So it’s finally here. Easily one of 2011′s most anticipated games, Bulletstorm is now out in stores and ready for gamers to sink their teeth into. Brought to us by People Can Fly and EPIC Games, the game certainly had a lot to live up to. EPIC Games is responsible for a little series called Gears of War, you may have heard of it, just maybe.
Spawning legions of Gears fans, EPIC knew that they couldn’t let their followers down, and so they came up with Bulletstorm. A balls to the wall, in your face shooter that promised over the top carnage, a devilishly appealing arsenal of weapons and numerous creative and exciting ways to dispatch your enemies.
The question is, did they deliver? Does EPIC live up to the name they built for themselves with Gears of War, or is Bulletstorm a let down, nothing more than a time filler while we wait for Gears 3?
Bulletstorm puts you in the shoes of Grayson Hunt, a space pirate in the 26th century. Hunt and his partner Ishi Sato used to be part of a special ops team for the government, until they were betrayed by their boss. A number of years later, Grayson, while in a drunken rage, tries to get revenge on their boss, General Sarrano. While in space, he orders a full frontal assault on the General’s ship. A battle begins and both ships end up crashing on a planet called Stygia. While there, Grayson and Ishi encounter numerous enemies and fight to get off the planet, all while trying to get revenge on the General, who is also somewhere on the planet.
It’s not much of a story, but it works, and I’m assuming most of you didn’t come here for a Heavy Rain-esque plot line, so you shouldn’t worry about the plot too much. It does its job in that it serves as a backdrop for the bloodbath that is about to ensue as you and Ishi fight your way through a unique variety of enemies and try to escape the planet. Expect swearing, grunting, usual tough guy banter and anything else that was found in Gears.
Now let’s start at the beginning. At it’s core, Bulletstorm is a shooter. Yes, it’s true, just another FPS. But, that is only at its core. In reality, Bulletstorm is so much more. In fact, it can be whatever you want it to be. Setting Bulletstorm apart from every other game in the over-saturated FPS market is a few things, one of which is the leash. Think of it like a grapple hook. Aside from the obvious puzzle-game uses, such as pulling objects away to clear a path, pulling down explosive barrels onto your enemies etc, the leash also acts as your best friend when it comes to taking care of enemies.
With the leash, you can pull any enemy toward you, as they fly towards you, they float in the air in a slo-mo fashion, allowing you to take aim at whichever body part you wish. Now you’re also equipped with gaming’s largest boot, which you may wish to use as a follow up to your enemy who has just been ‘leashed’ and is currently floating in front of you in slo-mo. While it will get the job done, why kick when you can get much much more creative?
As with most FPS games, you can upgrade and buy new weapons. And on that note, there are quite a few weapons that are just far too cool. Sure, you have your regular assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, etc. But wait until you unlock things like the Bouncer or Flailgun. To do so though, you need points and points are earned from kills. The more creative, inventive and original your kills are, the more points you get. So sure, you can leash an enemy towards you and kick him while he’s in mid air, but that’s not too original and won’t earn you a whole lot of points. Instead, why not try some of the other Skillshots. What are Skillshots you ask? Let me explain.
Skillshots are different types of kills you can perform. They encompass every type of kill you can possibly conjure up, and then some. You name a kill, the game will have a Skillshot for it. There are a ton of Skillshots and they can all be viewed in the menu. Each weapon has it’s own Skillshots and then there are some general ones, like the one I explained above, which is called Bullet Kick. The more creative/difficult to pull off that the Skillshot is, the more points you get. So while leashing followed by a kick may earn you minimal points, something like kicking your enemy into an electrical wire, known as the Shocker, may earn you more.
Or what about sliding into an enemy and finishing him off, up close with a shotgun blast, also known as the Torpedo. If you don’t fancy any of those, why not use the leash to launch a group of enemies in the air, kill all enemies, and kill the first leashed one last. That one is known as First In, Last Out, clever eh? Anyways, you see my point, there are a ton of Skillshots, so creativity is rewarded here. It’s almost like a Pokemon mentality, gotta catch em all, or in this case, gotta execute them all. You can look at which Skillshots you’ve done and which you have yet to pull off, creating an obsessive desire to try them all.
The more enemies the better, as you can get even more creative and add more style into your kills, resulting in big point gains and wicked carnage. It’s this creativity that sets Bulletstorm apart from any other FPS out there. Usually games only reward you with achievements for being creative, but in Bulletstorm, it’s almost essential for you to use your creativity since you need those points. And with more than enough weapons to choose from and a large treasure chest of Skillshots to try out, things simply never get boring. Let your imagination run wild because you will be rewarded. And don’t be afraid to use the environment. Explosive barrels, electric wire, spikes, and more sadistic items show up along the way, making sure you have enough ways to dish out the death.
When in a large firefight, the game almost turns into a puzzle of sorts, as you assess the different types of enemies and determine which Skillshots/weapons would exploit them best. The game also never lingers and nothing seems like filler. The campaign moves at a brisk pace, gently easing you into the game’s mechanics in the early stages so you’re well prepared for later levels. Combat is punctuated by impressive set pieces and a couple on rails scenes, giving the campaign plenty of ‘wow’ moments. As you get comfortable with the game mechanics, the campaign picks up and takes off, moving at a relentless pace, rarely slowing down and always providing excitement.
In ways, Bulletstorm feels a lot like Gears. From the design, to the characters, to the gameplay, you can tell EPIC was behind the game, and that’s a good thing. And seeing as EPIC was involved, you can be sure that the game looks great. Varied environments frequent the world and they all look spectacular (despite the texture pop-ins). The environments are colourful and vibrant, instantly catching your eye as you admire the detailed level design. As for the carnage, well it’s rather impressive. Bloody and beautiful, at the same time. Body parts explode in a symphony of violence as crimson strokes paint your screen.
And the fun doesn’t stop with the campaign. Also offered here are two more modes, Echoes and Anarchy. Echoes is a sort of time trial mode. You will be able to replay various sections from the campaign, trying to finish as fast as possible all while pulling off wicked Skillsshots in hopes of earning points. At the end, you’ll be given a star rating. The more stars you earn, the more stages you unlock.
Anarchy is Bulletstorm’s take on the Horde mode from Gears of War. You can hop online with a group of other gung ho players as you fight off waves of enemies. The catch is, you must score enough points to move on to the next round, as well as clear out all the enemies on the current stage. And oh yes, there are special Team Skillshots to pull off, which are just as awesome as the Skillshots found in the campaign.
I didn’t care much for Echoes mode, as I usually don’t put much time into time trial type modes, but I did really like Anarchy. It requires a ton of team work as in the later levels, each enemy becomes a resource. A resource for points. As some of the later levels require a lot of points to progress and you’re really going to have to pull off some nifty Skillshots to proceed.
Now it should be noted, the game isn’t perfect. I ran into a number of bugs, one in particular saw me getting stuck in a staircase which was quite annoying. The AI also wasn’t terribly smart and your AI partner won’t be of much use to you. And then there are those texture pop-ins which I mentioned before. The game’s story also isn’t great and at times takes it self far too seriously for a game of this nature. These are all little annoyances though in what is otherwise a fantastic gaming experience.
Bulletstorm is everything it promised and more. A couple bugs hold it back from being perfect and some competitive online modes would have been nice, but overall, it’s a real refreshing addition to the already too crowded FPS market. The Skillshot system is brilliant and the combat is just so satisfying and enjoyable. I couldn’t see many FPS fans not liking this one and for the sheer inventiveness, creativity and freshness alone I would recommend a purchase. EPIC Games has once again proven that they craft fantastic games and you can expect Bulletstorm to still be on people’s minds when those GOTY conversations come up.
Bulletstorm was released on February 22nd, 2011.