In the school playground of shooters, Bulletstorm is the sailor tongued big kid whose motivation for the next wedgie lies more in the prospect of beating his personal record, than in any angsty hatred. People Can Fly’s new shooter is brazen and unabashedly brutal, but does the sci-fi butcher-fest successfully make its retaliation to the ubiquitous Call of Duty and its wannabes, and more importantly, is it the romp one hopes it to be?
Bulletstorm follows the exploits of space pirate Grayson Hunt and the, well, storm of bullets that ensues when a bid for a revenge against his former general lands him and his friend Ishi, in a giant, vicious-alien-filled, torn and ruined resort on a strange planet.
Development and marketing (see Duty Calls) has been keen to show the world that this is no run of the mill, stale first person shooter and perhaps the most prominent feature is the points system, which overtly awards the player for “skillshots”, flares of creative execution, in big flashy letters. This arcade-inspired reward system essentially underpins the main premise of the game, which is expertly calculated hyperbolic violence.
But what’s bloodshed without a little motive? Now, as you might’ve guessed, Bulletstorm isn’t a work of narrative art but the story is decent enough to give you a little inspiration for your extermination, and it acts as a great vessel for the various set pieces. Exploding dams, escape sequences and plenty more is on offer, (and I’ll leave the more original sections to your surprise) created with the finesse that goes along with the Epic ethic.
Despite it being classed as a first person shooter, you’ll spend an ample amount of time shoving your foot up alien butt, which is remarkably satisfying; and, combine that with one of the many sharp objects on the walls or a man eating plant and you’ve got a good example of what one second worth of gameplay usually constitutes. Not content with real world physics and the time continuum, they’ve thrown slow motion into the mix of badass-ery, which only affects the body or object you’re manipulating. And, although inexplicable, it maintains the pace while allowing you to more easily smack the relevant blighter into the nearest cactus.
“fungal rim-job” – a quote that is fairly representative of the dialogue. Needless to say, Bulletstorm breeches the boundaries of vulgarity quite often, but if you’re not a mother, it is genuinely quite brainlessly funny and although satire of the FPS genre isn’t quite as pronounced as some suspected, they’ve pulled off something that keeps your attention during cutscenes and presents some actually quite sweet little moments in amongst the bloodbath.
For some, the most appealing feature will be the splash of colour we so rarely see nowadays. The environments are expansive and diverse ranging from canyons to cityscapes, sewers to buildings on their sides. Epic and their studios have an amazing ability to create extremely detailed scenes, and although the accessible areas among them are small in comparison, the perpetual action distracts you and makes you feel part of the larger scene. Gigantic alien plants bursting through the streets, extraordinarily intricate sci-fi ruins and hazy sunlight make Bulletstorm’s world akin Gears of War’s planet Sera if it had been vomited on by a unicorn.
Disappointingly Epic’s engine still suffers from textures not popping in; leaving you with blurry characters and objects, especially in cutscenes and the Xbox 360 version has its fair share tattered edges. Fortunately, stunning weather, gaseous and shade effects bring the world to life and make any graphical impairments quite insignificant, especially given the visually spectacular, bounteous litres of blood that flow from your disemboweled foes.
Bearing in mind the campaign numbers up to over 11 hours, any extra content might be considered pure generosity. Echoes mode allows you to replay sections and compete with others over leaderboards while Anarchy pits you and other players against waves of enemies, and allows for ‘group moves’, which make slamming helpless thugs into iron bars all the more fun. However, there are a limited number of maps, all of which are fairly small, but one hopes surely-imminent DLC will bring in new opportunities as well as new modes.
Bulletstorm benefits from Epic’s and by extension, People Can Fly’s masterful pacing. They know exactly the point for something enormous to burst out of the ground or for an immense gun battle to ensue and they know how to write a story, even if it isn’t of the highest level of intellect. Towards the end, however, constant hordes do somewhat outstay their welcome with the lack of any new enemies.
But if you’ve ever felt even a remote amount of enjoyment from spraying lead into deserving and maniacal enemies in any of the old classics, Bulletstorm is worth a go and the same goes if you’re sick of the predictable modern shooter / space marine game. It puts the killer experience on a platter and guides you through a bombastic and cinematic adventure, decorated with a brutal if parodic and mindless sense of humour. People Can Fly have created a polished shooter that deserves to be understood for its own content and gameplay as well as for its satirical elements. So, go hang up your brains and have fun.
4 out of 5