First-person shooters are suffering a crisis. Where once XBLIG was happy to see a FPS, going so far as to forgive bad design or controls just for the sake of playing one, now the problem is over-saturation. Too many trying to copy too much, bouncing from military shooter to zombie wave shooter. Too many falling short of the accepted norm, skimping on content or releasing unpolished messes. Too many recycled ideas and endless pseudo-sequels. Then, like a blood-red bacon… ahem, beacon, of hope, enter Blood & Bacon (240 MSP).
This game is an antibiotic for what ails indie FPSes. No half-baked concoction, no stiff controls, no detrimentally-repetitive waves, and perhaps most importantly, no zombies. Well, no traditional zombies. Instead it’s undead livestock, refreshing enough to feel different, and dead enough not to upset animal rights groups. Yes, it’s a wave shooter (with a 100+ ‘Days’ to fight through), but only in name and format. Trust me, you haven’t played a wave shooter like this.
Nor have you seen this much blood. When the screen gets busy (and it will, with you versus hundreds of enemies possible), so does the exploding viscera. Blood & Bacon is on a liquid-only diet, the self-professed bloodiest game on Xbox Live. It’s hard to argue against that boast. It helps that the weaponry on tap is geared towards said carnage, running from the typical shotgun and rifles to an uzi, grenades, and one very ‘effective’ gun that you earn later on that is best saved for larger crowds.
Rounds and the roster of baddies start off simple, and gradually increase in number and challenge. Enemy types shuffle in and out, never quite the same combination, continually changing the approach and challenging you to mix tactics. Powerups to boost your speed and / or killing potential, as well as ammo and self-revives, prove to be invaluable. By the time you reach the first multi-phased boss, and the even sinister-er Princess Blubbergut (…the experience is memorable, and defies explanation), you’ll have left Easy Street behind and wandered into a rural quagmire, no one there to hold your hand.
Well, save for the online co-op, which is where Blood & Bacon reaches its fullest, Left 4 Dead-est potential. Teamwork here is not a suggestion but a necessity, working together to lead and dispatch tougher, armored foes, and tackle the higher levels. Careful management of the health pumps and keeping your partner standing takes precedence. Victory is not handed over lightly, but the sheer satisfaction that comes from beating a particularly tough wave or exhausting boss fight, alone or with a friend, far outweighs the struggle.
Definitely not for the squeamish.
That hard-fought progress is what keeps you coming back, complimented by the smaller things that build the larger whole; story elements, the excellent voicework and soundtrack, controls / camerawork, and plenty of interesting (and well hidden) easter eggs to be found. Simply stated, there’s nothing here that upsets or feels unfinished, and any faults you may find will be temporary. With the promise of patches and free DLC support (a new map, enemies, have been mentioned) for many months down the road, you can rest easy knowing the game will be updated and expanded upon.
When it’s all said and done, Blood & Bacon stands as nothing less than the resurrection of the wave shooter, all pork and no gristle, full of the exacting attention and care you don’t typically see in indie development. It’s even more impressive to say that after several hours of playtime, I still haven’t had my fill of things to do or see. The game brings with it a new look to the first-person genre on the indie channel, making more than good on great expectations and raising the bar for other developers. An absolute must play.
EDIT 9/1: A ‘lite’ version of the game, re-titled B&B Fatfree, has been released for $1. Comprising the first ’50 days’ (of the full 100) of the game, it still contains all of the greatness I stated above.