Screenshot from "ULTRAKILL," taken by Tai Goodman.

One can always improve upon yourself when you’re playing a video-game, especially one that’s more difficult than the rest. Twitch-shooters are some of the most demanding video-games to ever exist, testing the mettle of gamers in terms of their attention, speed, and response. Take a twitch-shooter, pump it full of adrenaline, and douse it in gallons of blood, and you have “ULTRAKILL”- an engaging blend of nostalgic and modern FPS gameplay that would make any overprotective parent of the ‘90s have a fit. 

While there is a story to “ULTRAKILL,” it takes a seat as soon as you start playing. All you need to know is what is stated in the introduction: Mankind is dead, blood is fuel, and Hell is full. It’s a premise that’s short and sweet to the sharp, bloody point. 

On its own, “ULTRAKILL” is more than a solid first-person shooter. Whether or not you have experience playing first-person shooters, you won’t be prepared for the sheer torment that “ULTRAKILL” is ready to unleash. The game is extremely challenging, even on normal difficulty, and that alone surprisingly adds flair to the game. It’s very easy to die in “ULTRAKILL” from things like stray fireballs, high-intensity beams, or getting smited by a floating orb. However, while your foes are dangerous, so are you. 

Everything is fast-paced, and so is movement. Traversal is key, because standing still is like begging for your demise. You can bounce off of walls, dash past attacks, and slide underneath projectiles. Timing these right, you will be able to escape any sticky situation. 

Shooting in the game never gets stale thanks to “ULTRAKILL’s” pack of guns that it hands you. At first glance, you might notice that it’s just a standard FPS arsenal that games such as “Doom” have adopted: you start with a pistol, get a shotgun, then later a minigun, and so forth. Thankfully, “ULTRAKILL” turned the standard array of guns into useful tools of destruction. 

Each weapon has variants that can be swapped between. Where most FPS titles make your starting pistol feel like a peashooter, here, it feels like a cannon. This is thanks to the ability to choose between a piercing charged shot, coins that ricochet bullets, or a dangerous versatile projectile.  

Every other gun’s variants are also fun and helpful. If you need to evade combat, you can fire the minigun’s magnets that allow you to shoot bullets that fly straight to your target regardless of where you shoot. If your path is clogged with demons, firing the shotgun’s charged blast will splatter them in a pinch. The rocket launcher even packs the ability to fire a devastating cannonball, paying homage to “Serious Sam’s” signature cannon. Tack on the fact that ammo is infinite, and you will undoubtedly have fun. 

The primary goal of “ULTRAKILL” is simple: kill your way to the end of each level. However, the secondary goal is to do it in the most glorious way possible. You are graded on many things: how fast you were, how many enemies you killed, and how stylistically you killed them. The latter is what keeps gameplay fresh, because you cannot overuse the same methods. You are encouraged to diversify your fighting methods by switching guns, utilizing the environment, and even parrying the enemy’s attacks back at them. The more flexible you are, the higher the score multiplier will climb. This being said, “ULTRAKILL” is far from mindless violence. 

“ULTRAKILL” also puts a fantastic spin on a common FPS trope: blood. Blood is absolutely nothing new in mature video-games today. The red bodily fluid is practically everywhere in FPS games to the extent where you could call it paint. In “ULTRAKILL,” it’s how you replenish health. Being up-close and personal to your enemies and showering in their blood is what heals you, which presents a risk-reward system, because one wrong move could be fatal, but keeping your distance won’t help you, either. 

Everything else in “ULTRAKILL” is extravagant and an evolution for the FPS genre. There’s an intense soundtrack that gets more lovingly abrasive when bullets start flying. It’s all complimented by the retro-pixelated art-style that is reminiscent of “QUAKE.” Even the bosses in “ULTRAKILL” are tough and memorable, and require more than just a fistful of bullets to put six feet under. 

It’s all just awesome in every sense of the word. No two players will play “ULTRAKILL” alike due to the flexibility of combat and how it truly revels in making you feel like a god. You aren’t invincible, but after pulling off a feat like using your grappling hook to yank yourself straight to a hovering head of stone and punching it into pebbles, the euphoria will grant that illusion. 

At this moment, “ULTRAKILL” is still in early access. The Prelude and Acts 1&2 are playable, but the developer is still working on Act 3 plus the Epilogue. As great as “ULTRAKILL” is, all gamers will have is hype for the finished product. 

Today, “ULTRAKILL” is an exemplary game of how to keep an overdone genre still relevant and entertaining. Since the golden days of “Wolfenstein 3D,” first-person shooters have been picking up the pace and moving faster. “ULTRAKILL” is the one charging through its competitors drenched in blood, dripping with sweat, and crying tears of joy. 

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