Death of the Critic

The Backlog - Heavy Bullets

Written by: Tom Blaich


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

A well-made roguelike is a guilty pleasure of mine. It just lets me play over and over and over again without getting bored. When they are well designed and they have something unique about them, I pump a lot of hours into them. Heavy Bullets has you, the janitor in a luxury hunting ground, tasked with resetting a rampant security system. It sounds like an easy job when you start, but you will quickly discover that isn't the case. You'll encounter turrets, poisonous snakes, flying monsters, and little black balls of death standing in your way. All you have to help you is one revolver and a few heavy bullets.

The gameplay is super simplistic, a first person shooter where you interact with the world through your gun, and that is about it. You can carry six shots in your cylinder, and as you move through the levels you can gather a few more rounds to keep in reserve. Enemies generally die quickly, and as you shoot, you have to manually reload each round into your gun and pick up the fired bullets from where they land. You can reuse these rounds over and over as long as you manage to find them, but you still have to be conservative with your shots, as running out of ammo at the wrong time is a veritable death sentence.

At a certain point it boils down to inventory management, which would usually be an awful statement coming from me, but somehow it works here. You need to balance your ammo, money, health, and your one powerup. It leads to some really tense moments where you'll come into a room and see three turrets and two little black monsters running towards you. You have just a moment to react as the barrels swing towards you. If you panic and use up all of your ammo without pinpoint accuracy, you are dead. It forces you to play slowly and carefully, because you never know what is around that next corner, waiting to jump out at you and kill you.  


By letting you reuse ammo, they are rewarding slow and careful play over running and gunning through a level. At a certain level of skill and confidence, this is certainly a legitimate playstyle, but for the core player, caution is the operative term. You can pre-fire suspicious areas without fear of wasting precious resources. The game tries to push you to rush, but you have to resist the urge. Mastering your aim and your nerves will let you conquer the challenges in front of you.

It being a roguelike, sometimes things just don't go your way. You get poisoned, have no health pickups and you are about to die, and it is only the first level. Sometimes it can feel like you are banging your head against a wall, and that is the thing that I really hate about roguelikes. I would play in 20 minute chunks until i would get frustrated, quit, and then launch the game again. They attempt to counter this by adding in a bank where you can store cash, bullets, and upgrades for future runs, but I would rarely use it as I preferred to try to salvage a current run instead of preparing for the future. That probably says something about me.

For such a simple concept, Heavy Bullets is a surprising amount of fun. It looks great, and for those times when you need a bite-sized chunk of game, it is perfect. It doesn't exactly do anything new, but a good run is innately satisfying and the revolver just feels good as you thunk bullets into chambers and prepare to take on the unknown.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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