Review: Bulletstorm

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.

[boxout]You begin the game by getting acquainted with Grayson Hunt and the rest of his four man squad of ex special forces nut cases. It’s clear that the team, now mostly hard drinking, hard fighting space pirates, have fallen out of the habits of a strict military regime. Bulletstorm goes out of its way to make sure that players understand that these guys are the epitome of roguish pirate anti-heroes.

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.

the spiritual successor to Duke Nukem

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.

brilliantly executed and very well timed

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.

Score: 8/10

Note: Due to EA’s Online Pass system, the multiplayer element of this game could not be tested for review.



  1. A-ha…. So PS3 owners really ought to go with KZ3 then. Seriously, why are people still using the Unreal Engine (I know it’s an Epicgame – but still).

    • Why not do what I did and get both? Bulletstorm is a great game, and so far I’ve only played about 20 mins of KZ3 multiplayer, the rest of the time I’ve been playing Bulletstorm.

      With regard to the game engine, I have no problem whatsoever with developers still using the unreal engine if they can maximise its potential, as People Can Fly clearly have.

      • i did that.

        so far i’ve played 1 hour Bulletstorm, no Killzone, and 15 hours Mass Effect 2 :D

      • Haha, seems right to me. The Mass Effect series can really suck you in.

      • Get both? reason is some of us are on limited budgets (3 kids, mortgage etc…) plus some of us might of…ahem blown their gaming budget on a Helghast Edition ;)

  2. Great review, I dont know what it is but i’m just not feeling it. I dont know whether its Cliffy ‘The Prick’ B’s arrogance, the dated looking engine or the fact its just a bit bizarre?

    I think for me it will probably be filed with not that interested in it titles like Enslaved and Blur.

    I must say Killzone 3 plays a part as the quality of that game is so high. I am really taken back by how awesome the game is so I just would have the time for it.

    You know itll be like playing Prototype after inFamous……

  3. I hear if you play Half-Life 2 and Bulletstorm back-to-back you’re almost guaranteed a psychic-break.

    • If you play Half-Life 2 and Bulletstorm back to back you must have been in a coma for quite some years. ;)

  4. Sounds like it’s exactly what I had anticipated. I’ll pick this up on the weekend then. Great review. One worry I have though, does the whole leash, kick, shoot mechanic get boring?

    • I thought it got boring in the demo!

    • Only if you don’t try out new skill shots and don’t make the best of the environment of the levels. But if that is the case then you shouldn’t be playing this game anyways.

      • it was fun for about 5 minutes, but I agree with 3shirts, it got seriously boring very quickly.

        and you’re right, if you like fps game in general this probably won’t hold your interest, as this is aimed more at people who are only interested in point building and repeating the same thing over and over until they get it perfect.

        I did like the humour though…dicktits is a great put-down.

  5. Had the game since Saturday and I’m really enjoying it. I’m usually not into FPS multiplayer modes but the Anarchy mode is really fun.
    It’s a coop type of gameplay that puts a group of 4 against predefined waves of enemies with the only goal to reach a certain amount of combined skill points by the end of the round in order to proceed. At the end of each round a short tally shows you how each member of the team performed and EXP are rewarded to unlock new customization options for your character. There are only a few levels to play online but that’s really all you need because the better you know your environment, the better are your chances to perform skill shots and achieve those special team based skill shot kills to gain those extra points.
    For me this game was well worth the purchase.
    Nice review!

  6. Sounds exactly like what I was expecting.

  7. played the demo, seemed like fun, but kinda meh as well, then i got stuck on the ceiling on the bit where you have to kick a door away to progress, that will probably be the last time i ever play bulletstorm.

    • I have always been told that it is a bad idea to judge a game based solely on the demo… that’s what reviews are for. :)

      I can tell you from personal experience that Bulletstorm is superb fun, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

  8. Shame you couldn’t review the online multiplayer as it’ll probably be on that where this game succeeds or fails. As a matter of interest, why did ea’s online pass system mean you couldn’t review the mp?

  9. Not really interested in this. Would have liked to have heard your thoughts on the multi-player though.

  10. Decent review and the demo was fun enough but i think i would only play it in short bursts so KZ3 will be taking priority – just as soon as i finish ME2!

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