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PAX Prime 2015: Bombshell Hands-On Preview – All the Rage

August 30, 2015 Written by Tyler Colp

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The best part about Bombshell is its ability to embrace how ridiculous a top-down shooter about slaying cybernetic aliens as a woman — nicknamed Bombshell — who has a robotic arm that turns into over-sized guns really is. It’s a game where bullets fly as fast as your attention, leaping from its grim storyline, to its rapid combat, to its upgrade system. It’s a frantic back-and-forth in the PAX Prime demo, but its chaotic style is consistent, detailed, and driven.

Preparing for Battle

Bombshell has more of an up-front emphasis on its narrative than you might expect from a game where your primary interaction is shooting at oncoming aliens. Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison loses her squad and her arm in an incident and is given a second chance at war. It’s a spartan setup for what the developer told me is a story with both human and non-human characters filling out their side’s perspective on the conflict. There could be something to Bombshell’s relationship with her arm when it starts having conversations with her later in the game, especially since there could be undercurrents of guilt and anger there. Whether or not the game will find the time to fit that kind of nuance in between the sparks and explosions is a fair concern.

From what I saw in what is reportedly the game’s opening level, where its narrative, while prominent, sat behind the game’s gripping firefights, I’m still skeptical. There’s clearly a want to combine a less-aggressive story with the aggressive game, but in the demo it wasn’t more than a launching point for the action. For all its initial world-building, its narrative thrust might be more functional than thoughtful, which is not inherently a problem, but something that’s impossible to tell in this small section of the game.

Tools of Destruction

What’s there is a game that’s deeply satisfying, which is maybe not a surprise for a game coming from Interceptor Entertainment, the studio responsible for 2013’s Rise of the Triad remake. Although I played on the PC — the game is coming to PlayStation 4 when it releases later this year — the basic movement and access to her abilities and grenade felt built for kinetic engagements. The enemies in the demo were fairly weak, taking a few taps of gunfire or a single grenade to disintegrate, but their tactics, combined with the demo’s small rooms, encouraged me to strafe in-and-out of incoming fire.

Layed into that mobility are Bombshell’s abilities. She had a simple dodge and an offensive rush in the demo, letting me close gaps and smash through enemies as my stamina allowed. With everything taken together, the shooting, the remote-detonated grenades, and the abilities, Bombshell’s gunfights teased the kind of skillful, dynamic fights that you’d find in shooters like Halo, where both you and the enemies take a lot of bullets but have several ways to maneuver around each other. With a good enemy variety, weapon choices, weapon upgrades, and maybe some higher difficulty levels, Bombshell could stick with anyone looking for fast-paced challenges that feel malleable and skill-dependent.

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Mix and Match

Bombshell has both a promise of story and a promise of interaction that could come together into something with a real violent thrust, not unlike the lean, aggressive beauty of Mad Max: Fury Road. There can be meaning and rhythm to its action, a tone that fits with its over-the-top structure, and Bombshell has the suggestion of that in the demo I played, but it has to figure out how its combat and story fit together over its length, if that’s truly what it’s aiming for.