As I sit down for a short, hands-off demo of Bombshell at GDC 2015, I'm not quite sure what to expect. But since it's from the creators and producers of Rise of the Triad, Duke Nukem and Max Payne, I know I won't be surprised if it's loud, brash and violent.
I am not surprised.
But what I am surprised about is the format. Bombshell looks like an isometric action RPG. It reminds me of Diablo of course, but then that's an easy comparison to make with any isometric 3D game.
Frederik Schreiber, CEO of Interceptor and Vice President of 3D Realms, shakes his head in disagreement when I ask whether Diablo was an influence. "We wanted to make an action game that has the responsiveness of a FPS, with RPG elements that are all about upgrading your weapons."
He continues. "What we wanted to do was make a new game in a new genre that mixes first-person shooters and an isometric game. We wanted to avoid making an action RPG, or an MMO. We wanted to make this game regardless of genres – just make a cool Bombshell game. We don't really have a name for what Bombshell is, but it's a combination of an FPS and isometric action adventure."
Its storyline takes place in a near future where Shelly "Bombshell" Harrison sees the President being abducted by aliens during an Independence Day speech on live TV. She's an ex-member of the Global Defense Force who lost her arm and the rest of her squad while trying to defuse an alien bomb in what became known as "The Washington Incident."
She was later approached by a private military contractor with the promise of a second chance and indeed a new prosthetic arm created from the technological remnants of the bomb. Shelly is called in to rescue the President, a journey that spans four large levels that take her from the grounds of the White House to the far-flung reaches of an alien world - and which includes hordes of aliens to destroy, and plenty of boss battles of course.
Opening with a series of highly kinetic cinematics, the game goes straight into the action with barely time to take a breath. Bombshell might look a lot like a Diablo game, but it definitely plays like something you might expect from 3Drealms: the weaponry you have available from your prosthetic arm is creative and gory – splattering, roasting and dismembering targets, and even exploding them from the inside with bombs that burrow into enemies.
Bombshell is all about that arm.
Frederik continues, "There are eight different weapon blueprints you can map onto your arm. Each of those has 10 different levels, and there are forty different weapon modifications – so there are basically more than 40 weapons in total. Each arm upgrade has its own elaborate tech tree so you can upgrade and select secondary and tertiary fire modes."
What that ultimately delivers is a protagonist with a huge arsenal of highly entertaining weapons who is also capable of zipping around the screen by performing her four different special moves (which deplete a slowly-regenerating equivalent of a mana bar). And that's a recipe for a lot of intense action.
The game certainly looks interesting so far. Graphically it's very impressive, with highly detailed backdrops and some very creatively rendered enemies. It's also going to feature couch co-op (not multiplayer online, however), and it has an element of Metroidvania in that once you've finished the game, you can go back in and unlock different areas that are unavailable on your first play through.
In many respects, Bombshell captures much of the bluster and bombast of a Duke Nukem game without stepping over the line into something that becomes too much of a parody of itself. Yeah, it's crazy and outlandish, and its story is certainly ludicrous, but at the same time it does feel entertaining and strangely compelling. I'm interested to see just how the whole thing holds together over its projected 15 or so hours of playtime, but so far I'm cautiously optimistic about Bombshell. I really didn't expect much of it, but it just came across as good old-fashioned fun.