Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet (PlayStation 4) Review

By Renan Fontes 03.04.2018

Review for Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet on PlayStation 4

Adapting an anime into a videogame is never easy when said anime isn't particularly focused on combat. While Sword Art Online[/] has its fair share of fighting, its weapon-focused action is more suited for an RPG than a fighter. The trouble then becomes how to adapt the series. Should a potential game focus on an already established story arc or should it be something new entirely? The latter allows for more freedom, but at the expense of lasting characters arcs and themes. The former allows for a true-to-series experience, but not every story has a proper cut-off. Adapting just one arc can leave a game off at a poor narrative point. [i]Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet has its own story, but its reliance on franchise context puts it in a fairly awkward position that can't be reconciled by the gameplay.

In forcing players to create a character, and opening with a mission that feels independent from the rest of the series' overarching plot, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet almost seems to promise an experience free from the franchise's pre-existing lore and, until the end of the first mission, it makes good on that promise. Gun Gale Online is totally independent of Sword Art Online. The avatar has a pre-established relationship with a character, and a rival character is introduced rather quickly. Besides some lengthy cut-scenes, the introduction does everything right to establish an identity free of the franchise's history; then series' protagonist, Kirito, is introduced.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet on PlayStation 4

It is one thing to adapt a story arc, or invent a new story set in a series' universe, but it's another to go with the latter but then slowly transition characters from the franchise proper. Hardcore fans might be happy to see the Black Swordsman and his cohorts in a new setting, but they seriously distract from the independent tone the narrative sets for itself in the first half hour. The avatar, their childhood friend, and their rival can still develop down their own path, but they now also exist in the shadow of the franchise's actual main character. Kirito's presence is a reminder that this is not the avatar's story, and that this story likely won't have much value in the grand scheme of things. More importantly, though, a newcomer will be totally lost in regards to whom Kirito is and the events he references. While the script is heavy with exposition, little is thrown in the way of indicating why Kirito and his party matters.

Thankfully, there aren't any major shake-ups introduced to the gameplay in the same vein as the story; from its introduction to when the credits roll, running and gunning remains enjoyable and surprisingly fluid. Gunplay is incredibly responsive and feels like a seamless blend of action RPG and third-person shooter. There's a freedom of movement present that paves the way for hectic action. With a host of guns and gears to equip, too, gameplay always feels fresh. Weapon switching, rolling, and jumping all feel like a key part of battle, integral to success. Each action has to be taken deliberately, and they truly shine when gunning down hordes of enemies or taking on a boss. From a purely mechanical standpoint, Fatal Bullet goes above and beyond what is expected from the average licensed game.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet on PlayStation 4

Unfortunately, good mechanics are nothing without good game design to back them up, and the latter is sorely lacking here. Environments and dungeons are the worst mix of spacious and empty. Enemies are placed with an apparent lack of rhyme or reason, and the level design seldom takes advantage of the unique mechanics at play. There's a lot that can be done a third-person shooter where jumping and rolling are expected of the player, but that potential never comes to fruition. What's worse, though, is the gameplay to story ratio.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet on PlayStation 4

If it wasn't enough that the script was painfully bland, the story itself is just as obtrusive. Cut-scenes occur frequently and they seem to go on forever. The plot moves at a crawl as characters repeat themselves without actually ever saying anything meaningful. Character arcs are virtually non-existent and are instead replaced with cringe-inducing conversations for the sake of characterisation. Writing has never been Sword Art Online's strong suit, but Fatal Bullet takes it to an extreme. Disappointingly, but perhaps expected, Kirito's story suffers from the same narrative and design issues as the main story.

There is an online component and, with a few friends, it can be quite fun, but it's severely underdeveloped and already quite barren, which sadly reflects the entire state of the game. Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet can genuinely be fun, and has the right tools to be fun, but it's bogged down by a hollow narrative, bland game design, and a lack of attention given to the actual gameplay.

Screenshot for Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet is a surprisingly enjoyable third-person shooter that's unfortunately bogged down by poor level design and an intrusive story. Cut-scenes occur far too frequently, and for too long, while the core design stays relatively static from start to finish. It's especially disappointing because the actual gunplay is quite enjoyable and the controls are some of the smoothest in the genre. With a trimmed down narrative, a better gameplay to story ratio, and more complex level design, Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet could have stood out as a particularly impressive licensed game. As is, however, it's a decent attempt held back by some unfortunate design elements.




Bandai Namco


Real Time RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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