Duke Nukem 3D is one of the most memorable games in existence. It dared aim for mature audiences when it was sparse and it spanned every format imaginable. It was mainly due to its protagonist. A big, burly, cigar smoking, trash talking, shades wearing son of a bitch with a unique hatred towards aliens and pigs and of course his love for scantily clad babes. The game play helped as well but there is no mistaking that Duke made the game. He was made possible by 3D Realms who went on to create Shadow Warrior which was remade recently and it wasn’t half bad.
3D Realms has tried to revitalise the badass protagonist formula (or at least it seems so) with Bombshell, out now for PC. This time though, the badass is a woman of which the game is named. Bombshell, or Shelly as she’s better known, after losing her arm in a recent war, is sent on a mission to rescue the president who just happens to be a woman in an eye patch. It’s not long before, as Bombshell, you’re tearing up aliens all over the galaxy (kind of). The story is cliché and full of cringe worthy one-liners kicked off with “It’s time to paint the White House red!” I don’t know about you but it doesn’t have the same kick in the balls impact as the likes of “it’s time to kick ass and chew bubble-gum…” which had the attitude and feeling which made you want to give alien scum the beat down. Bombshells phrases just…..didn’t! On top of that, the dialogue is emotionless. Co-stars like the aforementioned president and military personnel that give you missions sound more like they are reading off of cue cards, it’s terrible.
Luckily, the game play is fast paced and full of action. Taking on a top down Diablo-esque viewpoint with shooting mechanics that work best with a controller rather than mouse and keyboard as a twin stick shooter. It’s too precise with a mouse which you use to aim, far too easy to miss guys that are literally right in front of you. With a controller however, it feels better and easier. It’s dependant on the players’ skill of course. Bombshells load out is cliché too, starting off with a pistol but it’s not long before we are treated with the “Maxigun” which is a fully automatic machine gun ideal for mowing down brutes. The problem of the precise aiming means you’ll run out of ammo fast although it can be found everywhere thankfully. Later on, I unlocked the laser rifle which hurled a bolt of lightning towards foes and a rocket launcher which obliterated them with ease. There is some sort of customisation here with upgrades and side mods that make your available weaponry more effective and deadly with alt-fire modes that give the gunplay a bit of depth if any using in game currency found from dead enemies. It helps open up the game preventing it from being a substandard shooting game and giving it that RPG-lite element. The pacing gets dragged down by the execution animations. Although its uber satisfying to witness Shelly rip an aliens head off, I stopped using them as they bring the fast paced gunning to a standstill. It’s like Shelly shouts “wait! Stand still and don’t shoot me whilst I tear apart your compadre for 20 seconds.”
Throughout the 3 alien realms you’ll visit in Bombshell, the enemy variety keeps you on your toes tenfold. At the beginning, large stocky hulks come at you from every direction which soon evolves into poisonous kamikaze bugs that just fly at you and explode into a deadly cloud of gas and of course the bosses which are the most impressive of them all. Without spoiling anything, a few mentions such as a giant sand worm type menacing thing which looks really cool but fighting it and the rest of the bosses takes a lot of ammo logic (is that even a thing?). What I mean is that they take some taking down which means rationalising ammunition and thanks to the precision, this left me hanging high and dry for the last half of some boss fights. Be smart though and it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Aside from the gunplay, Shelly has unique abilities thanks to her augmentations. A slick but over too quick sliding ability and a big punch are the first you’ll access but more unlock as you play which you can pick on the fly. These can be enhanced using upgrade points which are earned by levelling up aside from the standard RPG common upgrades such as health enhancement which in a game like Bombshell, you will need to invest in.
The graphics set to the maximum is gorgeous. The lighting on the alien worlds is fantastic and as I said before, the bosses look awesome. Shelly however isn’t the protagonist that is relatable or fun to play as. I never felt compelled to care about her success or failure. Her design is lacklustre taking more of a female bionic commando than a Duke Nukem with boobs. There is enough action here to stop you caring about that, good job really.