Bulkhead

REVIEW: Bulkhead

If Bulkhead (80 MSP) seems familiar while playing it, you’re a brilliant detective that’s onto something, as it comes from the same developer behind another unique but flawed first-person shooter, Vampire Slayer. Here too, the standard Deathmatch formula is altered to create a hybrid experience, and again, it’s for the worse.

Bulkhead is playable online or offline with up to six players (or five AI) competing to capture an alien artifact. Kill or be killed is the obvious fact, though your chief objective is to search the multi-leveled station’s plethora of containers. This builds a certain tension, as you’ll need to stand in place for a few seconds waiting on a percentage unlock for each box. Mostly you shuffle from one room or hallway to the next and scan again, trading fire with AI or human opponents along the way. Once you’ve lucked onto the artifact, the sirens go off and you scramble back to a certain-numbered airlock to await a short countdown before extraction.

From the HUD wrapping its pertinent text around your ‘helmet’ to the general sense of isolation and emptiness of being in space, the game looks and feels like a sci-fi shooter. This part it gets right. It’s rough around the edges, has rigid controls that get better as you go, yet in all the necessary ways and boxes you can check off, Bulkhead is a first-person shooter. And a bland one it would be, aesthetics and excellent lighting aside, if it didn’t try for something different. Given the setup: a derelict spaceship, unknown cargo, a recognizable audio cue warning of approaching danger, the game has that classic, stuck in a tin can, ‘Alien’ vibe. It’s laughably ironic, then, that the very inclusion of an alien into the mix as a wildcard is the game’s downfall.

Searching the containers here is like rummaging through a box of cereal; you set out with the best intentions to nab a cheap prize, but occasionally you unleash a monster instead (…yes, bad simile). For every container that yields ammo or health or… nothing, there’s an equally good chance you’ll let out an ‘alien’, a rather diminutive facehugger / crab-type that loves to immediately kill you and blends almost too perfectly into the environment, so you’ll sometimes never see it coming despite said audio cues and HUD warnings.

Bulkhead - Screen

Looks fun. Isn’t really.

To make matters worse, the little bugger is surprisingly resistant to your available weaponry, including the RPGs you can find among the scattered containers. Not that we all should look to ‘movie rules’ as a legitimate gauge for effectiveness, but typically, toting an RPG and making use of said RPG has resulted in whatever problem one was faced with as being ‘resolved’, terrestrial or extra-terrestrial in nature. I’m not saying an alien lifeform wouldn’t have a tougher skin / more fortitude than a human being, I am saying two shots from an RPG should be enough to take anything down.

That it doesn’t is just another strike against Bulkhead, with the derivative combat and boring artifact search (ten minutes turned up nothing in one game I played) locked in as the only current option. Your dollar might net you some enjoyment, but I don’t see anyone lasting more than an half-hour with this before moving on. Much like Vampire Slayer, it’s a game with an idea that’s just not properly executed.

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15 thoughts on “REVIEW: Bulkhead”

  1. Had a look on here after giving the trial a go and it seems I’ll not bother picking it up. I thought the trial was decent but the problems I had was it felt like I had to do too much looking to find the ramp between floors at times, the floors all looked the same and I thought it was just a deathmatch game until I read about the relic in this review.

    I really like the theme of the game and the idea of the crates is pretty good but then after some playing I discovered that the crates always have the same item inside them and they respawn a few seconds after opening them. I imagine that instead of dreading to open boxes to get needed items in case you let out an alien, it’ll just be about memory which is a bit of a shame.

    1. It was promising, just too many little things held it back. Not enough thought went into making it a lasting experience, and it relied too much on crate-searching, as you saw. There was a sequel (http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/BULKHEAD-Survival/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258550d58) that had a cleaner look and added co-op. It plays a lot better / quicker, features the monster from ‘Saturn 9’ (a very good horror / Slender hybrid from the same developer), though it’s still essentially the same game, which is why I didn’t review it. Maybe you’ll like that version more. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  2. Yep and even worse you can’t contact them through Xbox live or even bother to say if an update is going to come out.

  3. This game reminds me of another game I tried from the Indie Channel that I cannot for the life of me figure out. So I passed on the demo and after reading your review I’m for passing on it now. Maybe this developer should try sticking to their Toy Stunt Bike genre.

  4. I want to like Bulkhead, but gotta trust Tim’s judgement on this one. There is potential here, but two shots from and RPG should be enough to take anything down, can’t argue with that. Would be great to here from the developers regarding their thoughts.

    1. I left it out of the review for space / flow reasons, but I do think it’s better than Vampire Slayer’s take on FPS Deathmatch. The container searching gets old after a few matches. That ‘alien’ issue, though, I don’t know. Maybe the splash damage is too low, but I’m pretty sure I hit that sucker dead on with two shots, and in the area for a third time. Not to mention plenty of bullets. I’m all for a challenge, but every game the alien got let out was more frustrating than fun.

      I can’t speak for the Dev, of course, although I know he kind of laughed off Alan’s claim on Twitter, when he was having similar issues. We can’t be the only two guys to have a problem with it. He’d do better to go back and tweak the alien’s health, for sure.

    2. I think the rotating HUD is beautiful, but this ‘alien’ issue sounds systemic, and if the searching isn’t compelling then that’s a fundamental issue. We know that searching can be fun with the right parameters, but just like the ingredients in a recipe, the proportions matter. No salt is bad, too much salt is bad, this is what it sounds like to me. When someone plays a game and offers feedback (Alan) this isn’t a laughing matter, but one of importance.

    3. Absolutely, and I like the ‘salt’ comparison, too, since it more or less boils down to a game’s ‘flavoring’ that determines what is fun and what isn’t. 🙂

      Maybe he’ll work out the kinks, take the feedback, and put it to good use next game. Seems to be on a steady release schedule with his projects, so, third time’s the charm, possibly.

    1. That’s why they call me ‘Hammer’. They pray just to make it today, they try to get me to take it easy on them, but I’m too legit to quit. They tell me ‘Please Hammer, don’t hurt ’em’. I try not to.

    2. Kicken’ it Old School. Kinda funny since I’m watching Harlem Nights right now and reminded me of that era (error) of time.

    3. I had the albums. The man had some hits, you have to give him that, and those baggy pants (can’t think of the official name)… stylin’. Harlem Nights too. Eddie Murphy kind of comes and goes out of the public eye, but he’s funny. Lot of good comedians in that movie.

    4. Parachute pants??? Not sure. And you know for as many great Old School comedians in that movie it wasn’t that funny. Good movie if you don’t go into it thinking it will be hilariousness. gotta run…it’s Hammer Time

    5. Parachute pants! There you go. I’m thankful for short-lived fads. Had I been a little older then, I probably would have sported a pair. Agreed on Harlem Nights. Had its moments, but the individual parts were far better than the total sum of the movie.

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