By Steve Baltimore / March 13th, 2018
|Title||Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet|
|Release Date||February 23rd, 2018|
|Genre||3rd Person Shooter|
|Platform||PS4, Xbox One, Steam|
I’ve been a big fan of the Sword Art Online games since the release of Hollow Fragment on the Vita. I easily put over 200 hours in it and Hollow Realization, so when they announced Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet I got very excited. This game focuses on the Gun Gale Online RPG instead of they typical fantasy setting found in Sword Art Online games. The fact it was being developed by Dimps, who worked on Freedom Wars, made me think this was gonna be a stellar entry in the franchise. Did it live up to my expectations?
This time around you are the protagonist instead of being stuck as Kirito, and along with your childhood friend Kureha you have entered the world of Gun Gale Online (GGO). You soon acquire a very rare “item” in the game by chance, a ArFA-sys artificial intelligence system. This system is not complete however and you will soon embark on a quest to retrieve its missing pieces which will lead you on an adventure you never expected.
While the main story in this entry isn’t nearly as interesting as the previous games I still found it quite enjoyable. Like always, spending time with your favorites is always fun, even if you could only get the best events with half the crew as your avatar. Kirito Mode unlocks after you’ve reached a certain point in the main story mode, and basically tells the story of Death’s Gun from the anime. I found this mode very lacking, since it was only the tournament from the anime and nothing else. I am hopeful that either in the DLC or through free updates they will flesh this mode out a bit more. The localization here is pretty solid for the most part. I saw a few minor grammar issues here and there, but nothing major. The one thing I did have an issue with is a few of the PVP quests list the wrong location for the bounty. I don’t really understand how this happened since the location listed is not even in the map shown on the picture.
The graphics here look nice. The character models are well detailed and the environments are all nicely represented as well. Everything looks great from lush forest levels to barren sand dunes. The enemy models are for the most part pretty basic, but they get the job done. Some of the bosses look amazing in just their scope and size, but they really should’ve created more of them rather than using a few over and over. The game runs at a solid 60fps and it rarely dips below that even when there are tons of enemies and bullets flying everywhere. I had one occasion where the framerate took a hit, and I honestly think this was a bug since it never happened again in my 50 hours of play.
The soundtrack is pretty good. I don’t think this one as good as the previous SAO games, but it does have some great battle music and boss themes. The voice acting is done in Japanese and all of your favorites have returned to reprise their roles. The new characters have great voice casting as well, it’s a credit to the team to bring in high quality talent for this game. The sound effects are basic gunfire and the standard beeps and clicks from an MMO. There’s nothing broken about them, but nothing that really stands out either.
The gameplay here is that of a standard third person shooter. You move with the left stick while you aim with right. If you are in auto aim mode the left stick will move the camera. You may think having auto aim will make the gameplay here simple, and while I agree it makes things easier, it really only helps out with the low level enemies. Higher level enemies you will want to manually aim for their weak spots to get the best possible damage. This is especially the case for the huge boss monsters. Proper targeting will go a long way to ensuring your victory, and rolling around like a Dark Souls player on crack helps sometimes as well.
Enemies will range from your standard drones and robots to mutant creatures that roam the wasteland hungry for your blood. As you defeat enemies you will gain EXP and level up like in any other RPG. As you level up CP will be gained and you can spend this to level up your avatar and ArFA-sys’s attributes. You will need to choose which stats you build up carefully as they will effect what kind of skills you can acquire and what weapons you can equip.
Most mission will have you running from point A to point B slaying all enemies in your path. There are the typical slay X amount of this monster side missions as well as PVE hunts for unique monsters. PVP hunts will have you hunting down players for bounties. You can play both PVE and PVP modes online as well. I wasn’t able to find any PVP matches during my playtime, but I did several PVE hunts and got some nice loot for my troubles. The game will let you know which of the four maps found in the game your prey is located on. You may think with that small of an amount of maps that this overworld is small, but this is not the case at all. On each map there are several different areas to explore with unique monsters in each and a variety of dungeons to explore as well.
Your room acts as your main base in this game. In here you have access to your ArFA-sys’s banking features, you can learn skill with earned CP points, and more. Much like spending CP you will need to think carefully when learning skills. The game has some preset roles such as Tank, Assault, Sniper and more. The display will show you what skills go with each role, and you can choose to take only those skills or mix and match skills to your playstyle. Just be aware some skills will not work with certain weapons while others are universal. Skills and the gadgets you’ve purchased must be equipped from this console before they can be used on the field. Gadgets are basically things like med kits, grenades, and booster kits. You will only need to purchase these once as they do not deplete but do have a cool down like all your other skills
Enemies will also drop various equipment, materials, and accessories. Some of these will have to be taken to Agil and identified in order to use them. After you have some gear Lizbeth is here once again to handle all of your upgrading needs. She will of course need the right materials but she can upgrade weapons to a new rank making them more powerful, or transform them to combine your favorite buffs on one gun. Buffs include extra damage to certain types of enemies, faster reloading, gaining more ammo and more.
As always, your AI party member will play a big role in combat on the field. As they perform support or attack actions a little circle will appear at the top of the screen. Pressing the Triangle button will praise them for this action. This will earn you a bit of affinity with the character and a medal. These medals can be spent in The SBC Glocken lobby for various rewards such as SP points, Costumes, and more.
When you have gained a certain amount of affinity with the other characters it will trigger bonding scenes like the other games in the series. Spending time with your crew is what I’ve always loved most about these games and I was not disappointed here. Your created character has some very touching scenes with newcomers as well as old favorites. The bed scenes are back and you and Kirito will share his harem this round, and while some were upset with this, I think it actually let the game’s exclusive girls shine a bit more than usual. Philia and Premiere were both really adorable in their scenes, and Kureha is so tsundere it hurts, but she’s amazing. You will need to build up a relationship with most of the cast in order to see the true ending of this one.
When you return from the field you are rewarded with a bounty for all of the enemies you’ve killed during your session. You will gain more cash for killing bigger game such as unique monsters or completing PVP bounties. You will also be rewarded with extra goodies when your overall bounty reaches certain values. This can include weapons, more cash, outfits and even SP points.
I can’t really convey how much fun the gun play is in this game. It is very satisfying to run through a level laying waste to all enemies in your path while dodging and using skills. Each weapon has a unique feel and there’s plenty of options to set up your character to fit any play style. There is a big difficulty spike at the end of this one, and I feel like that did hamper some of my enjoyment until I grinded out a few levels more than I should’ve had to. The main story is a little weak, but the character interactions are a lot of fun. Kirito mode needs a lot more meat added to it, because right now it feels like something that was tacked on last minute. Newcomers may find this hard to get into and the difficulty spike will certainly turn off some players. If you are a SAO fan or loved the previous games, you should purchase this no question at the $59.99 price tag. There’s a lot here for you to love.
Game provided by the publisher for review purposes.
3rd person shooterBandai NamcoFatal BulletGun Gale OnlineSAOSword Art Online