A lot of cursing was involved with playing Butcher, from which you can surmise it is not an easy game. In fact, the standard difficulty option is ‘Hard’. An ode to the early days of the first person shooter, Butcher is actually a 2D shooter that has you gunning your way through a whole host of enemies and covering the environments in their blood. It’s also a frustrating game, both in terms of difficulty and how it plays.
The aim of the game is simple. You need to navigate the levels and kill whatever gets in your way using different weapons, with the primary ones being the shotgun, assault rifle, and flamethrower. As you’d expect given the inspirations, it also a chainsaw, but due to the nature of the game it is mostly useless.
Each of the levels has an arena point which you have to survive to proceed, and each has its own traps. These traps could be spike pits, giant spinning blades, or pillars that crash down. You need to keep moving to avoid dying, and it’s for this reason that the chainsaw doesn’t suit the game, as it takes a bit of time to actually get a kill. Stop moving for more than a few seconds and you’re at real risk of dying.
Health isn’t exactly generous either and can be depleted rather quickly. Of course, you’re spraying bullets but if you stay still you’ll find that they run out quick, with the only way to replenish by killing and picking up dropped ammo. Again, it’s all trying to keep you in motion.
It all sounds straightforward enough, but the movement can be a hindrance. The jumping feels too stiff at times and if you’re not precise enough you can easily miss the platform you aimed for. Also the combination of high enemy numbers, the ungenerous health, and quickly emptying ammo can lead to points where you die over and over in the same area. It is easy to become overwhelmed at points, making Butcher a real test to play that can suck the fun out of proceedings. While the titular Butcher is billed as an unstoppable killing machine, there’s this feeling of constantly scrambling to just about survive as things get harder.
There’s a real focus on having gore spatter the levels and their pixel art graphics in blood. The colour palette is quite dark, sticking with dull greys, black, and greens for the majority of the game’s levels. There are a few enemy design types from standard grunts to those that will fly around, and a few mini boss style enemies.
Butcher’s sound mainly consists of the bullets being fired and the moans of pain from those that are shot. The latter was distracting at times and could cut across the thumping soundtrack, with that itself fitting the tone of Butcher and its environments quite well. Other environment sounds are well mixed and sound good, though.
Butcher is a game that will mainly appeal to those who like hardcore shooters, where one wrong move can cost you progress. For others, that style of play could prove frustrating, especially when testing your platforming skills. Though it’s built around the idea of being a relentless killing machine, that doesn’t really feel fully realised with most enemies on a par with you when it comes to dealing damage. Butcher shows potential, but it doesn’t reach it in its short campaign.
Version tested: PlayStation 4