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Variations on bullet-time are legion, yet the essence remains the same. Slow down the action, make enemies say “F************k” in a deep bass, and allow the player some extra time to lock onto his or her prey. And if you can slot in a stylish visual trick with a spinny camera or a trip on the behind of a bullet, then so be it. It’s corny and it’s become hackneyed, but it sure as hell isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
You’ve no doubt come across bullet-time in your gaming career--even the old NES games inadvertently produced unforeseen John Woo-isms when too many sprites got on screen. Since then though, bullet-time has not only garnered a name but also a checkered past. In gaming, the phrase bullet-time has spread to cover everything that involves a spot of slow-motion. When talking about it in films, however, we should first track the phenomenon of bullets seen cutting through the air, which didn’t begin with The Matrix.