What Makes Ultrakill So Special?

    One of the most significant new genres of the modern day is ironically one of gaming’s oldest. Boomer Shooters is a term that correlates to games that are designed to play like other 90s shooters. From sequels/Reboots like Doom Eternal and Wolfenstein The New Order/Colossus to spiritual successors like New Blood’s Dusk or Bounding Box Software’s Prodeus. The concept is simple: these games are designed to play like the original Doom and Wolfenstein, with similar fast-paced movement and frenetic gameplay. However, the most famous example of the genre is Ultrakill, also published by New Blood.

    Ultrakill is developed by Arsi “Hakita” Patala, who also composed the music for the game. Released in 2020 onto Steam’s Early Access, it is the most popular boomer shooter on Steam. It combines aspects from both Quake and Devil May Cry, of all things. The gameplay emphasizes playing stylishly with a combo meter like Devil May Cry. And it has the same fast-paced gameplay that Quake made iconic. 

    Ultrakill has reached massive notoriety, selling almost two million copies on Steam. This is due to its unmatched gameplay, its dark story, and its incredible soundtrack. This guide will explain everything you need to know about Ultrakill as well as why you should play it. 

    The Gameplay

    Ultrakill Gameplay Screenshot

    The gameplay of Ultrakill is fast, frantic, and intoxicatingly fun. The player has access to a wide variety of traversal options, including a slide, a wall jump, and a ground slam. The player has just as many weapons at their disposal, such as a revolver, a nailgun, a shotgun, and the genre’s trademark railgun and rocket launcher.

    While these tools seem simple at their core, the player can use them to create a truly unique experience. For example, the revolver has a variation you can purchase called the Marksman. On the surface, it acts the same as a normal revolver. But if you use the alt-fire, you can launch a coin into the air. If you fire a bullet at the coin, it reflects and shoots another target on the map. You can pair the coin with a railgun and even fire multiple coins that all reflect off of each other.

    The Nailgun can launch a magnet that all projectiles can orbit around, the rocket launcher can fire a timed projectile that you can use as a platform to enhance traversal, and even the shotgun can double as a grenade launcher. As the player gets more acquainted with the pace of the many combat scenarios, they will be switching between weapons and variations at the drop of a dime.

    There are also many different arms that the protagonist, a robot named V1, can switch between at will. There’s the blue arm that allows V1 to parry projectiles, which the player can use to boost their own projectiles for more damage. A red arm that creates a shockwave that blasts back enemies. And a grappling hook arm, that doesn’t just help with traversal but also pulls enemies closer to the player.

    These options are one of many things that separate Ultrakill from other entries in the genre. Another piece of the puzzle that makes Ultrakill so special is its music.

    The Music of Ultrakill

    Ultrakill Act 2 Album Cover

    As previously mentioned, the creator of Ultrakill is also its composer. Hakita is a massive fan of music as a whole. On his Twitter, you can find him posting about new records and artists he’s been listening to lately. Hakita applied this passion to the game’s levels and designs, as many of them are named after music from YesKing Crimson, and Queen, just to name a few. But he’s also applied it to the game’s soundtrack.

    Operating under the name Heaven Pierce Her, Hakita has created a soundtrack that I truly believe is one of gaming’s best. From the Castlevania-inspired “Castle Vein” and “Glory” to the hyper “Unstoppable Force” and “Death Odyssey“. The game combines breakcore, an electronic genre that emphasizes the use of percussion, as well as more traditional metal sounds. The boss themes, like the “Death of God’s Will” and “Duel“, are in a league of their own.

    Hakita also brings in guest musicians, like Meganeko and Keygen Church, on tracks like “The Cyber Grind” and “Tenebre Rosso Sangue” respectively. These tracks add to the speed and insanity of Ultrakill‘s gameplay. There’s nothing more satisfying than tearing through demons as you have these songs blaring through your speaker. The music enhances the experience and makes the player feel stronger in a way I haven’t seen since Doom Eternal.

    Of course, the best music and the best gameplay in the world would mean nothing without a good narrative to push the player forward. So let’s talk about Ultrakill‘s story.

    The Fire is Gone

    Ultrakill Act 2 Ending



    “Mankind is dead. Blood is fuel. Hell is full.” These are the words that first greet the player as he dives in, feet first, into Hell itself. Ultrakill is loosely based on the story of The Divine Comedy, written by Dante Alighieri. Both stories involve crossing into the several layers of hell, from Limbo, Lust, and Gluttony, to places like Greed and Warth. However, what makes the game separate from the original story is the concept at the core of the game and its narrative.

    You play as a machine, who runs on blood in order to stay alive. Not only is this important to the gameplay, as you can use the blood of your enemies to heal yourself, but it also adds to the story implications. The robot you play as is one of the many reasons humanity is now dead and gone. V1, the protagonist, is currently venturing into Hell for the sake of some great and ultimate prize. But there are not just other robots in your way. There are also the angels of Heaven itself.

    In the aftermath of humanity’s extinction, God has supposedly disappeared. In his absence, there’s been a power grab in Heaven that’s led to a society of bureaucratic angels becoming its new masters. At the core of this new council is an angel by the name of Gabriel. He has struck down each and every ounce of opposition to Heaven’s new masters. From King Minos to King Sisyphus, both of which are bosses that you can fight in the game.

    But when Gabriel is met by V1, he loses. He is driven mad by the failure and seeks to fight you again, and he still loses. The game is divided into Acts, and so far there have been only two. Time will only tell what the third and final Act will hold. But when it does release, it will undoubtedly be a spectacle to behold.

    Infinite Hyperdeath

    Ultrakill Tenebre Rosso Sangue Album Cover


    This is just the tip of the iceberg of everything that makes Ultrakill special. From the great use of voice acting to the fantastic level design to the use of secret bosses, there is so much I just wasn’t able to cover in this piece. But hopefully, this was enough to convince you to try this spectacular game. Ultrakill, as well as Hakita and New Blood as a whole, are absolutely worth your support. 

    Ultrakill is only available on Steam but is also verified on the Steam Deck. It is very easy to get ahold of, as it usually goes for pretty low prices during the many Steam sales throughout the year. I’d certainly recommend the game to fans of both normal shooters and boomer shooters.

    Saras Rajpal
    Saras Rajpal
    Saras is a passionate creative writer, with a love for immersive sims, superhero games, and Persona. He is currently writing a thesis about Persona 5 and is pursuing a career as a full-time writer.

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