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Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet

Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet

It's time to head back into the virtual world of Sword Art Online, however, this time we're seeing things we've never seen before.

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Not only was Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet one of the few actual game announcements at Gamescom this year, it was an anomaly to the series as well. Producer Yousuke Futami has previously said he would like to make a game based on the virtual world of Gun Gale Online and in 2018, with the help from Dragonball Xenoverse studio Dimps, we're actually getting a third-person shooter set in the Gun Gale Online realm of the universe. Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet will put the player in the unforgiving virtual reality massive multiplayer online RPG and to be clear from the get-go - Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is not technically an MMORPG, it's just set in a fictional one. Not following? Let's back this up a bit.

The base premise of Sword Art Online as a series is that a boy called Kirito who loves video games (very relatable so far, we know) gets the chance to, along with 999 other people, play an exclusive closed beta version of a futuristic virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game (rolls off the tongue, but we'll be referring to that one as an MMO from now on) called Sword Art Online. The technology behind the VR experience is an advanced one that connects straight into the beta testers' brains through a helmet called "NerveGear" and lets the players control their in-game avatars using only their minds. That undeniably sounds like a dream, we'd say, if you disregard the fact that the gamers all get stuck inside the simulation with the only way out being to finish the game and if they die in the game they suffer the same fate in real life. Doesn't sound as appealing after finding that out, does it? Good thing us simple folk get to enjoy the fictional MMO that's actually a single-player RPG without plugging our brains into any machines.

Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet

One of the many VR experiences playable through the NerveGear system is Gun Gale Online, which is the game world Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet takes place in and we got to explore a tiny bit of a seemingly massive third-person shooter at the Bandai Namco booth during Gamescom. There were two demo versions available and because of the fact that the previous base games have all put the player into the virtual world as Kirito we chose to play as Sinon during the stage Remnant Wasteland. With that element of choice present, it's confirmed that the player will get to choose what character he or she wants to play.

The veteran Sword Art Online characters that have already been confirmed for the game so far are Kirigaya 'Kirito' Kazuto, Asada 'Sinon' Shino, Yuuki 'Asuna' Asuna and Kirigaya 'Leafa' Suguha, and there'll be plenty more to come. These characters will all serve different purposes as they each have different weapon sets. Kirito wields a sword and a handgun, Sinon carries a massive sniper rifle and an assault rifle around, Leafa brings an assault rifle and a sword into battle, and Asuna carries a handgun and an assault rifle. It seems the player will be able to upgrade the weapons in some way, but there's not a lot of information regarding the leveling system. Apart from these well-known character names, the developers have also revealed that the players can create and customise their own playable protagonist, however, it's not yet clear if it will be a customisable template character to build upon or if it will be possible to create a character from scratch.

Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet

When we got dropped into the game after a short presentation we got to familiarise ourselves with the basic controls and they were all pretty straight forward. Right analog stick to move, left analog stick to look around, left trigger to aim, right to shoot, and square to reload your active weapon. New to the series control scheme, however, was the fast traversal grappling hook you shoot out with a press of the left bumper, which made for some fun tactical moves. When used in combat it lets the player hook themselves into close combat and then out of harm's way, and if you're more of a ranged player it can be used to seek out vantage points high above the ground or behind conveniently placed barricades. You can also dash and glide while still turning your enemies into fatal bullet sponges. The post-apocalyptic, futuristic demo stage had us battle hordes of laser equipped automatons and turrets as well as a few terrifying mechanical scorpions. When we had neutralised the enemies a massive elite automaton joined the party, trying to avenge his fallen brethren.

The combat itself gives the player a lot of different options depending which character you choose, what upgrades you put into your weapons and what kind of aim mode you choose. If you want to use free aim, you can utilise this for some skill shots and if you're not confident in your aiming abilities you can instead use the aim assist mode when at range. If your aiming abilities fail you and you refuse the aim assist chances are you'll drop dead, but don't worry, you have some AI friends with you on the battlefield and if you notify them of your unfortunate demise they'll come to get you healed up (that is if they don't run into battle and die before you do).

Visually, Sword Art Online looks stunning. That being because of the fact that it's created using Unreal Engine 4 this time around, making for better-looking visuals for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players - which we're guessing is also one of the reasons they're leaving the Sony's handheld PS Vita behind. There's still plenty of information to come but at least we've seen some basics and they look pretty good.

It's also worth noting that Fatal Bullet looks like it will catch the interest of a new audience thanks to a bunch of new ideas. The developers are promising a deep story (that will be different from both the anime and the novels, but that will still engage and excite both fans and newcomers to the series) with difficult choices and consequences, bond building interactions with Sword Art Online characters, a massive game world, a boss battle co-op mode, a 4v4 player versus player-mode, a massive loot system, customisable characters and weapons, and with the series creator Reki Kawahara present in the decision making we believe this is a game to look out for when it drops in early 2018.

Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet

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