Mobile games have come a long way in the last two decades. There was a time when Snake was the only option for on-the-go phone-based entertainment, but over the years the games on offer have grown more profound in their scope as handsets have turned ever smarter. Now we have fully-fledged racers, shooters and MMOs, right there on our blowers in Full HD. We’d blow the minds of our younger selves if we could show them the glut of gaming delights we have in our pockets today, but if we happened to show them Bullet Battle: Evolution, well... they’d probably assume the medium had stalled somewhere along the way.
Because playing Bullet Battle: Evolution is like digging up a time capsule where the person who buried it didn’t have anything particularly interesting to preserve. It’s a 4v4 third-person online shooter where you fight through a small number of maps with a familiar set of game modes. Think Gears of War only without all the slick gunplay mechanics and consistently reliable (and ultimately fair) controls. Even when you first boot up the game, it’s obvious that something just isn’t right. The main menu presents you with three standard classes – Assault, Sniper, and Medic – only one of the classes is locked behind a paywall.
The game will set you back around $15/£15, but that hasn’t stopped the developer from retaining all of the microtransactions that were present in free-to-play, mobile-based Bullet Battle. Want to purchase a new weapon? You’ll need some currency. Want to buy a new melee move? You’ll need some more currency. Oh, did we mention that it’s not even possible to purchase them right now, so even if you did want to spend actual money on these items, the option isn’t even live. So your progress is hampered by a microtransaction system you can't even access. The funny thing is, there isn't even any discernible difference between classes. You can access the same weapons for your loadout regardless of your class, and every player can revive a teammate. So what’s the point of buying a new one?
There’s no way to adjust your aiming sensitivity while in a match – in fact, there are no options apart from the ability to leave said match (which becomes more and more of an attractive prospect the more you play) – so you’ll need to do this from the main menu. Oh wait, you can’t. Because the developer has locked out the ability to adjust this. Because of course it did. There’s the option to select a secondary weapon in the loadout tab, but you’ll need to unlock and purchase them first. You can see where we’re going with this. You don’t even have a pistol to start with. Just a generic M4 rifle.
You also don’t even have the option to choose which map, or which game mode, you want to play. You just leap into a quick match and are slotted into an available battle. Servers appear to be global, with a vast majority of players being from Japan with the occasional North American Switch player joining you along the way. Load times are pretty quick, to be fair, and visually, some assets look pretty decent. Character models have a good amount of detail, and some environmental details look like they had a fair amount of creative effort poured into them. It’s just a shame most things have the aesthetic quality of a bargain bin PS2 game.
So how does it play? Well, not very well, but you were probably already expecting that from what you’ve read already. A shooter lives, breathes and dies on the quality of its ballistic mechanics all of the subsystems that sit around it. Even with a Pro Controller, Bullet Battle: Evolution is a nightmare to control. With the aiming sensitivity locked, lining up a shot is both slow and choppy, which makes even close-quarters encounters an utter chore. Any kill you get is more often than not a product of luck than skill, and most players just rely on the single grenade you have to do most of the work for you. There are no motion controls (that take as an act of mercy), and your weapon has an inexplicably low number of bullets, with no means of replenishing them. Sigh.
Map design is, for the most part, consistently counter-intuitive. Pathways are often designed in such a way as to leave players exposed or boxed in, with no sense of cyclical structure in order to facilitate smooth spawn point switches. The map set at sea, which features large stretches of open water linking ships and wrecked platforms, is one of the best, but the game’s consistent problems with clipping (including getting stuck inside buildings and pieces of cover) means you’ll probably drown or be shot to ribbons before you make it back to dry land. There are some options in the menus – which you can actually adjust! – which affect performance, so you can improve the very choppy, sub-30fps the game sits at by default. However, this just makes an already muddy game look even worse.
There are a handful of modes, including classic TDM (known as Survive) and Capture the Zone (think Domination, only less enjoyable), but ultimately every game descends into a deathmatch where everyone is aiming with all the agency of a drunk corpse. You can melee your opponents – which a comical sweeping kick by default – but it’s so slow it’s almost pointless to use. It’s also mapped to ‘Y’ so most players end up pressing that button thinking it’s cover or reload, which is hilarious, until you keep doing it yourself and die as a result. There’s no support for voice chat either, which is probably a good thing, because it would mostly be filled with region-specific swear words.
Bullet Battle: Evolution does not bode well for the future of online shooters on Switch. With it looking increasingly unlikely Call of Duty will ever return to Nintendo hardware, it falls to other studios to fill that gap. Unfortunately, undercooked messes like this one don’t help the cause. A free-to-play shooter that’s riddled with disabled microtransactions that bottleneck progress, this is a clunky effort that’s in dire need of some proper optimisation and a complete overhaul of its progression systems and balancing. You’re far better off sticking to Fortnite, Realm Royale, DOOM and Paladins for your online shooting needs.