There are few things in life more enjoyable than being pleasantly surprised. I observed the Bulletstorm hype train and it swore and massacred its way from announcement to launch day. I say observed because I didn’t give it much attention, it didn’t draw me in. I heard someone say that Bulletstorm appeared to be an 18 rated game marketed to 14 year olds, that did seem to be the case. But maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

Bulletstorm looked fun enough; a brutal shooter with a scoring system for style bringing to mind Sega’s The Club from a few years ago. I enjoyed The Club but it was a short lived enjoyment. I found the scoring runs in that game to be too demanding and stressful. Add to that the crude language and gore and I was expecting a cross between Army of Two and The Club, a combination I could happily pass up. But as Bulletstorm neared its launch day I started to hear things about a decent story and likable characters. Once the demo was released I was hearing good things about the Skillshot system. My interest was peaked and I wanted to give the game a shot.

Well, thank fuck I did. Once I started playing the campaign I found it very hard to stop. I played it from start to finish in three sittings of about three hours each before hitting the end. I find that eight to nine hours is the ideal length for a single-player campaign of a shooter. In Bulletstorm you are dragged non-stop through the story from start to end. The aim is simple – get the fuck off this crazy planet. You’ll stop killing and running for one of two reasons: to buy ammo, or to say something quite crude usually with the word ‘dick’ in it. The story, although simple, is engaging and I found myself really wanting everything to work out for these characters while at the same time laughing at plot twists so obvious that they become endearing. I think endearing is a good word for this game. Endearing despite its outer appearance. From playing the first ten minutes or so you would take the game lead, Grayson Hunt, to be a thoroughly despicable arsehole. But you’ll soon warm to him, his heart is in the right place and his cause is honourable if a little selfish. Morals, revenge and friendship are the themes here and they are handled well. Your main partner, Ishi, swings violently between these themes throughout the game and it keeps you thinking. In stark contract to my initial reservations, the crude language and demeanour of the cast is presented in such a way as to be very enjoyable. It’s just so over the top that it could never be taken seriously. Gray himself even questions the semantics of the threat ‘I’ll kill your dick’.

At the core Bulletstorm is a solid shooter; the weapons feel heavy and the bullets hit hard. The trick up its sleeve is the Skillshot system. Whereas the headshot is the golden goose of most shooters it is literally one of the dullest things you can do in Bulletstorm. You will be rewarded with skill points for each special kill you make, from the humble headshot up to complex weapon specific combos. To aid you you have several setups at your disposal: kicking, sliding and the leash. Kicking and sliding will pop your opponent up into the air and push them away from you in slow motion allowing for targeted shots (in the balls!) and environmental kills (into a giant cactus!). The leash, however, will grab someone from quite a distance and pull them towards you, slowing time as they get close. On their own or combined together you can essentially control enemies however you wish.

Once you have this mastered you will be pulling Skillshots with every encounter. There is a Skillshot list at hand to help you discover the kinds of chaos possible. Performing Skillshots gets you points used in the single player to buy ammo and upgrade your weapons. Working out how to set these up is great fun and a good challenge. It never becomes gimmicky or dull and is required to progress through the game; you will have a hard time if you rely on dropped ammo and stock level weapons. The skillshot feature really comes into its own in the game’s Echoes mode where you play through sections of the campaign, stripped of their story content, against the clock trying to rack up a score worthy of a place on the extensive leaderboards. To the credit of the games writers’ they even include a plausable reason for this scoring mechanism.

The world of Bulletstorm is visually split between the insides of spaceships and the surface of the brutal planet you are stranded on. The spaceships look great but this is standard Unreal Engine fare. It’s the landscapes and cities of the world that stand out, though, they are quite beautiful and in stark contrast to the creatures and mutated humans that enhabit them. It brings to mind the world of Enslaved, another Unreal Engine powered title, proving once again there is more to this engine than dusty browns and moody greys.

While Bulletstorm is an excellent game it is not without its issues. I experienced a couple of scripting issues that stopped me from progressing, forcing me to restart the section and the few vehicle sections in the game went on just a little too long for my liking. Checkpoints can be a bit harsh but playing the game on the default difficulty of Normal shouldn’t really give you any problems. I found it to be a good challenge but never felt overwhelmed, only really dying when I was too engrossed in getting a specific Skillshot to notice how much jam blood there was covering my screen.

While there are no traditional adversarial multiplayer modes on offer there is the Co-operative Anarchy mode. Think of this as a horde mode with added teamwork Skillshots. Each wave requires a specific combined score to pass and progress with added competition of who contributed the most amongst the team. A nice addition but I’m not sure the appeal will last for long.







2 responses to “Bulletstorm”

  1. TimG13 avatar

    I’m loving Bulletstorm. It’s simple, amusing and rewarding fun, and is a breath of fresh air to the genre.

  2. Paul avatar

    Got this on release day. It’s a good game, but very short lived.

    The campaign is short, the echoes are good, but mainly just replaying the levels from the campaign without the cutscenes.

    Excellent concept, well produced, and it draws you in to try and get more skill shots. Let’s hope there’s DLC to extend the life of the game, otherwise it’s trade-in-fodder 🙂

Leave a Reply