The Worst Games I've Ever Played - Bullet Witch
I've been gaming my entire life and out of the hundreds of game's I've completed, more than a few of them were some real stinkers. This is a new feature I'll be doing that focuses on some of the most broken, horrid titles that I've had the misfortune (and, at times, guilty pleasure) of playing. First up is the 2007 Xbox 360-exclusive Bullet Witch, developed by the now-defunct Cavia and published by Atari (in North America and Europe. AQ Interactive in Japan).
First, let's take a look at the protagonist, Alicia. She's a witch who boasts supernatural abilities as well as a gigantic weapon called the Gun Rod, a broomstick-esque tool that can transform into a variety of firearms. Alicia also has a dark voice in her head that spouts advice and other comments now and again. Think Jackie Estacado in The Darkness. Alicia's powers range from minor incantations like summoning walls for cover and imbuing her gun rod with elemental attributes to being able to cause full-blown catastrophes like tornadoes and meteor showers.
This description probably makes Alicia sound like a pretty cool character, but I'm hard pressed to think of a less interesting heroine in gaming history. One reason is because the game sheds very little (and I'm being generous) light on her motivations and personal history. Why is she a witch? Vaguely explained. Who or what is the mysterious voice guiding her? Never once touched on. The impression is that it's some sort of demonic entity, but for all we know, Alicia could just be a sad, insane girl hearing voices in her head. Why does she hunt demons? Are her motivations altruistic or is she forced to? The fact that we know so little about Alicia makes it hard to care about anything she does because why should we? The game doesn't seem to think the reasons are important so why should I give a damn about Alicia at all?
The other reason Alicia sucks is that she's flat out boring. She rarely speaks and when she does, it's delivered with one of the most wooden, phoned-in performances this side of Kristen Stewart. It is hilariously bad. She doesn't come off as mysterious or stoic. Alicia just sounds bored out of her skull. Even when one of the biggest revelations in the game occurs, she can barely muster an emotive response above "oh no...". Also, it doesn't matter what's happening around her, the same blank, eMo-na Lisa smile remains plastered on her face at all times. I mean, just look at her:
Does that look like the face of an engaging hero?
The only other main character is Maxwell Cougar, commander of the few remaining human armed forces and professional idiot. If you're done snickering at what can't possibly be his legal surname, be prepared to crack up whenever this goofball opens his dumb mouth. After witnessing Alicia's immense power, Cougar, for some reason, decides it's a good idea to completely trust this strange woman whom he just met with his entire operation despite her giving zero reason to do so. Maxwell's annoyingly cheerful demeanor and penchant for making corny, "heroic" speeches made me wonder if he was the long lost father of Snow Villiers from Final Fantasy XIII. The ending cutscene, however, is a real gem as it features Cougar attempting to flirt with Alicia, resulting in an exchange that will having players laughing as much as they're cringing.
So here's the set up. After the world endures a series of unfortunate events (and I'm putting it mildly. These include severe climate change, a virus epidemic, and basically World War III), demons appear and devastate humanity to the point that the population is just under 1 billion when the game begins. The enemy forces are known as Geist, which are more or less zombies. They kind of remind me of ghouls from the Fallout series except stupid. Alicia appears to oppose this menace because reasons.
The story and dialogue is so laughably bad that it makes even the most poorly written fan fiction read like Game of Thrones by comparison. And as someone who indulges in the copious amounts of bad fan fiction on sites such as DeviantArt, Bullet Witch really feels like the developers searched the internet for the worst, most cringe-worth story and built an entire game around it. As I said earlier, things are barely if ever explained and stuff seems to happen just because. The mentality seems to be that Alicia is a "cool" character so who cares what she does and why because she's awesome and that's all that matters.
An early cutscene offers some attempt at intriguing foreshadowing. A mysterious man jumps into a pit of spikes and seemingly dies. The payoff for that scene is so painfully cliched that it belongs on a list of the most predictable plot points in video game history.
Going into it, I expected a sort of Devil May Cry clone, with a balanced focus on melee and gunplay. In reality, the game is pretty much a sub-standard third-person shooter. You only have a single, basic melee combo so your main offense lies in shooting, with some magic on the side.
Here are my problems. Your one melee attack is awful since the game lacks any semblance of targeting so you're awkwardly missing attacks more than landing them. Actions like dodging and drawing your Gun Rod suffer from input delay, so they'll do what you want a full second after hitting the button guaranteeing some complementary bullets to the face before Alicia is ready to strike back. Jumping/dodging consists of an insanely over-animated series of flips that's too sluggish to be helpful.
Out of Alicia's magical arsenal, very few spells are actually useful. The elemental attacks are worthless as they seemingly do no extra damage whatsoever, making them a complete waste of mana. Alicia's big guns, the lightning storm, tornado, and meteor shower are annoying because they all trigger an annoying and unskippable cinematic that quickly grows tiresome after repeated uses. These attacks also prove that the enemy forces are terrible at their jobs as they just stand by and watch like zombified deer in headlights while Alicia conjures their demise.
Health is automatically regenerated but Alica may as well be made out of paper with how quickly she can be torn to bits. Many encounters throw an obscene amount of enemies at you at one time, making several encounters an infuriating war of attrition. Bullet Witch lacks any other ideas other than "shoot geists, shoot some more geists, shoot the giant brain geists that prohibit entry to the new area, proceed to said area and repeat the same exact formula. Upping the blandness even more is the fact that there are only a handful of enemy types in the entire game.
Calling the A.I. broken would be like saying Alicia is somewhat uninteresting. Enemies will crash into each other, pursue you only to abandon you if you simply turn a corner, not attack you at all (even when right in front of them), destroy each other, and a ton of other issues. A.I. is so fragile that it can be broken just by running behind an enemy, completely shutting it down.
Outside of combat, the level design is the next big offender. In short, most of them are FAR too large. Many areas are simply vast, empty spaces that players are forced to wander through aimlessly with very few enemies and, at times, even less assets. When you're not stuck replaying an frustrating battle, you're hopelessly lost trying to find the next checkpoint as the game rarely provides any indicator of where to head next. Why the designers decided to create levels more suited for an open-world game is beyond me, but I'm sure the answer resides in the same negative dimension as the answers to the rest of the game's burning questions. Aesthetically, the levels are flat out boring. Here's a short description of Bullet Witch's six levels:
- Generic ruined city
- Generic sewers
- Generic airport
- Generic forest
- Generic creepy, Silent Hill-style town
- Generic ruined city: The Sequel
I'm not exaggerating. None of the levels have any real creative merit and the game as a whole is graphically unimpressive. Before anyone says "Well, it came out in 2007" let's not forget that same year saw the release of impressive-looking games such as Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Super Mario Galaxy, and Assassin's Creed. God of War II, a PS2 game, also came out in 2007 and absolutely destroys Bullet Witch in the visual department.
The only cool aspect of the game is the destructibility of the environments. Alicia's more powerful attacks can reduce structures such as warehouses into rubble - if it doesn't kill you in the process. That's right, the flying debris of destroyed objects can actually end you if you're not careful. One time, I blew up a gas station hoping to annihilate the foes around it when a gigantic slab of concrete hurtled towards me and slammed me in the face. I died in an instant, leaving my mouth agape. I can't think of a more unfair avenue to a Game Over screen.
Bullet Witch is an idea that probably sounded good on paper but was executed as poorly as possible. I hated nearly every second of this game with my only enjoyment coming for the unintentionally funny cutscenes. I'm not surprised that no one ever talks about this game but would be shocked if it wasn't thrown in the conversation of the worst games of the last generation.