According to a Fox News âexpertâ, Bulletstorm will turn all of our youth into raging homicidal maniacs - which translates as marketing gold for EA Games. Ignorant, fear-mongering reporting aside, Bulletstorm is certainly one violent, crude and barbaric game. Setting people on fire with flare guns, taking careful aim at the crotch region and chucking bodies onto spikes are low-key and boring methods for dispatching your foes in this game. What really sets this gameâs sadistic tendencies apart is the fact that it actually rewards you for every inventive or gruesome kill.
I have been playing first person shooters for years, and I always chuckle to myself when I pull off a particularly awesome move. After severing a guyâs head with a perfect ricochet shot Iâll often look around to see if anyone else saw it. Bulletstorm recognizes our inner perverse proclivities, going so far as to reward players by calling out particularly impressive moves - like âPrickedâ (for using a cactus as a weapon), âToplessâ (for chopping enemies in half), âPancakedâ (for crushing people with falling objects) and âAssplosionâ (you can just use your imagination for this one). The immature sexual innuendo is cheesey and some might find the constant barrage of awards irritating, but it sets Bulletstorm aside from a lot of other FPS games out there. Itâs fast-paced, balls-out, nonsensical fun.
But Bulletstorm isnât just a brainless gore-fest. Epic Games (Gears of War, Unreal) have put together a well-balanced mix of Ăźber weapons, creative characters, a bucket load of humour and a stunning depiction of a 26th Century world. In this gritty, yet colourful future you play as Grayson Hunt, a space pirate with the morals of a scrubbing brush and a penchant for liquor. For years he protected the Confederation of Planets as a solider in the black-ops army known as Dead Echo until one day when he is abruptly (and dishonourably) discharged by his traitorous commanding officer, General Sarrano.
Bulletstorm picks up ten years after this fact, as Hunt goes on a bender and attempts to seek revenge on his former commander. After a series of blunders, Hunt and his cyborg side-kick find themselves on the treacherous planet of Stygia, currently overrun with carnivorous plants, feral mutants, ruthless bandits, and gargantuan reptiles.
As you would expect, coming from the creators of Gears of War, Bulletstorm is a beautiful game. The sci-fi environments are refreshing and packed to the brim with subtle detail. The maps combine sprawling urban settings with alien-like fauna in wide open, easy to soak-in backdrops. The weapons are equally inventive, ranging from the simple Peacemaker Carbine pistol through to the crazy-go-nuts Bouncer Cannon that expels explosive, unpredictable bouncy balls that have the same chance of blowing you to pieces as they do your foes. When aimed straight into the face of an enemy, though, the Bouncer rewards you with the skill shot of âFacialâ. Of course.
The arsenal really is Bulletstormâs main draw card. The Boneduster is your standard shotgun, the Head Hunter is perfect for snipers (complete with controllable bullets, of course), the Flailgun ejaculates grenades all over the place, the Penetrator impales targets with a whirling drill, and plenty more. One of the trademark weapons in Bulletstorm is the âenergy leashâ, a lasso of blue light that lets you grab enemies and reach objects from a distance. It can be combined in all manner of ways, such as extending out combos, picking up ammo, and even pulling armour from your hapless foes before filling their exposed fleshy parts with bullet holes. With a bit of practice and good timing, youâll soon be able to send an enemy flying from a nearby explosion, grab him mid-air with your leash, pull him forward to kick him in the face, and then shoot his corpse as it flies away in slow-motion (the Juggler, +100 points).
Considering every weapon opens up a huge array of killing techniques, players will have no shortage of options. Oh and did I mention that every weapon has an equally powerful alternative fire as well? Pretty much every sadistic method of maiming, burning, dismembering, impaling, plunging, shooting, and ultimately killing a man has been catered for in the game and is just waiting for you to try out.
On top of the 6 â 8 hour roller-coaster of a campaign, Bulletstorm includes multiplayer carnage as well. However, oddly enough for a first person shooter, there are no deathmatch modes to be had. Instead, the only competitive multiplayer lies in trying to get the highest score across a variety of co-op maps.
Anarchy mode is similar to the horde gameplay seen in Gears of War, where up to four players can take on waves of baddies as a team. However unlike most horde-style multiplayer modes, your progression to the next wave depends on your joint score tally. Even if you take down everything in sight, if you havenât done it with enough creativity you might not progress. Co-op multiplayer also opens the doors to sweet multi-person âskill killsâ, letting you toss an enemy between all four of you like a rag-doll.
Finally there is also an action packed, singleplayer âbonusâ mode called âEchoesâ, where players get a chance to relive certain sections of the campaign. Replaying memorable levels with your finely-honed skills is a blast and you will often surprise yourself at how quickly you can plough through the goons after a couple of hours of practice. âEchoesâ judges you by both the amount of time it takes you to get through alive and also your score, requiring swift and stylish death to be dealt out from start to finish.
Bulletstorm isnât ground-breaking in any way. It felt like a delicious goulash of past shooters like Duke Nukem, Unreal Tournament, Serious Sam and Borderlands. But I still found myself laughing shamefully, cringing sympathetically and then replaying levels over and over to unlock a new kill achievement or just to let off some steam. Itâs the best kind of guilty pleasure. Itâs human nature to want to experiment. Some would argue itâs even human nature to want to cause wanton destruction as well. Bulletstorm delivers in both departments like a rocket-propelled grenade to the nads.