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Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet Review

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There are a couple of Sword Art Online games out already in the wild and they all have much in common. They are all mediocre to an extent, they are all challenging to follow, and their approach to the JRPG structure is questionable. Instead of a typical hack and slash approach, Fatal Bullet acts as sort of a third person shooter. The game is a game about a game and follows an anime of the same name. Set in a world of Gun Gale Online, an MMO VR Game from Sword Art Online II, you start the game as a noob player to the VR MMO. After a little customization, you head into this VR game in the game. 

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During the first mission that also acts as a tutorial, you come across an AI named ArFA-sys, which just happened to be the game's rarest items you could find. Keep in mind that when I refer to the "game" in this regard I mean the Gun Gale Online where Fatal Bullet takes place. Soon after finding this AI and giving him/her a bit of customization, you get to meet the rest of the Sword Art Online crew. Which, by my research, are familiar faces from the anime series. 

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While I am always down for a good story, I sat through over one hundred hours of Persona 5, Fatal Bullet was a struggle. You know when it is Friday afternoon and you are in that math class and the teacher insists on teaching you instead of giving you the period off so you sit there slowly dozing off while trying to keep up with what she is saying? That is Fatal Bullet's intro. It is one of the longest most drawn out introductions I have ever experienced in a game and worst of all is that there is no English voiceover for you to just sit back and listen to. You have to sit and read through walls of text as each character slowly introduces themselves to you. 

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It was a good two hours before I was able to actually get into the action of the game. I had little grasp on who these people were as my brain just could not take it anymore. To make it worse, the overall plot of the game just takes its good old time to get going and the story relies on these characters who have way too much to say to keep you interested in what is actually going on in the game.

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Combat in Fatal Bullet is probably one of the best parts of the game. It revolves around different types of guns which is a nice change from the traditional melee RPG styled weapons. Rifles, machine guns, pistols. You name it and Fatal Bullet has it. Sure, you can use a sword too but the gunplay in the game feels great. Fatal Bullet also features a unique aim assist system that makes shooting easy even if you are not good at third-person shooters. Each weapon has a unique weakness and strength and upgrading the ones you like is always helpful to allow you to stick to your favourite weapon without feeling underpowered due to the age of it in the game. 

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We then have the skill system that goes hand in hand with gadgets and weapons. These skills are not available at the start of the game, rather they unlock as you progress the story or complete a set amount of challenges. Attack boosts, healing shots and even some cool parkour attacks mix the combat up a bit. As for gadgets, these are items that you can use to both deal damage and give you a tactical advantage on the battlefield. Things like bombs, invisibility cloaks, poison items and more. These skills and items make use of a cooldown so you need to know when to use them and when to save them for a tighter combat situation. 

Fatal Bullet's combat is great at one point of the game, especially when you have unlocked great skills, have your favourite gadgets and your best guns. It also all comes down to what kind of build you are using and how you approach the battle. This is where the traditional JRPG elements come in where you can really invest in a unique character approach and stick to it throughout the game. 

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Where the combat does fall flat is in its environments and enemies. After a while, you have pretty much seen them all and the bland environments become a chore to get through. When you have the same-looking enemies to kill in an environment that is basically just four metal walls, it starts to really become a job to get through and even the fun combat fails to motivate you into carrying on. There is a grappling hook but even that is limited to pulling yourself up to a ledge which is a big missed opportunity. If only the developers took the combat and turned the speed up a notch and created exciting environments to explore with ledges and tunnels. You know, something that adds an even bigger emphasis on the tactical side of things. It is boring and feels like a waste.

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Fatal Bullet's story will last around 25-28 hours which is a solid RPG but the grind to get through the boring environments and tedious enemies become a real chore. Its story needs work and unless you are a major fan of the anime you will get lost along the way as there is a lot to learn. I personally feel that it was a big miss here.

This review was based off a review code provided to us by Bandai Namco

Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 6 March 2018 | RRP: R610

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