The newest Free-to-Play on Steam, titled “Bullet Run” is a fun and enjoyable experience, primarily because it costs nothing to jump in. With starter packs costing $10 and active commentating that gets old quick, it’s easy to tire of and subsequently best sitting in the free-to-play zone.
The free-to-play type of game isn’t new to me. Being almost Jewish in my frugal spending habits, I’m constantly on the lookout for deals and whatnot, so when free games that are getting some real positive reviews come along, I don’t often hesitate. I had seen the (very misleading) trailer for the game on Steam and was immediately interested.
The first thing I noticed was that the character customization menu was lacking. In the trailer, you see all these folks decked out in mohawks and facemasks, kicking ass and taking names like they have a huge boot and a grocery list. At the start, you create your character, and you get four stock races and three skin tones. The hairstyle and clothing are chosen no matter what you like. You can edit your appearance afterwards, but that’s not really saying much, for reasons I’ll get to in a second. On the “Green Room” (loadout) screen, you get to customize weapon presets and skill combinations. You start with basic level 1 skills (special grenades, temporary buffs, etc.) that gain rank with use. You get a starter primary/secondary weapon, grenades, all the basics. You access the Marketplace from here, but don’t bother. Rank 1s don’t really get to buy anything but gun repair equipment. Oh, yeah, that’s a thing. Your gun starts to turn into a wad of metal and hate after a few matches. You can, however, look at all the nice things you’ll get to buy once you’ve put in a few hours of play. Things like haircuts. Important stuff.
Then you can just cannonball right into the two game modes, Team Death Match and Dominion.
Okay, first of all, it’s Domination. I don’t know why you guys chose to use “Dominion” as an alternative, but I don’t really feel like the ruler of any large territory when all I did was sit in a corner on an oil rig for a minute. One team defends points while the other team takes turns invading and capturing those points. Once the enemy team has capped a section, you can’t regain it until minutes pass. This is the first game I’ve played where you can’t just go in and re-capture a point. Why not?
Speaking of unnecessary lengths of time, each match is twenty minutes. You don’t have a choice. In Dominion, there’s a half time where teams switch sides, but then begins another ten minute round. That’s a twenty minute game, no matter what. Also, respawn takes ten full seconds. Always. Five of those seconds are spent looking at the d-bag who killed you. There’s no option to skip. If you play like I do (poorly), that’s fifteen minutes of action and five minutes of staring up at the enemy’s taint from the ground beneath him.
The long games are also an issue when you’re on one of the smaller maps. One that I played was a movie set. Those of you familiar with the Call of Duty series might remember a map called “Rust” from Modern Warfare 2. Can you imagine playing that, with eight-man teams, for twenty full minutes, over and over until your eyes bleed?
Since most of this has been negative, I feel as though I should speak on behalf of the redeeming qualities that this game possesses. For one thing, it’s free, and it beats the hell out of some of the games I’ve paid for in my time. The controls are easy to handle if you’ve played a lot of PC FPS; it’s pretty standard. The graphics are smooth (although nothing special) and the hit detection is great. You’re rarely pitted against people who are more than 3 ranks higher or lower than you, which keeps the teams balanced. The maps I played are interesting, and contain multiple levels; something that most people take for granted but I make sure to enjoy every time. Once you get some real money, you can really deck out your character and weapons (which there are many of) in some cool looking gear, camos and attachments. The buffs are interesting; there are skills such as mortar explosives, temporary berzerker-style spiked knuckles, health and damage boosts, the kinds of things you would expect to see. I think I even saw a sentry gun. In addition to all that, the game is not overcomplicated. Although ominous at first, the elements are easy to get a hold of. In the face of all this, one would think the pros and cons are rather even. One would be so wrong.
Bullet Run toys with a very interesting concept. During games, two commentators will make tongue-in-cheek remarks about your gameplay, and the progression of the game as a whole. When one team overtakes another, you’ll hear something like “[Team] takes the lead. They really need this victory!”. When you kill someone, they might say “That’s how it’s done”, or when you die, you’ll get “I’ll bet he didn’t see that coming!” One announcer is classic American, the other one is British. I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re voiced by the same person, largely because the British accent is so bad. It’s as if they showed a baby a Monty Python dvd and then made him read a script and said “do that.” The other really cool thing is that they have the same three or four recorded lines that repeat, endlessly, until you wet your pants and die for real. One time, I was shot in the face, from halfway across the map, while looking directly at my assailant. When I went down, John Cleese piped in, adding that he didn’t think I expected that. From the guy shooting me in my face, in front of my face. My face was heavily involved, therefore my eyes were as well. I saw that shit. Thank god you can turn it off.
All in all, Bullet Run is a fun romp into some real FPS action. It has some very creative elements that add to what can be summed up as a fairly good experience. The game would deserve the raving reviews (and maybe a price tag) with a couple tweaks and some common sense. I’ve had many worse experiences, and I’ve certainly had much better, even within the free-to-play game spectrum.