Loud, fast and obnoxious; Epic and People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm sets out to entertain our most base and crass of wants, and succeeds massively.
It’s a refreshing no-frills FPS with a simple gimmick that never gets old.
You are Grayson Hunt, A.K.A. typical shooter cliché guy with a fondness for profanities. He’s basically like a drunken Marcus Fenix.
Grayson is an ex-assassin/goon for the powerful Confederate General Sarrano, who tricked Grayson and his crew into killing innocent people. Naturally Grayson has a thirst for vengeance, which he gets an opportunity to quench in an early scene sending both the general’s cruiser and his own ship crash landing on the planet of Stygia in the process. Stygia is a gorgeously dilapidated home to a now ruined colony populated by gangs of maniacal humanoids.
Generally speaking the tale is very light hearted and doesn’t take it’s self too seriously, emphasized by over the top swearing which ventures into the realm of ridiculous on more than one occasion; “You’re gonna kill my dick? I’ll kill YOUR dick!!”.
This even gets a little awkward towards the end, with general Sarrano’s lines getting filthier and less funny with each word. I can kind of understand why some people have taken umbrage with this – still though- considering this is a game where “REAR ENTRY! – 250 Points” flashes onscreen when you shoot someone in the ass, I’m not sure what people were expecting.
“Skillshot” notifiers like the one above appear over an enemy pretty much any time you kill them with anything more creative than a body shot. Impaling them on spikes, sending them over ledges or into the line of incoming fire are just some of the ways to earn points that go towards ammo and weapon upgrades.
Right after crashing on Stygia, you’ll acquire a “leash”. An energy whip that lets you pull objects and enemies from a distance and interact with some scattered pieces of technology. The leash also gives one of the rare excuses for an in-game HUD that is actually believable, the HUD and skillshot system was part of a training exercise that used the equipment you find.
Combing the leash’s pull ability with the projectile weaponry is a very simple idea that works surprisingly smoothly. Leashing an enemy also slows down their movement as they veer towards you, lining up chances for impossible but entertaining ways to dispose of them. A melee ability (a kick) which also slows enemies rounds out your basic skillset.
The rest of the arsenal seems standard at first, but each has its own quirks and interesting alternate fires. The go-to assault rifle has a secondary blast that eviscerates flesh and will leave a red hot skeleton standing upright for a couple of seconds before collapsing. A Flail gun – two grenades chained together- can be used to trip up fleeing enemies, who can then be kicked into a group and detonated. A sniper rifles bullets are remote control, perfect for whipping around cover.
Each weapon has its own list of skillshots (which basically function like achievements) some listed, some not. So finding each one and the often hilarious name associated with it becomes a kind of mini game.
This pretty much never gets old, even as the actual game itself kind of falls flat towards the end and can’t really maintain the momentum.
There is a multiplayer component here, but it’s limited to just a “horde” style mode with small maps, and team-skillshots – where you work in tandem to take out enemies with co-ordinated moves. It will help if you actually know the person you’re playing with here.
I was hoping to play this campaign in co-op, but alas it’s not to be.
Bulletstorm is a showcase for the Unreal Engine 3, this is a vastly detailed, almost cartoonishly colorful environment that is consistently jaw dropping.
An early on-rails section where a giant mill wheel-thing rolls after a train is one of several highlights. An abandoned city has a ruined beauty that testifies to some magnificent talent in the art department. Enemies are varied enough (at least in appearance) and the blood and general carnage is set to 11 throughout.
Worth noting, the PC version seems to be ported from consoles, and suffers a little from it:
The default control setup can be a little jarring, with space being the sprint button, and quick-time events are plentiful.
More of an issue however, is that the game has problems with resolutions of the 16:10 aspect ratio. People report frame rate issues at that ratio, but switching to a ratio of 16:9 –even at a higher resolution- can increase performance. Obviously consoles work with 16:9 ratios such as 720p.
This is a little disappointing, and seems strange to me that I can run any other UE3 game at my max res with everything at maximum but have some stuttering with this game.
Looking at it on paper, it’s hard to understand why I found Bulletstorm such an engaging and refreshing experience. It’s a solid shooter with almost no additional content to keep up replay value, and it’s abound with clichés – supposedly a bad thing.
Yet even after I’ve finished the totally linear campaign I find myself going back to relive the bloodbath. Over the top violence, toilet humor and stunning visuals; it’s like a Saturday night action movie, perfect with a beer and a slice of pizza.