arcade shooter, each stage becomes harder than the last, with later levels loaded with bullet-bouncing, particle-projecting creators of chaos giving your robot hero no room to breathe. The smartest, and most skilled players, will find a way to rhythmically move around the square stages intuitively, avoiding bullets all while dishing out the maximum amount of pain. Clearly this is a pretty standard twin-stick affair, but there’s an underlying upgrade system that allows players to, well, destroy even more robots (Author’s Note: This alliteration is getting out of control).

Even though I wasn’t permitted to play the PS4’s co-op mode completely by myself, which I gladly would have done, I did find some level of challenge in collecting as much money as humanly (robotically) possible. Everything you kill drops some sort of currency orb, the totality of which can be spent on various robot upgrades. I made sure to upgrade my shields and firepower first, though there was some gain in equipping an ability that caused currency to gravitate towards me. Suddenly, Ultratron transformed from being a fairly standard arcade shooter to being an exercise in utilizing upgrade mechanics over the course of a single run. There’s definitely going to be a bit of interest in this mechanic from the hardcore contingent, as completing runs over and over with different skills equipped is sure to provide a great deal of replay value. Yes, tons of arcade-style games have employed similar upgrade mechanics before, but reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary if you’re able to do a certain thing, in this case twin-stick shooting, quite well. Because of the gripping combination of a simple upgrade system and tight mechanics, it won’t be shocking to see Ultratron succeed on consoles.

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Look, I’m sure that there are endless people out there who are sick of current generation systems getting ports over and over. When it comes to largely iterative rehashes of two-year-old AAA games, I’m right there with you. When it comes to independent games, big or small, however, there should be a firm commitment to getting people to experience these creative titles. The stigma surrounding indies, though waning, still exists, and we have to do our absolute best to combat that. If you’re someone who preaches gameplay over everything, and never managed to get sucked into Ultratron when it came out on PC, consider giving this a fair shot.

Oh, and thank the heavens for Vita.