Bulletstorm Review

Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: February 22, 2011

I’ve beaten into the ground on how much I dislike where first person shooters are going in their serious, monotonous tones. Developer People Can Fly seems to share my opinion as their latest game is a shooter filled with dick jokes and lots of rowdy redneck ways of killing enemies. Strap it on and get ready for Bulletstorm.

Did Bulletstorm need a plot? To be honest, not really, but just the sheer fact that it has one that is worth paying attention to is some sort of win. Grayson Hunt, your Wolverine look-alike character, is part of a mercenary group tasked to murder certain individuals under the command of their leader, General Victor Sarrano. Little did they know that their happy trigger pulling led to the deaths of innocents set up to be killed by Sarrano’s crooked will. Being reasonably pissed at being manipulated, Hunt, in a drunken rage, destroys Sarrano’s ship but also blows up his own vessel in the process. The ships crash land on the lunatic-infested planet Stygia and Hunt and half-robot partner Ishi seek revenge on Sarrano for all the death and destruction he has initiated. It doesn’t sound like a deep story, and to be cynical it isn’t, but it changes itself up by adding new objectives with different characters to keep it from devolving into a stale romp.

Actually I would contribute the characters and their personality for injecting interest in the plot. Everyone is constantly communicating so you always feel like you are more than just a camera with a gun stuck on it. And given that they are genuinely funny and have personalities does wonders for your enjoyment.

Before this game came out, it was poorly marketed with having foul-mouthed, juvenile writing that poised it as something that only a twelve year old brain can enjoy. While there is plenty swearing, there is a certain amount of class to it and it rarely seems like they are going too far just for a chuckle. In fact, I’d say the writing is pretty funny and light-hearted. All the characters swear a lot with most curses being almost like my games of mad-libs. You take a word and add “dick” or “shit” to it and voila, you have Bulletstorm dialogue. Does it sound counteractive to my above statement of having class? Well, yes but Bulletstorm‘s comedic gags don’t just focus purely on one juvenile aspect of balls. Jokes have variety and a certain wittiness that blends rather nicely with the shit-dick-cock-ass-penis punchlines. There is a fine line to straddle between mindless vulgarity and classy toilet humor but Bulletstorm finds the line almost perfectly.

Bulletstorm doesn’t want you to play it like a normal shooter. Instead, it begs you to kill with skill and it sets up a great system to do so. First hour or so aside, there is a point system in place with double entendre-filled “skill shots” to judge you on how well you dispose of your enemies and this is where the title excels. You are encouraged to not just aim down your sights and fire, but to look around and be creative with murdering. See hanging electrical wires? Why not use your electro-leash to whip him and drive your boot to his shocking death? Or kick his ass off the ledge? Or into ravenous, fish-infested waters? Perhaps shooting him between in the ass cheeks with a giant drill? The possibility aren’t endless (131 skill shots in total) but there are so many of them that you don’t really ever feel that you are limited or stuck into performing the same tried-and-true methods. More and more variables get added in at almost a chapter-to-chapter basis ensuring that killing doesn’t get stale. In the seven or eight hours it took to finish, I rarely felt that I didn’t have plenty of options to keep slaying in style.

Skill shots may be fun and they are augmented by the silly but incredible weapons at play. Bulletstorm just doesn’t do normal firearms. Double barreled shotgun? Boring! How about a quadruple barreled shotgun with ability to set an entire room ablaze with an alternate fire? I couldn’t find a gun I didn’t like shooting at the crazy inhabitants, so choosing only three at a time was tough. All of the weapons have some spin on the tried concept but come off feeling completely fresh and fun to shoot, and in combination with the leash and boot, there is a lot to experiment with. Each also has plenty of skill shots associated with it so experimentation is required for getting the most points to spend on upgrades and ammo.

Campaign mode isn’t the only way to experience Bulletstorm. On the disc lies two other modes: Echoes and Anarchy. Echoes are snippets of single player missions with one sole purpose: score a shit-ton of points. Cutscenes and story moments are absent, leaving the focus on killing with style. Scores can also be compared against friends to keep the competitive spirit alive. It’s a fun, welcome mode as it breaks the game down to its essence of points. You’ve already played these moments, so they aren’t really new, but they are great for a quick fix for dick kicks.

Anarchy mode is Bulletstorm‘s take on wave-based survival, with points and co-op. A certain threshold of points must be met to move on so teamwork is necessary to succeed, especially with achieving the co-op skill shots. Reliant friends who work together would be better because, in my experience, random strangers don’t cooperate as well so failure is more probable. Regardless, this mode boosts off the strengths of the core game mechanics and it still shines with other people.

Epic Games is famous for their Unreal Engine that powers a huge chunk of today’s games. Since People Can Fly is under Epic’s wing, it is only right for them to use that same engine. While not as technically impressive (objects can look rough and animations can look goofy) as other games, the color palette has a lot if variety. Browns still infest the world but so do oranges and greens permeate the alien planet just as much. A lot can be said for a shooter that can resist the urge to paste all environments with dull browns and grays.

It’s a shame the actual technology wasn’t used a bit better, as technical issues can mar the experience a bit. Even after lengthy load times, texture pop-in is everywhere. There was multiple times where I would stare at an incredibly ugly object or person and watch the detail slowly come into view. Texture pop-in is par for the course in Unreal Engine games, but it seems a lot more prevalent here. The frame rate also dips when the action gets hectic but never to unplayable levels. None of these problems destroy the experience but it is enough to be annoying.

Bulletstorm reminds me of the Hooter’s slogan, “Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.” While there is a lack of gigantic breasts and expensive burgers in Bulletstorm, there’s a certain quirkiness and exciting shooting present to make the entire trip one well worth taking. Besides, how many games have an ass shot have the same value as a head shot?

+Funny, mildly offensive dialogue
+Characters have personalities
+Skill shots are a blast
+Colorful and crazy world
+Guns and powers are inventive and fun
-Texture pop-in is everywhere
-Lots of loading
-Environment detail and animations can look crude

Final Score: 8.5/10

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