Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet - PS4 Review

It is no secret that I am a fan of Reki Kawahara's Sword Art Online franchise; when I first saw the anime back in 2012 I was hooked. I was going through a bit of a rough spell on a personal level and it just clicked; in a way the Aincrad arc could be seen as a parallel to my own troubles at the time. It holds a special place in my heart so each time a Sword Art Online title came around I lobbied for the chance to get my hands on them and the case is no different for Bandai Namco's latest dive into the franchise, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet. Eschewing some of the more tedious features of the past games, Fatal Bullet is an excellent, if repetitive third person action RPG.

Diving into the world of Gun Gale Online (GGO) really nailed it for me as I am an avid shooter, lover of the anime, and massive fan of the franchise as a whole. Prior to the dive you set up your avatar and the options are endless; so endless in fact that I found myself going back time (since you can change it at any time in game) and time again tweaking little bits here and there. In fact every time I picked up a new outfit (read: armor) I would revisit the avatar customization module to fine-tune the new look. Of my 35-40 hours into the game I have likely spent a quarter of it simply playing dress-up and I would not have it any other way.

Once your avatar is meticulously created and you appear in GGO you are approached by the archetypal "childhood friend," but that is about where the atypical anime tropes end, as you are thrust into a tournament that acts as the game's tutorial. It is fairly straightforward and blessingly short, but it gets the job done. At the end of the tournament (which, defying most games' logic, you do not win, heck you do not even really finish it) and thus the tutorial, you find a one of the coveted new items that were added with the latest patch to Gun Gale Online; a personal AI/bot called an ArFaSys unit.

These units come in various "ranks" that are based on their rarity and the unit you find is a Type-X which, while not the rarest, is amongst the rarest types of AI unit you can find in GGO so you are immediately thrust into the spotlight within the world. Naturally you can design your ArFaSys character with as much detail as you can your own avatar so I have spent a healthy chunk of the remaining time in-game playing around with their look and colors. Because of course I did. The primary goal moving forward is to collect the various "parts" of your ArFaSys's "mind" to improve its functions and capabilities, then to take on the new dungeon that was implemented with the same patch that brought the ArFaSys units to the "game."

Regardless of all the time I have spent monkeying around with the way my character and AI unit looked, the one feeling that struck me the most while playing Fatal Bullet is how MUCH it felt like I was playing a character that was playing an MMO. I truly felt like I was experiencing an MMO for the first time, often feeling the same way I did when I first logged into Azeroth back in 2003-2004 (I managed to land some spots in the closed and open betas for World of Warcraft; I was thrilled) and that is something truly special. From the first quest to the last, I felt like I was in an MMO and that is a good thing, because it shows that Bandai Namco has really nailed the various perceptions and feelings found in MMO's and managed squeeze that sense worldly connectedness and community into a single-player game. Truth be told it is pretty amazing.

However that does not mean that it is a flawless game; MMOs all have their warts and SAO:FB is not without them. Like any good MMO there is The Grind where you essentially run about in the same areas performing the-same-but-slightly-different fetch-style quests for endless hours until you hit a cap or come to a certain point where the story comes together and the game finally gives you a quest that you give a damn about. Fatal Bullet is essentially that; a number of shining moments where you are whipping in and out of blazingly fast and engaging combat followed by bland corridors and blasé enemies, only to pit you against a new enemy type or behavior that throws you for a loop. Some days it feels repetitive and dull, others it feels sharp, new, and exciting.

Guiding the actions of your voiceless avatar, you will traverse through levels upon levels of twisting, variable-height, dungeons that are mined, full of fodder, minerals, and the occasional beefity bad guy, all in the hopes of taking on the new update to Gun Gale Online. Bringing out feelings I had not had since I first ran Naxx in World of Warcraft, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is something special. A single-player MMO-style action RPG with fancy footwork, exciting boss and mini-boss fights, and dungeons that you need to slog through (repeatedly at times) with a cast of characters that many of us have grown to love and cherish over the past decade (if you read the light novels). Few developers can pull off the intense emotions that Fatal Bullet can drag out of many of us that have been playing MMOs since we were in our formative years, but Bandai Namco and Dimps have managed to do that.

Well done I say.

 Game Information
Sony PlayStation 4
Bandai Namco Entertainment
Action RPG
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Microsoft Xbox One

Provided by Publisher

Article by Robert


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