It’s been just over a year since we last took a look at the up and coming character action FPS, ULTRAKILL. Since then, things have changed! A lot. Today, we’ll be diving into what’s new, and what’s coming next. Spoilers ahead, of course.
A screenshot of 4-2, fittingly named GOD DAMN THE SUN, from the Ultrakill fan-wiki.
Let’s begin with the main attraction: the fourth layer of Ultrakill’s take on Hell. It’s hot, it’s sandy, but when it comes to content, it ain’t greedy: four levels full of fresh challenge, many secrets, 2 new enemy types and 2 boss fights (and a hidden battle against a Mysteriously familiar Druid Knight). There’s a lot of great stuff here, and the game lets you know right off the bat.
It starts off strong, and this energy maintains throughout the entirety of the layer. As always, the imagery and overall vibe of Ultrakill is eye-catching and unique.
This first level provides you with a plentiful amount of enemies to style upon as you venture through a sprawling Egyptian temple, suspended over endless sands. Along the way, you’ll encounter a brand new opponent, and the game’s first Angel-type enemy: the Virtue.
VIRTUES: ANGELIC DEATH LASERS
These guys are quite different from anything else we’ve seen so far; they don’t fire projectiles, nor attack with melee. Instead, Virtues summon shafts of scorching angelic light directly on top of the player, able to locate you from anywhere in an arena, even without line of sight. There’s absolutely no hiding from a Virtue, so they’ll immediately become quite the priority target. You’ve gotta finish them off quickly and efficiently, especially since after 2 or 3 attacks, they’ll enrage and begin to predict your movements.
Virtues do a great job of shaking things up and keeping the player on their toes. If you weren’t constantly on the move already, they’ll make sure to punish you for it. Thankfully, they’re quite easy to take care of due to their size and lack of self-defense, but they play a formidable role in supporting the rest of Ultrakill’s forces when placed in a group. Don’t even get me started on how they influence the Cyber Grind.
The Virtue, modelled by ActionDawg
Oh, and as if a new enemy wasn’t enough for one level: at the end of 4-1, we’re treated to another addition. Dual Wielding. Because Ultrakill is one of those games.
STALKERS: OH GOD NO
Moving on to 4-2, a massive non-linear arena, open to the air. Greed’s second level introduces the SANDED mechanic, which throws another wrench in the system by preventing V1 from healing. While some enemies spawn in SANDED, this deadly effect is mostly carried out by yet another new enemy, the Stalker.
These things are assholes. I hate them. I sometimes wish Hakita would stop thinking of such creative ways to make my life miserable.
The Stalker, also modelled by our favorite Dog!
Stalkers are husks who carry big ol’ bombs full of SAND. They seek out the biggest, baddest enemy around and self-destruct once they’re close enough, permanently preventing you from healing off whatever’s in the blast radius. Enemies like Cerberi, who were previously fantastic sources of blood, become an even greater force to be reckoned with if a Stalker is around. Simply killing the thing isn’t necessarily a solution, either: they’ll still explode into a cloud of SAND, albeit a smaller one than they’d get out of a proper self-detonation.
The only way to completely negate this husk’s impact is to move it away from other enemies. This can be done with a ground slam, the Knuckleblaster, through the Attractor Nailgun’s magnets, or by landing an explosive blast in a place that’ll throw ‘em in the air. You must be careful, though, as Stalkers are incredibly fragile, and can easily be killed by accident before they’re far enough away for their SAND to be properly quarantined.
Stalkers are an example of fantastic game design. Their sand changes one of ULTRAKILL’s core mechanics; they force the player to think differently, to be more meticulous in their approach, and to hold back their fire until the Stalker is moved away from the rest of the crowd. They’re annoying, but they aren’t bullshit annoying, and provide a unique type of challenge. I’m all for it.
Oh, yeah, and before I forget: 4-2’s got the entrance to Greed’s secret platformer level, as well as its own bossfight! What a cutie he is.
A SHOT IN THE DARK
After two levels of straight carnage, 4-3 is a refreshing change of pace: creep through the shadows of an ancient tomb, lighting fires on your way to both provide light and unlock doors.
It’s a fun segment of exploration, and as usual, Ultrakill’s environment is just as refined as the gameplay – for example, in the last room, the torch you’ve been holding onto throughout the stage is used as a key to activate a final lightshow. The music kicks into high gear, and it all comes together in a fantastically challenging arena.
There are many secrets and easter eggs to be found in 4-3, but I’ll leave those for you to discover. May the power of the Druid guide you.
THE REMATCH WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR
I know I just geeked out over how atmospheric the game can be, but I don’t care. I’m about to do it again.
4-4 is an absolute masterclass of how to build up a bossfight. It starts quietly, giving the player plenty of time to rest and think about what comes next as they bouncepad up the pyramid. On my first go, I wasn’t sure what sort of challenge Ultrakill had in store for me – until that all-too-familiar Versus guitar riff kicked in. I love how rewarding this is for those who’ve paid attention to the music. We know it’s V2 before we actually encounter him for real.
That said, encountering V2 is equally as electrifying. Sassy as always, he awaits us on a sort of throne, before standing up and cracking his knuckles. So much personality for a killer robot with no dialogue. I’ll never get enough of this guy.
Since we last met him, V2 has Gotten Good. He can throw / shoot coins now, so make sure you actually hit the coins you throw, because if you don’t, he will. He’s also gotten both nailgun variants, and an arm to replace the stolen Knuckleblaster (which will instantly enrage V2 if you punch him with it).
Once you’ve dealt enough damage, V2 will try to escape death once again… but you’re not getting away this time. We get to truly take him down as both robots slide down the side of the pyramid, still locked in combat.
And as if that wasn’t good enough for you, it all wraps up in the best way possible: V2 tumbling off the pyramid and splattering into a pool of Ketchup right before our very eyes. As sad as it was to see him go, he leaves the player with something game-changing.
How do you make one of the most stylish movement shooters in the game right now even more stylish?
The Whiplash operates similarly to Nero’s “Snatch” ability from the Devil May Cry games, in that it does different things based on what you hit with it. Smaller enemies are pulled to the player, essentially turning them into cute little medkits to eat up whenever you’re low on health. You can also jump (and even dash-jump) off of the enemies you pull to yourself, which serves as a practical and hilarious way to get some verticality.
Whiplashing bigger enemies, however, will pull YOU towards THEM. “Malicious Face” is the new “Grapple Point”.
Some other mechanics of note: you can jump or melee to cancel the whip, meaning you can jump an almost infinite amount of times off of a big enemy if your aim and timing is up to speed.
Also, Stalkers act as big enemies despite their size and stature, which feels a bit weird at first… But I feel like the ability to simply pull them away from crowds of enemies would sort of cheat the puzzle their design provides, so I’m happy with this quirk.
Replaying the campaign once you finish Greed feels so fresh. The Whiplash’s movement capabilities are unprecedented in this game: we’ve always had speed, but we’ve never had so much control over it. Using bigger enemies as anchors to move between, pulling the fodder into shotgun range… It all feels so great. After I got my hands on the Whiplash, my first question was how it would affect my favorite part of the game, the Cybergrind. Spoiler warning: it changed everything, but to go over this would warrant its own article. Maybe one day. 😉
IN OTHER NEWS…
Other than Greed and its associated content, we have a couple more things to go over.
ULTRAKILL now has a Sandbox area. Looks kinda familiar, eh?
The Sandbox comes with a cheat menu, a spawner tool, and plenty of room to practice movement or dealing with specific combinations of enemies. Recently, various spawnable props (crates, explosive barrels, etc.) and building blocks are available, as well as a save/load system which will allow players to save – and likely share – their creations. At this rate, Minecraft will be irrelevant in a few months’ time.
Some weapons have also been updated, namely the nailgun. The equip animation is a fraction of the speed it used to be, making both nailgun variants much more accessible during combat. While I previously needed to consciously decide “oh hey, the nailgun might be useful in this situation”, it feels properly integrated into the arsenal. Now I find myself frequently using it to take out Malicious Faces or melt a Cerberus without a second thought. This weapon was at one point a weak spot in ULTRAKILL’s design, and it’s great to see it getting some love.
Other than that, the Core Eject has received new interactions if the core is shot mid-air by anything hitscan. Both revolvers as well as the electric railcannon cause the explosion to be twice as large and twice as painful (still only does 35 damage to the player, though). Coins will prioritize cores above all else, which can make for some pretty sick combos.
The most interesting interaction, though, is that of malicious beams: an absolutely massive detonation that’ll knock back and burn anything it doesn’t instantly kill. This can be done using your own Malicious variant of the railcannon, or with the beam fired by an actual Malicious Face. Poor fellas.
Look at that Style Meter go…
And last but most DEFINITELY not least…. There’s a secret hidden somewhere in Gluttony for those seeking out a true challenge. You’ll have to prove yourself worthy by P-ranking every level in the first act, but trust me, that’s nothing compared to what lies beyond the door.
SO, WHAT’S NEXT?
We’ve gotten a few sneak peeks from the official ULTRAKILL twitter account, and even an early look at the next layer, which was featured in this year’s Realms Deep. Remaining loyal to the structure of Dante’s Inferno, next up is WRATH. I absolutely love the aesthetic choices here. This is how you do a water level.
A new enemy has also been revealed, the SENTRY. As if Cerberi didn’t snipe me enough already.
Keep in mind: ULTRAKILL is less than halfway finished, and there’s already so much content to explore. Also keep in mind that the $20 price tag will increase as more progress is made, so this would be a good time to hop on the ultraviolent bandwagon if you haven’t already.
Oh, and the game’s on sale right now for Halloween, and everything has been turned into a pumpkin.
Please never change, New Blood.