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Review: Bulletstorm

Developers – People Can Fly and Epic Games
Publisher – Electronic Arts
Available On – Playstation 3, XBOX 360, PC
Reviewed On – XBOX 360

Bulletstorm, developed by People Can Fly in conjunction with Epic Games, involves 26th century space pirate captain Grayson Hunt as he leads his crew into fatal consequences after a failed attempt for reparation. Hunt and his cohort (including Ishi Sato, Hunt’s cyborg AI partner in the campaign) defected from their previous work as soldiers oblivious to the fact that they were assassinating innocent people for corrupt officials. The crew eventually caught light of this, escaped and resorted to raiding, robbing and picking off inexperienced bounty hunters for a living. Fast forward to present day, Hunt and Sato have drawn short straws and are fighting for their lives on a planet full of murderous natives in hopes of escape and retribution along the way.

With Bulletstorm, People Can Fly aimed to create an experience similar to early first person shooter titles like Doom, Quake and even Duke Nukem; to deliver a balls-to–the-wall action gun-fest with a side order of testosterone. This quality has proven to become quite rare as the shooter genre has evolved and become saturated with titles featuring complex and (perhaps too) serious storylines, with the shooter component playing the equivalent of the supporting band at a gig. Developer People Can Fly has had prior experience with the over-the-top lead downpour of Painkiller, released in 2004, so their handling with this type of subject matter is quite familiar.

As a consequence, Bulletstorm never seems to take itself too seriously. In the market of shooters, this along with the upcoming Duke Nukem Forever is a satisfyingly large breath of fresh air. The violence (which is quite brutal) coupled with the hilarious and carefree nature of the game goes as far as being described as slapstick. Murder is murder after all, but when you’re filling your enemy with lead by shooting (literally) at his ass, then it’s a nice little way to suppress all the decapitating, amputating and what other methods you’re using to run the rivers of Stygia red with blood, just like how a whoopee cushion incorporates humour into what is just a disgusting bodily function.

However, Bulletstorm occasionally abandons its crass shtick for melodramatic exposition on Grayson Hunt’s bid for redemption. This leaves an odd taste in the player’s mouth since these pieces work against the game’s image and target audience. Thankfully these moments are few and far between, with gorgeous vistas and satisfying gunplay outweighing them.

Like most games Epic work on, Unreal Engine 3 provides the meat of the visuals. In this case, Bulletstorm looks fantastic. Weapon and character models have quite the impressive tone and shape whilst the environments are nothing short of breathtaking. You’ll start to feel guilty if you’re doing nothing but running and shooting and not taking in what is such a beautiful looking game. The world of Stygia is lush, colourful and much too gorgeous for what is essentially a large resort planet in ruins riddled with primitively aggressive natives.

The sound department in Bulletstorm is unfortunately a case of hit and miss. The weapons as they fire have grunt and kick, as does the popping of enemy heads and body parts. Even explosive objects as they’re fired at are pleasing to the ears. The only tiny chink in the armour is the littering of profanity within the dialogue. There’s something cringe worthy about random f-bombs being spouted, if terrible b-grade horror movies are to be believed but on the plus side, there are some creative combinations like “dick-tits” and “murder boner” and you know what? That’s what we’re playing it for; good, dirty and juvenile fun.

Throughout the duration of the game’s campaign, a “skill points” system is implemented, rewarding players with various amounts of points for stylish and thoughtful kills. This system is not only limited to the campaign but also included in the other modes of play such as Anarchy and Echoes mode. Killing with skill in Bulletstorm is a two edged sword, it provides methods and opportunity to purchase weapons, upgrade them or even unlock other ways to operate them, and also discourages the player to not speed through the campaign as fast as they can, but instead support them to come up with the most creative kills and in turn, maximise point potential, whilst being incredibly fun and rewarding at the same time.

There is nothing more satisfying than the game’s flexibility of the controls. The player is given many opportunities to tweak and customise their set-up, even if Bulletstorm’s default controls are comfortable and intuitive enough. Within an hour or two’s practice, pulling kicks, headshots and leash combos can be done with absolute ease and finesse.

Campaign is seen slightly as a tutorial mode, preparation if you will for the much entertaining ‘Echoes’ mode (since the campaign is so short, but very, very sweet). Echoes mode provides segments from the campaign, cropped and cut into bite sized segments.  Since each echo is scored individually on leaderboards and compared to with those on your friends list, it’s a fantastic mode to prove your worth at the game with some friendly score boasting action. It’s no multiplayer mode, but it takes video gaming back to square one where the highest score on a level was something to truly brag playfully about. It’s light, competitive fun without being too serious, which is one hell of a benefit for Bulletstorm. It’s a shame that the co-operative campaign mode was decided to be excluded from the final product, since more modes to play the game in would certainly be merrier. However, multiplayer is far from ruled out entirely as there’s the always entertaining Anarchy mode instead.

All in all, Bulletstorm is quite the unique take on the shooter genre, especially in its debut as a brand new IP. Just like the game would suggest, it has kicked the door open of the metaphorical FPS frat house, chugged a keg of beer and beat up all the other shooters for acting too serious. It still has a little work to be done but if this becomes an ongoing franchise, it’s one hell of an initial performance. The game is brutal, crude, offensive, in your face and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bulletstorm

85%

The Good –

  • Fantastic visuals and art direction.
  • The competitive “Echoes” mode.
  • Comfortable controls.
  • Skill Shot system.
  • Refreshingly new IP.

The Bad –

  • Random profanity in the otherwise nice dialogue.
  • The unnecessary rare melodrama in the campaign.
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