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LGR – Bombshell – PC Game Review

September 29, 2019


[Typing] Oh man, it’s 2016 and a
new 3D Realms game is out? If you’d have told me this would happen back when
we all thought they were shutting down in 2009, I would not have believed it. Of course, this is the
new 3D Realms based in Denmark since Interceptor Entertainment bought the
brand in 2014. But let’s get to the game at hand. Bombshell, developed by Interceptor and
published by “3Denmark Realms” in 2016 for the PC. These are the same folks that rebooted
Rise of the Triad and were working on Duke Nukem Reloaded
before it was shut down. Bombshell itself began as a
Duke Nukem game as well, Mass Destruction, but it had to be reworked due to
a lawsuit by Gearbox Software who now owns the complete
rights to the Duke Nukem IP. Artifacts of this origin aren’t hard to spot either, with everything from the items ingame to the game files themselves
referencing Duke every which way. But we don’t have Duke! Instead in Duke’s place is
Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison. Previously intended as his sidekick,
dating back to the early days of Duke Nukem Forever. I have seen her referred to as Duchess Nukem,
and while that’s kind of clever, the only notable similarity is that they both
enjoy shooting aliens while spouting one-liners. Instead of gun holsters, she’s got a
robot arm named Amiga that can talk to you and transform into new guns and
is also a turret sometimes because aliens! Speaking of aliens, the game begins with a
“Duke It Out in D.C.” alien showdown at the White House, with you taking orders from
a dude that’s totally not General Graves. Seems the President’s been kidnapped by
an evil cyborg that’s totally not Dr. Proton, and I guess you’re qualified to save the day. It kind of throws you in head first, barely touching on how Shelly
lost her arm in the first place, or why we should care about
her story at all, come to think of it. So, many of the plot developments
later on fall flat. But who cares about plot
if the gameplay is amazing, right? So what do you get? Adequacy, my friend. Adequacy. Bombshell may be billed
as an isometric action RPG, but after playing through it,
that really doesn’t make sense to me. Don’t get the idea that Bombshell
is Diablo with guns or something because unlike a game like Diablo, it’s fond of tunneling you down lots of linear
corridors with few meaningful branching paths, and there’s also no skill trees, no side dungeons, no hub towns, no co-op,
no looting of random weapons or armor and no visual character customization. Although, you’d be forgiven
for looking at the environments and being reminded of Diablo or
Torchlight or even Lord of the Rings. Three-quarters of the locations seem better
suited to a fantasy game, if you ask me. And while several areas are
admittedly gorgeous to look at, most of it strikes me as
generic and kind of out of place. I was really hoping they’d revisit
some more levels based on Earth like the tutorial level at
the White House, but nope. The rest of the game is filled with
“Stock Alien World Backdrop #9,” followed by “Typical Ice World Backdrop #37,” followed by, uhh… This is getting boring. Look! Here’s a level of circles
connected by drab corridors. Here’s an area filled with
hundreds of identical hexagons that float over annoying
bottomless pits. Great! And while the last couple levels
are a little more interesting, I think, there’s still not a whole lot of
valuable stuff to really do in there. Every so often, you’ll find a
really short secondary objective to complete but I never found one
that was worth my time. Usually these consist of a simple fetch quest that will net you a paltry
amount of XP, ammo and cash. Combine this with the fact that Bombshell’s few one-liners get insanely
repetitious by the end of the second level, and I cast aside my normal
practice of clearing each map and instead just ran from point A to point B to expedite the next level’s arrival. Okay, so the story is barely there
and the levels are lacking, so what about the combat
and the role-playing elements? Well, “passable”
is a word that comes to mind. You shoot, the enemies shoot back, there’s a lot of
shooting and it feels decent. The execution moves are satisfying though. At least, the first few times you use them, since it really grinds the combat to a halt. And yes, you slowly gain
experience points for killing things, which in turn unlocks a nominal set
of improvements to kill more things. Nothing really stands
out about it for me. It does what it needs to do and calls it a day. There are a few token skills to unlock,
like sliding shields and two forms of melee, and the rest is the standard fare of
upgrading things like health, stamina and armor. The weapons are where most of
the upgrades lie and you steadily unlock weapons throughout the story. Some of the later weapons definitely
have a lot more kick than the starter ones, especially once you start adding things
like explosive rounds and alternate fire modes, but none of them stand out to me and each one simply performs its obvious role. You know, shotgun thing,
rocket launcher thing, whatever. Granted, they’ve got silly names
like the Motherflakker and the Personal Missile System aka PMS, but these corny jokes are no substitution
for enjoyment when using these weapons. That *oomph* factor isn’t there
for any of them to me, and that’s disappointing, considering
how much you have to use them. Even the Bowling Bombs,
which act like smart spherical pipe bombs, are a pain to use because of their
tendency to wander around all over the place and sometimes never connect with
the enemy you want. Some of this could be helped by
having the ability to lock onto enemies, or by including a camera that doesn’t suck. And yeah, ugh, the camera. It’s zoomed in *way* too
close most of the time meaning that enemies frequently
shoot you from off-screen. You *can* enable an optional
peek mode in the Options menu, but this has to be a joke, right? Looking around with the mouse like this
gives me an instant headache and anytime you have to use
a menu, it’s unbelievable! And while it’s less twitchy
when using a controller, now you’re stuck having to constantly hold the right
thumbstick in the direction you want to look. Then there’s the fact that you
can’t save your game at any time and instead have to rely on checkpoints,
which isn’t a huge problem until you encounter the
game’s overall unstable nature. In *one* full play-through, I had
nine crashes to the desktop, two cases of reaching a point in the
story which couldn’t be completed, one crash of my entire PC
and dozens of smaller physics glitches and things like getting stuck in the ground. [male voice, repeating]
”SHIELD ACTIVATED” It’s worth noting that I am
playing this on pre-release codes since 3D Realms sent me a copy for this review, and they have since fixed the
show-stopping bugs I had, so that’s good. But there’s all the rest of it still, and at this point, it’s only
days away from launch, so I worry about the status
for everyone else on Day One. Augh. Man, this is a bummer. Getting a game I had hopes for
from a developer that I really respect and then having to pick
it apart is never fun. So let’s kill it with kindness for a few, shall we? For one thing, the soundtrack rocks! [badass rock music] The theme song rocks, the
loading screen music rocks and while the background tracks while
you’re exploring are often predictable, there are even a few of those that stand out, like this one that reminds me
of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. [pulsing, electronic music] Another fun feature is the fact that it
frequently references Duke Nukem and classic Apogee games, and as a huge fan of their legacy,
I was quite happy. Finding the skeletal remains
of Commander Keen or hearing about Duke from a
GDF arms dealer was great. And finally, may not have Duke in it, but it did have the voice talents of Jon St. John, which wins a thumbs up from me. On the other hand, Bombshell’s voice
rarely has any discernible personality. [Bombshell]
“It’s not difficult to see why
Heskel turned against his own.” “He dedicated a lifetime to his ideas,” “only to have them rejected
in their moment of triumph.” Maybe it’s supposed to be stoic,
but it was a bit much. And practically every grunt in the game
that you run into sound like a guy off the street speaking into a headset. Crap! I was supposed to be saying nice things. Ah, well, I tried. But no matter which way I cut it,
Bombshell is a game that for every awesome thing it has
going for it, it lets me down with two more. It leaves a good first impression, though.
Those first couple levels are pretty fun. And man, it’s nice to shoot
some evil aliens in a 3D Realms game again. But it’s a character-driven action game
that seems to have forgotten the character part, and instead just relies
on action with no soul. The 10-hour campaign was
a real slog to get through, and even though there’s
a New Game Plus mode, I can’t imagine ever giving it a shot. Seeing as there are lots of similar
games that do this kind of gameplay better, I cannot recommend picking it up
for the asking price of $35. That said, I still look forward to seeing what the
team at Interceptor comes up with next, but for me, Bombshell was more ”bomb” than, uh… “shell.” B-Bombshell… [synthesized music] Well, that made me sad, but you know, there’s
still the Build engine prequel that is coming out sometime in the future.
There’s a beta that’s available that I haven’t played yet because it didn’t come with my early
copy, but I will be getting that and I will be covering that in the future, and
that is a prequel to the Bombshell made in the Build engine. That’s such a cool thing to me. I’m still excited about that.
I hope that that’s something worth playing. We’ll see once that comes around
and is out of beta or whatever. But yeah, that’s all for this video today. You can always check out some of these
others here, if you would like to do so. And, as always,
thank you very much for watching.

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