ULTRAKILL means to spread destruction through the layers of hell
HUMANITY IS DEAD
BLOOD IS FUEL
HELL IS FULL
Once upon a time, in Finland, there was a an average-sized laddie with a king-sized dream. During his life he was fascinated by a number of mass media works. From Castlevania to Bayonetta. From Vanquish to Titanfall. From Doom to Devil May Cry. He had the idea to extract the pizzazz from these and other titles to combine them into an epic 3D fast paced shooter like none else. That laddie, was Arsi “Hakita” Patala.
From the start, the game exudes exuberance. The very concept of a killer robot slaughtering his way through the circles of hell, while consuming their blood for sustenance is mind-blowing.
The controls aren’t all that simple. Beyond WASD movement and using the mouse to aim, the player will have to get familiar with slides, air dashes, ground slams, and a very manly parry that can transform any bullet in a massive fireball that will scatter your enemies everywhere (the ones who won’t burn to a crisp on the spot, I mean).
The tutorial, though, lives up to the task. The mechanics are introduced one at a time in a controlled environment. The maps allow for, and encourage even, extensive practice at the player’s preferred pace. It couldn’t take more than one hour to master movement and shooting to a level where one feels comfortable dashing left and right while scoring hot combos on the enemies.
Speaking of the levels, despite their poly retro look, are carefully crafted. Each map can support a variety of different playstyles, from fierce speedruns, to treasure hunts for collectibles, to choreographic massacre, to the first run of your average noob who’s just vibing with the OST and aiming with a touchpad.
Shortcuts and hidden rooms, of which there’s no shortage, encourage exploration and experimentation. Each secret room inevitably leads to exclusive weapons, achievements, and even unique bossfights.
But we’re not done yet, there are secret levels, unlockable by completing, obviously secret, quests hidden in the regular levels. These bonus stages don’t follow the same formula of the rest of the game, but rather introduce novel elements in the game loop to the point of making them feel like different games. One of these levels is, in its entirety, a reference to another indie game I had played in the past. I’m not gonna tell the name, so as to avoid spoilers. You’ll find it out by yourself.
I’m gonna take a moment to talk about the soundtrack, because, once again, ULTRAKILL’s BGM (INFINITE HYPERDEATH), in large part composed by Arsi Patala himself, belongs to a very strange genre I had never heard before in my life. To be precise, a genre that not even the best authorities in music (youtube comment section) was able to pinpoint with accuracy. Not unlike the game itself, presents an overwhelming number of different influences. I couldn’t trace them back if I wanted, so I won’t even try.
This being said, I added it to my training playlist and I recommend you do the same.
After something ten hours, the ULTRAKILL experience becomes smooth and exalting. Finally getting a triple S on any level becomes a real possibility. And finally we have memorized the number associated with every weapon. Now we can switch between them a good thirty times on a boss fight without biting the dust.
Since I mentioned them, bossfights in this game deserve a mention. Each has its well-defined theme and personality, in addition to driving fragments of the lore. They feel like actual challenges (particularly if you are playing at Violent difficulty), immersive and memorable. I haven’t played ULTRAKILL in the better part of three months and I can still recall the different bosses’ skillsets, that’s crazy.
Now that you got me thinking, the scientific term for this may be trauma. Still gets a positive mark from me, that’s some high degree trauma there.
Despite its many influences, ULTRAKILL manages to keep a strong identity and a distinct, frenetic, slaughterous, enthralling gameplay experience. Level progression is smooth, player expression is very present all throughout the game, and the generous amount of secret content spread all around the maps gives it oh so much replayability for a game with no rng.
If your friend was a fan of the original Doom, ULTRAKILL will drive them crazy. Hell, even non-initiates will be able to see its charm. The mindful design of tutorials and stages makes it easy for new players to acquire familiarity with the game at their own pace, until they can reliably pull out some sick
glitches techs, such as the Shotgun Fist and the Double Railgun Snipe.
I’d like to end this review with a message for Arsi Patala, regarding to this amazing project he created and is still working on, and his relaxed and civil behavior on Twitter.
I have your photo hanged besides my mirror, and everyday, when I wash my face, I wonder how can I be as cool as you, brother.