Bulletstorm is an all out assault on the senses. It’s relentless, brash and unforgiving. Just when you think you’re in to the rhythm of it and know what to expect, it throws something else at you. Bulletstorm, it turns out, doesn’t really like you very much.
- Developed by People Can Fly, an Epic Games studio.
- Published by EA for all HD platforms.
- Smart single player levelling system.
The initial tutorial sections serve to get you used to the way the controls work and the way the characters behave. Fairly soon you’ll witness the single-minded thirst for revenge that Grayson carries with him, the loyalty of his crew and, in a playable flashback sequence, the reason why he is hellbent on revenge.
You will end up stranded on a strange planet with one of your squad (Ishi), now struggling against the influence of a logic chip which was implanted in him, along with other robotic appendages, in an effort to save his life. Your quest is to get off the planet by locating and rescuing the very General that Grayson has been trying to get revenge against for ten years. If you don’t make it in time you may never get off the planet and get Ishi the medical attention he needs before the logic chip takes control of him entirely.
Bulletstorm is a first person shooter but it’s so far removed from the traditional big FPS hitters that to group it in the same genre is almost disingenuous. Bulletstorm is the spiritual successor to Duke Nukem, although using the word “spiritual” with regards to the Duke or Gray Hunt goes against our better judgement. It’s not just the frequent and necessary use of your boot that harks back to the Duke either, it’s the wisecracks – in as much as they are – and the setting. Mutant aliens infesting an entertainment complex while a wisecracking, foul mouthed meathead stomps and shoots his way through swathes of them. So far, so Duke.
That’s certainly not necessarily a negative point though. Duke Nukem was a fine game in its time and Bulletstorm is a fantastic modernisation of the format. People Can Fly really have made a great game here, although we say that with one or two reservations.
The humour in Bulletstorm is not only questionable, it verges on offensive and it often hinges on an amusement around homosexuality. It wouldn’t serve this review to delve too deeply into that issue but it’s worth mentioning that once or twice the jokes did fly a little closer to “ignorant abuse” than “good natured ribbing” and if you’re easily offended by such things then Bulletstorm is happy to provide you with a reason for offence.
The dialogue is awful. It’s delivered well, believable and confident but it sounds like it was written by a thirteen-year-old boy who doesn’t quite understand what those words mean. We’re certainly no prudes here and would rarely object to a well aimed curse word but in Bulletstorm they are neither well aimed, nor often intelligible. The script writers seem to think that just using strings of words that some consider offensive is going to continue to be funny and, after the first bizarre, disassociated insult is hurled, it quickly descends into unimaginative, unaccomplished strings of incomprehensible drivel. This is a shame because the voice work is solid and even the underlying plot is worthy of some praise.
The game starts off relatively slowly and builds pace towards an ending which is somewhat cheap. At times the action is so frenetic that you will readily take the opportunity to relax a little bit after working through an area of onrushing enemies. The large scale set pieces, whether delivered as an area attack or defence, or a boss battle, are extremely enjoyable and well imagined. The general structure and pacing of the game are brilliantly executed and very well timed to build towards the inevitable confrontation which ignites the end game and begins to tie up (or not, as the case may be) some loose ends.
Built on the Unreal Engine, Bulletstorm’s visuals are very much a known quantity. You should expect chunky character models with decent animation and shiny texturing. People Can Fly have squeezed the best out of the engine though, with some of the vistas over city -capes and sunsets being very striking. Particularly, the interplay between blues and oranges in the landscape is pronounced and often beautiful to stop and look at.
In addition to the stock FPS mechanics of gunplay and melee combat, you soon become equipped with an energy leash which reacts to your will and can be used to pull objects, interact with upgrade booths and slam groups of enemies into the air. This is the key ingredient to making the game’s other mechanic – that of the upgrade reward system – possible.
In Bulletstorm, you are awarded skill points based on how effective and imaginative you are in combat. Your energy leash grades your performance and awards you with points to spend on equipment upgrades and ammunition supplies at any of the abundant drop boxes littered around the environments. The aim is to get players using their leash, boot and weapons as well as environmental hazards, to deal out destruction to the planet’s inhabitants in often amusing ways.
It is this encouragement to “kill with skill” that gives birth to the Echoes mode. Basically a set of closed in levels played as memories taken out of the single player experience, this option on the main menu gives you a reason to keep playing through the same areas in order to better your score and compete with the scores of your friends. It’s a way to keep the game alive long after you’ve completed the single player story and it also serves as a training ground to perfect those skill combos.
- Hectic, over the top fun.
- Robust mechanics and well-realised world.
- Squeezes some beautiful surroundings out of the Unreal Engine.
- Rated for adults, written for children.
- Ending feels a little bit cheap.
Like Epic’s other great sci-fi franchise, Gears of War, this offering from People Can Fly is loud, brash and unapologetic. Bulletstorm is pure, unadulterated fun with a relentless onslaught of enemies and set pieces to keep the player constantly engaged but it is let down by the scripting and the failure to reach a suitable climax in the narrative. If you’re looking for puerile humour and non stop action then this is your game. If you want something with smart dialogue and thoughtful exposition then keep on looking, Bulletstorm is not for you.
Note: Due to EA’s Online Pass system, the multiplayer element of this game could not be tested for review.