By Patrick Aguda / November 28th, 2017
At Anime NYC 2017, Bandai Namco Entertainment brought a playable demo for Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet. I was attending the convention with some of my friends and noticed the booth near the entrance to the Exhibit Hall. Having played all of the previous games in the series, I had to give this one a go too. The demo was for the PlayStation 4 and had two playable maps.
To give some background on the title, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is a third person shooter RPG developed by Dimps. The game is set in the world of Gun Gale Online, a world where guns are predominantly used. This is a big change in direction from previous Sword Art Online games that featured fantasy like settings that focused on swords and magic.
The maps available were of an open wasteland environment and close quarters dungeon. For this demo you could choose from three playable characters: Kirito, Sinon and a custom avatar. Kirito was useable in the dungeon map, Sinon in the wasteland map, and the custom avatar was playable in both maps. A Bandai Namco staff member informed me that Kirito and Sinon would only be playable in the demo.
For my first playthrough, I chose to use Sinon in the wasteland map. From the start of the playthrough it was very clear this game was unlike previous Sword Art Online games. While previous games in the series were either an Action RPG or MMO style RPG, this game was very much a third person shooter.
Your character is equipped with a main weapon and a side weapon. These weapons could be cycled between each other by tapping the right directional button. In Sinon’s case, she was equipped with a sniper rifle and a submachine gun. Each character has a set of skills that can be set to a skill palette. The palette could be accessed in game by holding the R1 button. The skills in the palette included support buffs that increased your character’s damage as well as special attack skills. Other items such as grenades could also be set to the palette.
In addition to these mechanics was the fiber gun. You could access the fiber gun by holding the L1 button. Once held, a targeting reticle would pop up and you could aim the gun. After you release the button, a wire springs out of the gun which allows you to travel great distances with ease.
The enemies featured on the wasteland map were automated machines and giant insects. The objective of the map was to take out the boss machine in an abandoned city located on the map. Dealing with enemies was actually pretty easy. Every time an enemy aimed at you, a red targeting laser would pop up and show you where the enemy intended to shoot. This mechanic was featured heavily in season two of the Sword Art Online anime and I liked the fact that they kept it for the game.
The aiming mechanic was actually pretty solid in the demo. You could lock onto enemies very easily and it wasn’t hard to hit your target. It was very satisfying taking out targets from a distance using Sinon’s sniper rifle. The fiber gun was also very helpful on this map. I used it to scale to the top of buildings and pick enemies off while they couldn’t reach me.
I was pretty disappointed by the enemy AI as the skirmishes were almost too easy to complete. Even the boss monster didn’t put up much of a fight. In fact, there was a sweet spot between a pillar and the boss that I found. I could shoot the boss from behind the pillar but the boss was unable to hit me from where it stood. Even though I was chipping away at its HP bar, the boss didn’t move at all. I ended up moving so I could make the fight more exciting, but that was a little disappointing.
For my second playthrough, I chose to use the custom avatar in the same map. The avatar came with an assault rifle and an AI assistant called ArFA-sys. I didn’t really notice much difference between controlling the avatar and controlling Sinon. ArFA-sys was basically like another party member. If I noticed anything, it was that the assault rifle was much weaker and had less range than the sniper rifle, making it more difficult to defeat enemies.
The final playthrough was with Kirito in the close quarter dungeon map. Kirito, unlike Sinon and the avatar, focused heavily on close range combat. He was equipped with a photon saber and a pistol. His special skills included sword skills that were featured in previous games in the series. The objective of the dungeon map was to make your way through the map in order to face the boss, very simple and similar to the previous map’s objective.
Enemies were packed in close proximity to each other, making it the perfect environment for Kirito’s combat style. I could use the fiber gun to quickly close the distance to enemies and slash them up with the photon saber. The melee combat was actually very fun and it felt very satisfying, cutting enemies left and right. I was a bit worried when I learned the title would be mainly focused on the shooting aspect and it was good to see they put effort in the melee aspect of the game as well. The only issue I found with the melee combat involved the camera angle. Sometimes, when I used a sword skill, I would hit the corner of a wall and the camera would move in a weird position. This took away from the gameplay a bit.
All in all, I found the demo for the game to be very fun. If I had to compare it to another game I’d have to say Freedom Wars. The gameplay in Fatal Bullet felt very much like Freedom Wars from the shooting mechanic to the AI assistant to the fiber gun. The game was Freedom Wars but a bit slower and that isn’t a bad thing. The only issues I really saw with the demo were the camera, the easy enemy AI, and the framerate. There are times when there were too many enemies on screen, and the game would slow a bit. Though this was an early trial version of the game so that was to be expected. Also, the range of the fiber gun was quite disappointing. You had to go very close to reach where you wanted to go with the gun. I’m hoping there’s some way to increase the range of the gun in the full game.
My favorite weapon to use from the demo had to be the sniper rifle, it felt satisfying picking off all those enemies from such a long distance. I really enjoyed the short time I got to play this game. This game is going in a completely different direction from past Sword Art Online games which I think is a very good thing. The series needed a fresh change, and I think this title is it.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is set to release in the west on February 23, 2018 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam.
Anime NYC 2017Bandai Namco EntertainmentDemodimpsPS4RPGSword Art OnlineSword Art Online: Fatal BulletThird Person Shooter