Subterfuge is one of the rarer qualities of the multiplayer shooter. Some games encourage misdirection, as teammates slip away with a flag, and others allow you to throw on a disguise to momentarily befuddle the enemy – but few deal in the prolonged deceit of Bloody Good Time, which asks you to mingle with your prey before delivering the killing blow. It also demands that you drop your kecks and relieve yourself, mid-round. An empty bowel increases your damage resistance, obviously.
Bloody Good Time is a peculiar game, no doubt, and one whose curiosities don’t fit neatly into the FPS package. The same could be said about its spiritual PC-only predecessor, The Ship, in which players stalked one another on a 1920s cruise boat – a Cluedo-inspired bloodbath of obscure rules and unwieldy combat that emerged from the Source modding community.
This time you take on the role of B-movie actors, muddling around a snuff film-set at the behest of a bloodthirsty director. In its principle ‘Hunt’ game mode, each player is assigned a single target to eliminate, their chosen method of murder eliciting a certain star rating which pushes you up the fame-based score table.
There are twists, perhaps too many: an unknown player is out to kill you too, but since gunning down an innocent will deduct points, you have to offset your paranoia with prudence. AI security guards will chase you down and taze you if you brandish a weapon, too, forcing you to pick your moment carefully.
Traps can be activated to fill areas with poison gas or electricity, or deposit unwary marks into spike pits. Each weapon delivers a kill of varying star value based on the scarcity of its use so far, forcing players to search for the next hot thing. There’s also a Sims-like needs system: players have to eat, sleep and defecate in order to ensure their strength, speed and damage resistance remain topped up. Catching your quarry on the can is, naturally, a five-star kill.
For all its elaborate web of stresses and incentives, Bloody Good Time fails to pay attention to the shooter’s more basic trade. The texture of gunplay may seem a prosaic concern next to the arch structure here, but there’s something to be said for snappy interactions which are rich in feedback. Bloody Good Time is sluggishly paced, and exchanges of bullets feel both ponderous and messy. Swinging a melee weapon is an imprecise affair, while even unholstering your equipment feels like too great a labour.
With its many rules and modifiers, Bloody Good Time also needs a longer form in which to breathe – it manages to capture some of the atmosphere of a murder mystery tour, but its attempts to splice this into the short rounds of an online shooter creates only incoherence, and the game’s mechanics are too slovenly to cope with a faster-paced affray. The concept may be a worthwhile shot in the dark, but its choppy execution is straight to video.