Do you remember when 3D Realms unveiled Bombshell last year? If you do, it's probably only because the original trailer was so bad it burned itself into your brain. Seriously, it's one of the worst teasers I've ever seen — something that first made you go "What did I just watch?" and then shake your head and go "Is this what 3D Realms has become?"
So when 3D Realms approached me for a Bombshell demo at GDC, I was skeptical. Really skeptical. Even with 3D Realms assuring me the game was nothing like my preconceived notions.
Surprisingly, they were (maybe) right.
Shot at redemption
Here, take a look at this new trailer for Bombshell. It's better than the old one:
Bombshell isn't even a shooter. That's surprise number one. 3D Realms made a lot of games under various names in the '90s, but if you were a PC gamer back then you probably know them for Rise of the Triad or Duke Nukem or Shadow Warrior. Or if you played the Rise of the Triadand Shadow Warrior reboots recently, well, you played part of 3D Realms' legacy.
Which is why I was surprised to find out that Bombshell is an action-RPG. "We don't want to end up as the studio that's known for making one game. The studio that only makes first-person shooters," said Frederik Schreiber, CEO of Interceptor and Vice President of 3D Realms. "Blizzard used to be the studio that did strategy games. Now they're doing a first-person shooter. It's super cool because they're not experienced in doing first-person shooters, so when they go in and make a shooter they look at it with completely different eyes.
"When we started making this game, we were looking at it from the eyes of our experience, which is first-person shooters," Schreiber continued. "We're not hardcore role-playing guys, so we didn't take that route with it. But we wanted to make sure it felt really good to play it. We wanted it to feel like you were playing a first-person shooter."
Bombshell has an isometric camera, weapons and stats you level up, and two different currency systems. It's a very different game than you'd expect from 3D Realms.
And yet the 3D Realms DNA is undeniably present. This is 3D Realms leaning into its status as a '90s FPS developer: Screaming guitar solos, secret areas, creative and/or silly alternate fire modes for all ten weapons, enemies that look like they fell off the pages of Todd McFarlane's sketchbook. Hell, the main villain of the game is some sort of floating robot-skeleton dude with his spine just sort of...hanging.
Games nowadays might have more violence, but what Bombshell and Mortal Kombat X have reminded me of recently is that violence in video games used to be way more creative. Sometimes in ways that made you cringe. Sometimes in ways that made you laugh.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.