Let’s go back to 2011, when Call of Duty was just beginning to take over the free world and Overwatch was just a twinkle in Jeff Kaplan’s eyes. Back then, people wanted to shoot things, like, a whole lot, and many developers were frothing at the bit to sate their bloodlust. Bulletstorm stepped up to the plate, and it was a classic example of great game/poor sales. So how does the Full Clip Edition compare in this brave new world of 2017?
Set IN SPAAAACE, Bulletstorm follows Captain Grayson Hunt, a man with an improbably badass name, with the equally badass job of being a space pirate. After attacking the flagship of the Confederation of Planets in a drunken rage, he’s on a wild ride through a devastated landscape as he seeks revenge on the Star General who tricked him, ruined his life, and made him a murderer.
Yes it’s as silly as it sounds. Yes, that’s a good thing.
While it looks like your standard MAN SHOOT OTHER MANS FPS 2K17, Bulletstorm is as unique today as it was when first released. Bafflingly, despite other games in the genre stealing ideas like a Fallout player with no one else in sight, no one has ripped off the things that set Bulletstorm apart to begin with, so they remain fresh.
Chief among these innovations is the skillshot system, an arcadey interface which rewards the player with spendable points in exchange for killing people in inventive or bizarre ways. Kicking a guy into a cactus, off a cliff, or into some dangling electrical wires rewards your brutality with cash monies, letting you buy more stuff to keep that viscera coming. It makes discovering new methods of murder more fun than just collecting them all, and quite a few made me laugh out loud when I realised they were an actual thing.
Instead of run and gun, the name of the game is whip and boot; the psionic leash Grayson uses to whip enemies and objects around the map simply doesn’t get old, nor does kicking them to kingdom come. These actions also slow down time a bit, giving you a chance to land more sweet skillshots. At one point I spent a solid minute whipping and booting a guy repeatedly, laughing and revelling in his wails of terrified frustration; to be honest, the game is worth playing for that alone.
My therapist says I’m fine, by the way.
The controls aren’t great by today’s standards, with motion and aiming feeling clunky and unresponsive. The six of you who care about framerates will be very impressed with the solid 60 I was getting on the PS4, but I found that the smoothness of the visuals made the controls feel even worse. None of the button layouts felt good either, and I found myself longing for more customisable controls, but maybe I’ve been spoiled by more recent games with modifiable layouts. Looking at you, Overwatch.
Plus you can’t jump. What’s up with that?
Say what you like about the rest of the game, but I will fight the person who tells me it doesn’t look good. The remastered graphics are extremely welcome, and give those frantic "oh God who’s shooting me oh there’s so many of them quick shoot no run aaaaah" moments the kick they need to give you palpitations. There are some tremendous vistas on good old Stygia, with a number of impressive action sequences rendered beautifully on Unreal Engine 4, which shows them off to their fullest potential. Apocalyptic wastelands never looked so good.
The soundtrack is… well it’s there. I’m being unfair, I know, because it’s not bad, but in a post-DOOM world it’s hard to remember a time when this was cutting edge. It’s good, and gets the job done, but is ultimately forgettable by comparison to other games with the same schtick. You’ll enjoy it while it’s there, but it’s not one you’ll be rushing out to grab on vinyl.
The Duke Nukem DLC is, by a wide margin, the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. While I’m personally not a fan of the Duke, even if I was I cannot see any reason to play the game with him instead of Grayson. I only played very briefly with Nukem, and couldn’t drag myself further through. While there are new lines recorded for Duke, no one else’s lines are redone, which is by turns bizarre or chuckleworthy; this break in reality is, sadly, the best part of the DLC. Unless you got him for free, or are inexplicably super into the least likable protagonist in gaming, don’t bother.
There’s a skill mode called Echoes, which runs like a time-trial if you want to be the best damn space pirate you can be, and I could see it adding a fair amount of replayability to the vanilla experience; the speedrunner in you will love it. There’s also a co-op multiplayer, but it didn’t grab me, not only because people kept DCing and I swear, these people are the worst of us all.
I like Bulletstorm. I like its tongue in cheek, in your face attitude, and I like that it tried to do something new in a time when nobody else was doing so. Is it a good game? Yes. Is it a great game? Probably not anymore. Unfortunately the Full Clip Edition has fallen into the trap of a remaster that, while I’m sure people wanted it, just doesn’t live up to the memory of the original. A sequel would probably have been a better move; this cliffhanger only hurts more the second time People Can Fly, come on!
But in the end it’s a romp. A bit pricey for what it is, but most remasters are. I’d play it again, but I’d wait for a sale before taking the plunge.
Brian received a digital copy of Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition from Gearbox for review.