Bulletstorm Review

Bulletstorm Review
Game Name: Bulletstorm
Platforms: XBox 360, Playstation 3, Windows PC
Publisher(s): EA
Developer(s): People Can Fly, Epic Games
Genre(s): First-person Shooter
Release Date: February 22nd, 2011
ESRB Rating: M

In the last few years, the first-person shooter market has been overwhelmed by not only the quantity of titles, but the similar trends the genre has been following.  World War II games gave way to “modern warfare”, which is starting to give way to Vietnam DLC (though in the case of Magicka, one can only be amused).  On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve somehow made space marines into serious business, with nearly every game forcing the fate of the free world onto the player’s shoulders.  Refreshingly, Bulletstorm takes the road less traveled, joined by few modern titles (except for Serious Sam and a few others).  The game scraps all the “fate of the world” storylines for one of simple, drunken space pirate revenge, and it takes this simplicity throughout its mission design and gameplay philosophies.

Don’t let the smaller scope confuse you though.  Bulletstorm is riddled with action set pieces, most of which work well.  The controls are spot on, and the tone of the game, while incredibly, delightfully immature, is perfect for the characters included.  Implementation of creative, diverse weapons, including the almost ever present electric whip, help add diversity to the combat in a way that encourages player to use their imagination.  The point system is the cherry on top, the perfect way to cap off an already entertaining experience.  Everything comes together well in Bulletstorm, which was a necessity for a title that encourages players to “kill with skill”.  Hit the jump for more thoughts on what I liked, didn’t like, and what my favorite color is.

The good:

Skillshots: Really, you can’t go more than a few seconds without wanting to talk about how great the skillshot system is.  For years, gamers strove to set new high scores on their favorite games, but score based gameplay has largely disappeared in the last few years.  Seriously, how many titles can you think of with a scoring system that runs through the main game?  Maybe I’m sheltered, but I can’t think of many.  Bulletstorm bucks this trend, implementing a scoring system into the main campaign itself.  It even tries to explain it, but we’ll let that one slide.  Points are then rewarded by how creatively you kill your enemies.  Sure, you could just shoot the guy in front of you for ten points, or you could kick him into a giant cactus for a much more substantial score.  Furthermore, there’s a definite sense of risk and reward present in this system, because the points you earn are used to buy upgrades, ammo, and, in some cases, unlock new weapons.  These things are expensive too, even ammo, so you better get creative if you want to fight the massive waves of enemies coming your way with anything besides the leash and your time-slowing kick.

The weapons:  Now, if you’re starting to get concerned that you’re not skilled enough to execute elaborate, skillful attacks, then you should just look at your arsenal.  People Can Fly designed the weapons in this game with two goals, it would appear.  First, make them fun as hell to use.  Check.  Second, give the players a fighting chance to pull off something amazing with these weapons.  Double check.  The shotgun is an excellent example.  No stranger to the typical FPS load-out, shotguns in games are typically short / medium ranged weapons used for their stopping power, right?  The same is true in Bulletstorm, except your shotgun can very cleanly rip someone’s torso off their legs, netting you a nice chunk of points and the “Topless” skillshot.  While there aren’t many weapons, you tend not to notice since every gun has two firing modes (a more powerful charged shot), and each weapon has its own unique set of skillshots that encourage their use.  As a final note, there’s a gun that shoots giant drill bits, and it is as satisfying as you’re hoping.

The tone: Bulletstorm doesn’t take itself seriously.  If it did, the game and its characters would not work.  This is not to suggest that the developers slacked off, that they have designed a half-assed title; quite the opposite in fact.  However, any title that allows you to shoot a guy in the throat for the suggestive “Gag Reflex” skillshot knows exactly how it is being perceived.  The developers took this humor and ran with it, including such amusing touches as being able to shoot a man in the genitals and then kick his screaming head off his shoulders.  This humor doesn’t end with the skillshots; rather, it has taken complete control of the dialogue found throughout the title.  There isn’t much of the script that I could repeat here and not offend someone, but let’s just say that simple sentences are doubled in length by the amazing combination of adjectives and profanity that I never dreamed were possible. 

Anarchy mode: Anarchy mode is Bulletstorm‘s answer to the popular Horde / Invasion gametype.  Except this one involves four players with electric leashes and lots of environmental traps (including a giant fan that you can toss enemies in).  Anarchy mode also unlocks lots of new co-op skillshots, including the ability to have multiple leashes on one enemy.  I won’t describe in detail what occurs when you and your friends let go, but I will say it is analogous to sandblasting a soup cracker.

Echoes: The Echo gametype allows you to go back and replay specific moments of the game over and over again, all in an effort to earn a new high score.  It is a wonderfully old school concept found in a modern title.  While there are other games with similar modes (Resident Evil‘s Mercenaries mode comes to mind), this feels like a logical extension of Bulletstorm‘s testosterone-addicted campaign and, as such, deserves a mention.

So, it is all sunshine and rainbows in this review, huh?   Of course not, there are a few minor nitpicks.

The action: While it is good, and there is plenty of it, you kind of feel like Bulletstorm peaks early.  The last third of the game just isn’t as satisfying as the first two, and part of it has to do with the situations you find yourself in.  There are some nice little moments, like an electrical storm that you can throw enemies into, but most of it feels a little recycled after a certain point.  In an effort to avoid spoilers, this section has become kind of bare-boned.  Sorry about that.

Anarchy mode:  While it is a blast, it is a bit disappointing that Anarchy mode is the only multiplayer mode found in the game.  I know that there was some discussion about a scrapped co-op option for the campaign, but even a small, co-op specific mission or two would be nice.

The ending:  For a game all about player satisfaction, the ending is unsatisfying.  That’s all I’m going to say on that.

Favorite color: Green

Bulletstorm was played through to completion on the X Box 360.  Additional missions played in Echo Mode, as well as several matches of Anarchy mode.

  • http://padinga.com/members/laughingfish/ Andrew Allen

    A thoughtful and interesting review, although I think the tone is just obnoxious. But that’s just me.