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Bombshell preview: 3D Realms' first action RPG is big, dumb, and explosive

Hayden Dingman | March 4, 2015
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?"

3D Realms takes that as par for the course. "Of course there's still blood inside skeletons. Otherwise it wouldn't be awesome," jokes Schreiber.

I mean, you play as a woman with a robot/alien arm because what the hell else would you play as? It's that sort of game.

That robot-arm is the key to Bombshell's arsenal (did I mention that's the name of the lead protagonist as well as the title?). Her arm transforms into various weapon modes — both traditional, like a shotgun or machine gun, and non-traditional, like a robot that follows you around killing enemies or bombs that roll around the area and blow up on contact. Each weapon is leveled individually, with the option to choose an alternate-fire mode at level seven — everything from stun bullets to a railgun to cluster bombs.

Oh, and in case you still don't understand how ridiculous this game is, the weapons have silly names like "Motherflakker" and "Ion Maiden."

There's also a jump-mechanic, which is interesting for an isometric RPG. Again, that first-person shooter DNA: 3D Realms said the game basically controls like an FPS, even though you're looking at it from an isometric camera.

I feel like at some point I should talk about the story. After all, this is a full-fledged action-RPG with a campaign and semi-open world and lore and all the standard trappings. I find Bombshell fascinating though because it does those things, but...tongue-in-cheek? I don't know.

3D Realms made it clear to me there is an extensive story for the player to uncover. There are three planets to explore, each home to a different alien race and accompanying lore text. One is a dying world that's just barely hovering above the system's yellow-gold sun. Seeing glimpses of that sun shining through the world's decaying ruins was surprisingly beautiful, for a game that's about mass xenocide.

But forget beauty and forget lore. At its heart this is a game about aliens kidnapping the President of the United States and a woman with a robot arm named Bombshell needs to chase them down across three different alien worlds. Imagine if Diablo was Diablo, except Blizzard had Robert Rodriguez writing all the lore. I mean, not that Blizzard's own lore is deadly serious, but Bombshell is an order of magnitude more ridiculous. It's Planet Terror rendered into a video game.

And I like ridiculous (as evidenced by my love of Just Cause 2). I love seeing games that revel in stupidity. It's one thing to see a game turn out stupid by accident, but it's quite another to see a studio lean into stupidity from the get-go.

Key to Bombshell will be sustaining that sort of excitement across what 3D Realms said is a potentially 30-hour experience. That's no small feat. I loved the recent Shadow Warrior reboot, for instance, but by the end of its run some of the humor had admittedly grown stale.


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