'Gunhead' puts an artistic twist on a first-person shooter game

Shooting down steel creatures has never looked so good.

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First-person shooter games are dime a dozen, but every now and then there's one that stands out from the pack. That's exactly the case with Gunhead, an open world title from Alientrap, the same indie developer that brought you the gorgeous 2D platformer Apotheon. The game, which quietly debuted at SXSW 2018 last week and is here at GDC 2018, features visuals reminiscent of films like A Scanner Darkly, the animated sci-fi thriller from 2006. Gunhead's artwork feels cartoonish, yet polished, with dark, vibrant colors that pop as you travel between spaceships in your role as a pirate mech with a gun for a head.

Your goal is to loot during your journey and, along the way, take down the monstrous creatures who are trying to stop you. You'll come across enemies with purple tentacles, others who look like fish made out of steel and bones, and drones that shoot bullets at you mercilessly. Naturally, you are the main character in Gunhead after all, so you have a rocket launcher and an automatic weapon to defend yourself. You also have a jetpack, which lets you jump between platforms while you're inside each spaceship, trying to take down their core and make them implode.

Gunhead feels like a mix of games such as Borderlands or Fallout, and that says a lot about it because at times you forget that this is an indie. It's just executed well, both visually and in terms of the overall gameplay. Another nice touch is that if you're having trouble keeping up with your enemies or getting out of a spaceship, you'll get some assistance from characters claiming to be engineers or scientists, who will help ensure that you make it past each level. Think: Star Fox-like mini-cutscenes.

Lee Vermeulen, Alientrap's programmer and co-founder, says the idea with Gunhead is to make it be a true open world game, where you can travel into space in your own spaceship and loot as many items as possible before facing six or seven bosses. "My goal is to make something that's good moment-to-moment action," he said, noting that he wants players to not just think about running and gunning, but also about strategizing how they want to attack their enemies and how to get the most out of each level.

The demo I played was on a PC, but Vermeulen said that he hopes to bring it to either the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One in six or seven months. He also said he hopes to bring it to the Switch, though that'll depend on if Nintendo's console can run Gunhead as it was intended.

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