There are few things cooler than walking away from an explosion in slow motion, but one of those things is absolutely leaping through the air, in slow motion while firing guns. John Woo may have started the trend in movies, but video games made sure to take the concept and run with it.
Bullet time is now essentially a staple of many titles, but some games definitely do it better than others. While some will utilize it to help make chaotic combat more manageable, others emphasize the stylistic quality that bullet time can lend to a game. At this point, there are entire games that were seemingly built around the idea of this iconic mechanic. Gamers are now blessed with a cavalcade of games that let them sit back and watch the bullets whizz by.
10 Horizon Zero Dawn
While it has become a pretty standard quality to give games that feature an archer a slowdown mechanic of some sort, this is the title that has some of the best ways to enter into that bullet time-esque mode. Of course, you can enter into it by charging your bow, but you can also enter into it by sliding or while horseback riding.
However, quite possibly the best way to engage with the mechanic is by hopping into the air. Rarely has it felt so cool to play a bow-wielding grasshopper of death, but Horizon made that a fantasy we can all now engage in.
9 Max Payne
Many people think Max Payne is the originator of Bullet Time. While that isn’t quite right, it is safe to say that Max Payne popularized the concept. A somber tale of revenge, Max Payne tries to tell a gritty, hardboiled, tragic story. However, the tone takes an interesting turn when the gameplay begins as you will be diving in every direction firing off shots in slow motion. Is it slightly ridiculous? Absolutely. Is it super cool? Without question.
Max Payne’s early implementation absolutely hit the mark, which is almost certainly why the mechanic became such a big hit with gamers. Even after all of these years, Max Payne still feels good. The sequels are great too of course, but the original has to be given some credit for getting it right the first time.
8 Katana Zero
Finally, the age-old question of “Can you have bullet time in a game where your primary weapon is a katana?”, has been answered. Yes. Yes, you can. Katana Zero is already a game with a lot of funky time rewind elements. It is a fast-paced, side-scrolling action title where one hit typically means death for everyone involved.
Usually, the benefit of bullet time is that it allows you to carefully line up your shots, giving you time to zero in on your opponent while also dodging their bullets. But here, you generally use the mechanic to make deflecting bullets back at your enemies easier. And yes, that is as cool as it sounds.
7 Viewtiful Joe
Slow down your enemies and hit them with a ridiculous barrage of awesome martial arts attacks in this classic Capcom beat-’em-up. In Viewtiful Joe, players have access to a number of VFX abilities. One of the most important is the “slow” ability which radically slows down time (you probably saw that coming).
However, what makes this implementation of the classic mechanic so cool is that there are other techniques linked to the slow ability. As an example, Joe gets a Matrix-like dodge while time has slowed down; he also gets the ability to deflect bullets. You are going to be turning to this VFX power frequently. But don’t worry, it never gets old.
6 Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a great game – for many people, it was 2018’s game of the year. But it isn’t known for its amazing game feel. There is, however, one thing that does feel great: the Dead Eye mechanic. Dead Eye, if you didn’t know, is the fancy name given to the bullet time mode in the Red Dead Redemption series.
This is what allows you to feel like a genuine gunslinger, shooting objects out of the air, and pegging multiple people at once. It is maybe one of the least acrobatic implementations of bullet time, but it is unquestionably a very satisfying one.
Not content to just make movies that feature the bullet time effect, John Woo broke into the video game scene with Stranglehold and made sure to bring his own flare. You aren’t simply leaping and shooting, here (though there is still plenty of that). Instead, you are gliding down handrails, riding food karts, and sliding across tables.
There can be a few hiccups where the game’s context-sensitive scenery interactions don’t kick in, but it typically works well. And when it is working it is quite the sight to behold. Especially when you add in the detailed degree of level destruction. Oh, and the doves, don’t worry John Woo didn’t forget to add the doves.
4 Quantum Break
While Max Payne was Remedies’ first foray into time-manipulating action mechanics, it wasn’t their last. Quantum Break takes a mechanic that was great in Max Payne and substantially elaborates on it. This iteration will slow your enemies, but keep you moving in real-time. This means that as an enemy is flying through the air in slow-motion, you can be panning around them, unloading entire clips of ammo into their helpless, stasis-locked bodies.
There are actually a mind-bending amount of ways to trigger other bullet time-esque modes as well; this game is filled to the brim with time manipulating powers. By leaning into the mechanic, and building a science-fiction scenario around them, Quantum Break takes a great mechanic and makes it feel fresh again.
3 My Friend Pedro
Most games that utilize bullet time have the camera positioned over the protagonist’s shoulder, but My Friend Pedro is a unique example of a game that utilizes the mechanic while being a 2D shooting experience. It really changes the dynamic when you aren’t having to worry about the X, Y, and Z axis all at once. Instead, you will be balletically leaping over your opponents, while contorting your body to shoot multiple opponents at the same time.
It is a simple game that is absolutely deadly focused on the idea of looking (and feeling) cool. My Friend Pedro delivers everything you could want when it comes to its bullet time implementation and almost feels like the game was built with the mechanic in mind.
2 Super Hot
How about a game that defaults to bullet time? That’s right, in Super Hot the only time you aren’t in bullet time is when you are moving which gives this title a pretty unique feel. You could even argue that Super Hot is an example of reverse bullet time. Either way, what Super Hot does best is translate the experience of bullet time into an entire game.
You will be dodging bullets, deflecting bullets, shooting weapons out of the air, and mowing down tens of enemies while skillfully maneuvering through a minimalist environment. Super Hot can be played as both a standard game or a VR title, both are fantastic, but the range of motion granted to the user in the VR version ratchets things up to an even greater degree. For bullet time enthusiasts, this is the game for you.
When you talk to people about Vanquish you will often get people who rave about it, and those who seem deeply unimpressed. That is because there are two ways you can play it. You can treat it like a Gears Of War cover-based shooter, at which point it is just an okay experience, or you can play in style and slide around the stage, hop off walls, and fire mid-air, all while frequently triggering that sweet, sweet bullet time goodness.
That is Vanquish at its best. That is the Vanquish that gets your heart pumping (in slow motion). Platinum would go on to implement similar mechanics expertly in nearly every game they made, but it never felt as good as it did in Vanquish.
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About The Author
James Kennedy (27 Articles Published)
James is a list writer for TheGamer. He typically spends his time playing games, thinking about games, overanalyzing games, and sleeping. While he has an appreciation for all genres, he is especially interested in fighting games and RPGs. He also enjoys reading books and watching movies and will happily overanalyze those as well.