Hitbox First Impressions: Heavy Bullets — fire, retrieve and repeat

Heavy Bullets is a roguelike, first-person shooter game about picking up after your gunfights.

A charging imp requires quick thinking, but thankfully, there are a lot of tight hallways to lure them down. Screenshot courtesy of the Heavy Bullets Steam store page.

Developer: Terri Vellmann

Initial release date: Sept. 18, 2014

Platform: PC

Price: $9.99

In Heavy Bullets, the player is a company employee tasked with stopping security turrets that have begun targeting customers. The player attempts to make their way through eight levels of enemies. If the player dies, they go all the way back to level one and lose everything from their previous run.

Dotted around the procedurally-generated levels are vending machines where the player can buy items and upgrades or deposit money collected from killed enemies to save for future lives. The player uses a six-shot revolver to kill charging imps, turrets and bomb bugs.

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The catch is that the player must pick up their fired bullets where they land. The player is really going to want to keep track of where they’re firing bullets because they only get six of them when they start level one. Thankfully, bullets are one of the things available to buy at certain vending machines, so if the player loses track of a bullet here and there, they won’t have to go too long before they can buy a few more.

The player starts the first level with three throwable bombs and can also find other items hidden in levels or behind doors that require a hidden key card to be opened. The items that I came across weren’t too exciting, though. A scope, a handheld rocket and a focus pill that slows time for a few seconds were the most interesting items I found.

I’ve only played about two hours of Heavy Bullets, but I’m impressed with how engaging the core loop is, considering it was originally made by Vellmann in preparation for a game jam, according to a Gamasutra article written by Kris Graft. A game jam is an event where game developers come together for a short period of time and make a game that adheres to a certain theme.

Shots from turrets can be dodged if the player can react quick enough. Screenshot courtesy of the Heavy Bullets Steam store page.

After learning that, a lot about the game started to make more sense. The core gameplay loop of firing the gun and collecting the bullets is interesting and could be expanded if a sequel were made. The bombs that the player can throw seem like an afterthought, as if Vellmann thought the player needed another weapon besides the gun. However, there weren’t any situations where I felt the bomb was the best tool for the job. Instead, I mainly relied on making sure I was accurate with my shots and spammed the reload key as I tried to make my way through the level as fast as possible. That’s when I felt the game was coming alive. Instead, it felt like I was supposed to creep around every corner ready to eliminate any threats Seal Team 6 style.

This conflict might have more to do with me, however, since I’ve been replaying the high-octane, first-person shooter Doom lately. I’ve tried to play Heavy Bullets in a more careful and methodical manner, but the neon color palette and electronic soundtrack scream “go fast.”

Unfortunately, the well-hidden snakeworms seem perfectly designed to counter this type of playstyle. Snakeworms hide in patches of grass and happen to be the exact shade of purple as the grass. So if the player isn’t looking closely enough at their surroundings, they may get bit, and there’s a chance the player will get poisoned and take more damage over time.

Heavy Bullets has a great core concept that is well worth a few dollars. If it’s on sale, I highly recommend trying it for an hour or two. Who knew picking up after yourself could be made into an engaging game mechanic?

Want to suggest a video game for review? Contact John Novotny at [email protected]