From the ashes of a cancelled Duke Nukem game, Bombshell is a competent action game buried somewhere beneath a sea of bugs and glitches.
Platforms: PC (Xbox One/PS4 TBA 2016)
Release Date: 1/29/2015 (USA)
Developed by Interceptor Entertainment
Published by 3D Realms
From Interceptor Entertainment and publisher 3D Realms, Bombshell‘s origins can be traced back to a Duke Nukem title that never saw the light of day. Following a lawsuit from Gearbox Software over the rights to the franchise, the cancelled Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction was stripped apart and redeveloped with supporting character Shelly Harrison now cast as the lead role. The title still possesses elements of its previous incarnation, with Shelly’s excessive use of catchphrases, the existence of the “Global Defense Force”, and an environmental asset baring a questionable resemblance to the interior of Duke’s mansion.
Players assume the role of Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison, a former Colonel of the Global Defense Force, turned mercenary after “the Washington Incident” disaster; the failed mission resulted in the loss of Shelly’s right arm and her team of GDF soliders. Now equipped with the Amiga “Prosthetic Consientiousness” arm, Shelly is contracted by a private military group to aide the GDF in retrieving Aurora Skye- POTUS and daughter of GDF General James Holloway- from her inter-dimensional alien captors, led by former scientist Jadus Heskel. From the simplistic alien invasion plot to the laughably terrible dialogue, Bombshell‘s essence is that of a cheesy late 80’s/early 90’s sci-fi action movie. While there is charm to be found in its presentation and relentless barrage of one-liners, Bombshell may provoke more groans than laughs from its audience.
Bombshell holds an abundance of promise, but the experience falls flat with the stretched nature of gameplay. Utilizing an isometric design with vast environments to explore, its simple to initially compare Bombshell to the likes of Diablo, Torchlight or Dead Nation– disregarding the twin-stick shooter mechanics. The title features numerous RPG elements and level-based abilities, however 3D Realms’s Duke Nukem successor still retains its core bombastic action fundamentals. A military expert turned high-tech mercenary, Shelly wields an arsenal of guns and rocket launchers alongside her tri-barreled pistol and prosthetic-embedded plasma rifle. As the player progresses, Shelly can eventually summon a remote-controlled drone acting as both a mobile turret and a tool for solving cooperative puzzles. Upgrades can be purchased through experience points and currency gained from fallen aliens; each weapon features a branching tree of perks that can change the overall properties of each weapon, including rate-of-fire, elemental damage, and enhanced alternate-fire abilities.
Upon reaching specific character-levels for Shelly, players can access a multitude of special energy-based abilities. The most basic of special techniques is an invulnerable short dash used to evade or escape enemies, with latter abilities including a lunging shoulder-bash and an energy shield. A minor degree of strategy is required for getting the most optimal use from Shelly’s abilities, as all of them simultaneously use the same energy meter, akin to the Nanosuit abilities of the Crysis franchise.
The player is dropped into a new environment- or better “map”- for each chapter, ranging from the desolate wreckage of the White House, to the grotesquely bio-mechanical innards of a planet-sized weapon. Though Bombshell‘s maps primarily lack the amount of sub-levels found in other isometric exploration titles, each map includes a sizable amount of branching pathways often containing extra ammo packs, side-missions, challenge rooms and the occasional turret-sequence. Story progression often directs the player to GDF outposts with shops, where Shelly can directly restock ammunition and purchase consumable upgrades.
The novelty of Bombshell quickly fades by the beginning of the second chapter, due to the player’s restricted movement speed and a plethora of mechanical problems that have yet to be fixed as of this review.
Those who wish to carry out as many side missions as possible, may find themselves devoting a significant amount of time towards backtracking; outside of energy-based dashes and a lunging attack, Shelly lacks any sort of sprint. As it’s the common nature of Unreal Engine 3, character models and environmental textures may not render properly during cutscenes and new gameplay segments. When attacks do actually connect, Shelly has the ability to “Execute” fallen enemies and aliens, however doing so will force the camera off-center, placing the execution animation on the edge of the screen. Rather than opt for pre-rendered cutscenes, the majority of Bombshell‘s cinematics are in-game; while this allows for a seamless cutscene-to-gameplay transition, Shelly can still take damage during cutscenes- a glaring issue that rears its ugly head during the first boss fight. Bombshell supports both a controller and the traditional keyboard-and-mouse setup, however the camera is still bound to the mouse while viewing Shelly’s upgrade screen and inventory; attempting to select an item or upgrade option with the mouse causes the screen to violently flicker.
(Note: This review is for the final release of Bombshell, from launch-day to the current “Patch 1.01” 1.0.10217 build.)
Keeping in line with the atmosphere of the title, the soundtrack is reminiscent of old-school action movies. Bombhsell‘s soundtrack does a fantastic job of roping the player into its varied worlds with the industrial and mechanical beats of the burning Hell-scape Kyrron, to the somber ambiance of the frozen Zeroth. In the heat of battle, the player is greeted by the sudden chords of loud furious rock that hype the action to a frantic level.
Bombshell has much to offer on paper, but the end-result never truly delivers in full. The cheesy writing will certainly appeal to some, but may be lost to those who lack appreciation for classic action franchises like Duke Nukem or Serious Sam. The bombastic nature of gameplay is at the mercy of bugs and glitches- many of which have yet to be addressed. While Bombshell rewards players who choose to explore each of its visually appealing worlds, the lack of an option for faster movement can quickly turns a side-quest into an unruly chore.
Bombshell could potentially become an exceptional niche old-school action game, but only once the horde of bugs and technical problems are addressed by Interceptor Entertainment.