On the surface, Bulletstorm appears to be a rather colourful but dumb first person shooter, with the main draw of the game being the over-the-top action, realised with the leash that you could use to throw enemies around the screen, and the various combos you could pull to increase your score. However, dig beneath this absurd surface you can find a story and world that offers a lot to look at.
Let’s begin with the core story, which revolves around civilian murders disguised as black ops missions, revenge and survival on a planet filled with murderous inhabitants. The main plot concerns Grayson Hunt, soldier turned space pirate, and his lust for revenge against his former commander, Star General Sarrano. Grayson is hurting from realising that he was duped into killing civilians, and he sees killing Sarrano as redemption.[drop2]But who were the murdered civilians that Sarrano had killed? We only know of one and that is a reporter, Bryce Novak, who found out about the hits and was compiling a list of the murdered. He was murdered for digging, but how did Sarrano get into this situation in the first place?
Maybe it began as Sarrano finding a legitimate threat to his people, a civilian that was planning some form of attack. Maybe that first kill was legitimate but then Sarrano became paranoid, seeing a threat around every corner. Eventually his own paranoia led to his squad finding about the murders and he inadvertently created a real, legitimate threat to his power.
Grayson along with his crew desert and become pirates spend ten years harbouring their resentment and hate for Sarrano. Eventually they cross paths and Grayson sacrifices almost everything to exact his revenge including his ship and some of his crew mates. This sacrifice isn’t great enough, instead sending both adversaries to Stygia, the murder planet.
The Stygian backdrop is incredibly interesting by itself. As you run around leashing mutants and kicking them across colourful vistas you’ll notice some of the fantastic, and rather deluxe buildings around you. On the surface Stygia looks to have been a very rich and powerful planet, perhaps home to some important galactic individuals.
However all of this was propped up by prisoners who maintained the planet’s systems like slaves, while the rich enjoyed their paradise cities. Eventually the prison population rebelled, unleashing a radiation on the population which turned everyone into mutants. A whole planet went dark, one which would have been a centre of trade and tourism.
How did the rest of society react to the the loss of an entire planet? Did they know of the events that surrounded Stygia? It could be that the government covered it up, blaming natural disasters for destroying the settlement and banning travel to the planet. Grayson only finds out about the incident because Sarrono tells him, and might’ve only known because he had the right clearance level.
Millions would have died and their deaths would remain a mystery to the rest of galactic society; Stygia went from a lush, deluxe tourist destination to a barren environment within a short amount of time. The news of a prisoner rebellion would surely have been repressed too, because if Stygia was using prisoner labour then it stands to reason that other planets would use similar practices. The Stygian rebellion may have failed but another may have succeeded, and that would have led to a major shift in current society. The ruling powers just couldn’t have that.[drop]
This power struggle re-emerges between Grayson, the criminal pirate, and Sarrano, the representative of the Galactic government. At one point the two are put in a situation where they work together but it is an uneven alliance. Grayson is only following orders, much like the prisoners followed the orders of the government, and eventually it almost becomes Grayson’s downfall.
Once again Grayson becomes the victim of Sarrano’s plans, because the situation where they worked together led Grayson to activating a bomb that would wipe all life out on the planet, while his foe escaped. Once again Grayson has sentenced people to death because of Sarrano, who makes his escape before Grayson manages his own getaway Trishka Novak.
Novak is a victim of both Sarrano and Grayson as it was her father that was the aforementioned journalist. However when she learns of the murder she is able to do something Grayson can’t, forgive him. She realises Grayson was just a victim too and can forgive him for pulling the trigger. Grayson can’t do that because he feels responsible for killing so many people.
As the game ends, Sarrano still has the upper hand over Grayson. He is stronger, still has an army at his disposal and can make Grayson public enemy number one. Grayson on the other hand has lost the majority of his friends, failed to get his revenge and will continue to run. It’s a story where the hero of the tale doesn’t get what he wants.
Bulletstorm may have been all about the crazy and over the top violence, but beneath that there was a story and world full of depth. The Bulletstorm universe had a lot of potential stories, and possible stories regarding things like prisoner rebellions.
There is plenty of potential for more tales from the world of Bulletstorm.