The Average Gamer

E3 2012 – Bullet Run Hands On Preview

Announced just before E3, Bullet Run is an online free-to-play multiplayer arena shooter from Sony Online Entertainment. Formerly known as Hedone, the premise is that all players are participants in an FPS reality TV show.

Sound familiar? Of course it bloody does. Unreal Tournament was using the same premise for its quick-fire respawns way back in 1999.

The concept was also used in 2009’s Gamer. Starring Gerard Butler, it’s probably the the first film about gaming that’s actually not half bad.

Here’s the announcement trailer for Bullet Run. We have a dozen beta keys to give away so read on to find out how to win:

The setting allows ACONY Games to use a much wider range of environments than your typical military shooter – launch maps will include an abandoned film studio lot and an island resort – but the developers are taking the game-as-TV-show concept a step further. In a manner more reminiscent of 2008’s The Club from Bizarre Creations, players in Bullet Run are not only scored on kills but on style and with much more freedom than The Club’s odd environment-based challenges. To this end, ACONY have introduced the “Heat” system.

Every kills earns you Heat but entertaining the crowds will earn you far more. Stopping after a swift kill to taunt your downed opponent is one way to earn them and has the sweet bonus that your defeated foe has no way to skip your chosen taunt. For the less-skilled players being destroyed by opponents time after time, their first kill after a streak of deaths will have a substantial bonus. Everyone cheers for the underdog, right?

Those with more confidence will do better to kill their enemies slowly. Each character can equip up to four special powers, like the Akimbo power that sends you sliding across the floor on your knees wielding a pair of pistols, John Woo-style. Or sneaking up behind an unwary opponent and finishing them with a quick headshot is nice but how about freezing them solid, taunting their frozen body with a quick pelvic thrust and then shotgunning them in a face? It’s a sick sort of entertainment and the crowds will love it.

Heat points are really a form of XP. As your character gains points, you will unlock new abilities. As well as Akimbo and freezing, you could choose to place turrets or maybe go for a heavy weapon like the mini-gun.

Each character will eventually have eight taunts and eight battle abilities. You can take up to four of each into battle. You’ll also be able to switch between the standard shooter weapon types during a battle: assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle and sub-machine guns. At the end of each match, your Heat points are converted into new fans and in-game currency.

I played a short session on one of the maps and you can really see the entertainment factor built into the environment. Giant holographic versions of high-scoring players tower over the open roofs of a container store and flying camera drones follow the action from above. Disappointingly, shooting the cameras has no effect on your heat and they take no damage.

Combat feels like your typical fast-paced shooter with plenty of space to run around, multiple levels and ledges to jump on and off and hidey-holes to snipe from. The current method for selecting powers and taunts is clearly designed for PC gamers who prefer to play with controllers – hold down a button to bring up a radial menu and move the mouse around to select one of the four options. However, all commands can be mapped to keys, so mouse-and-keyboard players will have no problems there.

What is that woman even doing?It’s important to note that Bullet Run is all about your personal reputation, building up your character to be a reality show hero. This game will launch with team deathmatch and team domination and new match types will be added later, as will clan and group support. To cement your reputation (and also fund the game), Bullet Run has an extensive character customisation system powered by in-game currency and microtransactions. You can choose from a huge array of clothes, hairstyles, colours, skins and so on, as well as buying weapon upgrades.

ACONY are determined to keep this as a “real” game and not drown gamers in pay-to-win transactions, so every item can be bought with either real money or in-game currency. Weapons have been carefully balanced as well, so there should be no single gun or skill that you can purchase for a significant advantage. It’s all about player skill and customising for your own play style.

Bullet Run is being developed for PC and will be going into beta in the next couple of weeks. Thanks to ACONY’s community manager Chris Dye, we have a load of beta keys to give away. To enter, simply tell us your favourite first or third-person shooter in the comments. We’ll do a prize draw and email beta codes to the winners on Friday 15th June.