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Jeremy Jastrzab
01 Mar, 2011

Bulletstorm Review

360 Review | There is no storm like a Bulletstorm.
What better a way to shape up a genre than with a kick to the head? Literally. That’s exactly what Bulletstorm does. Having previously developed the remarkably enjoyable Painkiller titles, developer People Can Fly can genuinely claim to have created the most innovative first-person shooter in what seems to be ages. And they have done so with flair and aplomb. And a lot of innuendo…

Bulletstorm is an unashamedly brazen tale of an alcoholic Space Pirate’s revenge. Grayson Hunt drags his motley crew of former-mercenary miscreants across the galaxy to hunt down General Sarrano for sending them to carry out his dirty work. And from the moment that a drunken Gray uses his own ship as a missile against the General’s frigate, (causing all of you to crash land on the former Vegas-like adult entertainment planet of Elysium) you know you’re in for a hell of a ride. Leave your maturity at the door and seriousness on the coat rack, as Bulletstorm takes you through a surprisingly endearing journey interlaced by classic action sequences and profanity-driven dialogue that is uncannily entertaining.

The Bulletstorm plot doesn’t often try to be anything other than an entertaining action romp. While it holds itself together nicely, it’s predictable and rather embarrassing when it does try to be occasionally serious. Though when there is so much going on and the dialogue and scenarios are so laugh-out-loud entertaining, it really doesn’t matter. Rick Remender has managed to pen what will be probably upwards of 20 of the best lines you’ll hear in a video game all year. All the characters are surprisingly entertaining, with the banter between them providing endless highlights, and the overall humour nailing exactly what you’d expect from a shameless action romp – it’s crass, but not at all annoying. As mentioned though, it can get awkward when things try to get serious, and ending shameless for the wrong reasons.

Why are they staring at me?

Why are they staring at me?
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Humour and character are all good and well, but as mentioned up front, Bulletstorm really stands out for being the most innovative FPS in ages. The developers have used the step back to an old-school ‘run-and-gun’ approach to their advantage; going back to the basics has allowed them to change some of the genre ingredients and create a new recipe. While Bulletstorm gets off to an unnecessarily slow start, you find an electric whip quite early on in the game, which will revolutionise how you play through the advent of ‘skillshots’ – which combines a traditional run-and-gun experience with point scoring systems found in slash'em up action games.

Apparently, the mercs that replaced you sent their trainees to Elysium and the electric leash would grant them points for skilfully taking out their enemies. So while, killing the enemy will get you some points (like… 10?), you don’t start raking in the points until you start killing with skill. Head and crotch shots are just the start, as you’re rewarded with escalating point bounties through the creative use your weapons, the environment and particular situations. So just why do you need the skill points? Well, ammo is scarce and the only way you’ll get more is by trading your points in at drop points, where your weapons are upgraded too. Handily, as you find new weapons and new scenarios, knowing what skillshots can be performed is a button press away. And there are, overall, 131 skillshots that are possible.

Combining eight unique and varying weapons with your electric leash and the most awesome and devastating melee attack ever (a boot to the head), is perfect for unleashing the wide array of skillshots on offer. The leash and the boot complement each other perfectly, one for flinging enemies towards the boot that meets them. Both are also used to get around the environment too. You’re going to have to earn access to all the weapons, but they’re all completely different from one another, with great little twists that make the game unique. For example, you directly control the sniper rifle shot after it’s fired. Each weapon has a devastating ‘charge’ shot as well that will do you well in tight situations and opens even more skillshot opportunities. If you don’t explore and play by the skillshots, you’re going to find yourself a rather boring shooter and short on ammo.

I decree that you receive... A boot to the head!

I decree that you receive... A boot to the head!
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The best aspect of the skillshot scoring system is that it can be immensely rewarding without demanding an excessive level of skill to unlock the best goodies, as opposed to most action games with a similar system. Almost ironically for a game that has a penis joke in every second line, it’s remarkably strategic and demands a little bit of thought. To the credit of the level designers, each set piece is designed well enough to get you thinking about the best possible combinations of skillshots, without the need of god-like precision or intuition. Outside of the slow start, the changes of pace do a superb job of complementing the design. Without giving too much away, you’ve done some these things in games before… but not like they’re done in Bulletstorm – with total awesome. You know that level design and pacing are done well when you don’t ever notice how linear a game is.

Despite clocking in at fairly standard length of around eight to ten hours, the lack of a competitive multiplayer mode shouldn’t be held against the title. After all, the actual shooting isn’t the focus and the scoring system doesn’t even come close to being appropriate in a competitive mode. Still, the Echoes mode, which plays like an arcade mode of individual campaign scenarios, is surprisingly addictive as you try and maximise your score and earn some surprisingly elusive three star scores and top leaderboard spots. Now if you’re still after some multiplayer action, there is the Anarchy mode, which plays like Horde or Firefight. However, advancing through the twenty waves demands a particular points tally, as well as total enemy annihilation. This mode introduces team skillshots, which give massive points boots and are a must for advancing. Otherwise, you have a standard set of multiplayer customisation options that are allowed.

There are some minor issues that prevent Bulletstorm from being the grand poo-bah of the genre. The game can be rather trivial on most difficulty levels, which works well to accustom players at the beginning but it goes for a little too long. There are a few holes in the design that lead to excessive hand-holding through out. The weapon variety is excellent, but the upgrading scope is disappointingly low, while only being able to hold three at a time is a shame, especially given the old-school approach. It means that there is unnecessary guess work at the back end of the game over which combination of weapons to carry. This in turn leads to some creativity stilts after a while; the progression of creative possibilities can come to a halt, ironically, when the possibilities are presented too subtly.

A reason not to become vegetarian... When plants get their revenge!

A reason not to become vegetarian... When plants get their revenge!
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Epic has always made best use of their latest engine, so it’s no surprise that their subsidiary would make even better use of it. Bulletstorm has probably the best use of the Unreal 3 engine so far, with a remarkable variety of environments, excellent attention to detail, an art style befitting the themes and rock-solid performance for 95% of the game. Some aspects such as animations are starting to show some age but overall it still shows up most of the past engine efforts. The voice cast has been very well picked, and they deliver their crass-laden lines without being crass themselves - the cross team banter is really amusing. The sound effects are meaty and dense, while the track has some excellent action composition.

Bulletstorm is the breath of fresh air that was needed in a seemingly stale FPS genre. It takes a remarkably good idea, slides across the battlefield, kicks the enemy into the air and shoots him in the crotch with it. It’s that awesome, and exactly what you’d expect of a shameless, over-the-top and entertaining old-school action romp. And it’s great that the developers stuck to their guns and released the action shooter we all dreamed we’d be playing when watch the action classics of yesteryear, rather than releasing a sanitised product aimed at ‘everyone’. Just make sure you leave your maturity and sense at the door before you play.
The Score
Bulletstorm is the kick in the face that the FPS genre needed.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Bulletstorm Content

Bulletstorm launch trailer
24 Feb, 2011 Oh so epic.
Killing with Bulletstorm
07 Feb, 2011 Kill with skill!
Epic Games release 'Duty Calls'
03 Feb, 2011 So funny, yet so true.
16 Comments
3 years ago
Horrible pun, I must say icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
Pure Fun
3 years ago
I returned my copy, the game play was fun and all, but the story was god awful, its one of the only games I've actually skipped cut scenes with on my first playthrough
3 years ago
^ you play FPS for story?!?!?!?
3 years ago
Quote
I decree that you receive... A boot to the head!
I salute you sir! icon_smile.gif

3 years ago
A well deserved score.
Haven't had this much fun with an FPS in years.
3 years ago
Shadow Wave wrote
I returned my copy, the game play was fun and all, but the story was god awful, its one of the only games I've actually skipped cut scenes with on my first playthrough
Honestly what did you expect? It was always going to be a retarded fun instead of deep and meaningfull?
3 years ago
I didn't expect much, but yeah I dunno I just struggled to get into it. If Killzone 3 wasn't sitting next to it I might have stuck with it.
3 years ago
I liked the Bulletstorm story for most part, because I didn't take it seriously. As I said elsewhere it reminded me of a meathead 80's film like Commando or Predator. Nothing but gruff men, big guns, one liners, and a ton of explosions. All I needed was a reason, which was there, a crew, which I liked, and a villain, who I couldn't wait to put a bullet in.
3 years ago
I have to say, the start of the game drags it's heels something chronic. Once the Thumper unlocks for purchase though, it's hell for leather through a gauntlet of Mad Max rejects and crass one liners. So worth it.

Worthy review too, Jez!
3 years ago
Loved this game, but I must say that the lack of meaningful context hurt it. I totally get the 80s-throwback, meatheaded vibe the developers intended, but it just wasn't interesting to me. I just never felt connected to the world or characters. The mechanics are tremendously enjoyable, the visuals are lovely, but by golly did I grow a little bored of Bulletstorm by the endgame.

Something like Killzone 2 / 3 may have an equally terrible narrative, but its the context that makes all the difference. I like shooting the Helghast, and I connected with the aesthetic and vibe of the diegetic 'world' of the game. In Bulletstorm, the only thing I could connect to was the gameplay. In a sense, it wouldn't have made a difference if I was shooting cereal boxes. I just didn't care about it very much, even though I was having a lot of fun while playing.

Hmmm, Bulletstorm then. Enjoyable gameplay, but testament to the fact that my gaming tastes have changed. These days I need some context to mah shootin'.
3 years ago
Is this a little like Timesplitters?
Always wanted a 'fun' FPS to play for a while now.
3 years ago
Cant say I agree with you Michael. I actually quite liked the world and characters in Bulletstorm, and felt they had plenty of context. I really liked the overgrown, abandoned alien world setting and the various packs of aliens. It wasn't anything serious, but I think thats what I liked about it most of all; it was all over the top and crazy. Just one big maddening alien world.

Killzone's world is utterly phenomenal though. Guerilla are really up at the top when it comes to crafting really convincing and cohesive art. The only thing that knocks it back for me is the often overly serious tone, as I dont think most/any developers actually manage to do it well enough without it coming across as tacky and melodramatic.
3 years ago
Only in the two chapters in but I really like this game. Love the vibe. I think it does have a pretty cohesive world although I might just be filling in the blanks with other sci-fi stuff. I want a pet dinosaur!
3 years ago
Ken_Gooner wrote
Is this a little like Timesplitters?
Always wanted a 'fun' FPS to play for a while now.
More akin to Borderlands than Timesplitters.
3 years ago
Gameplay has more in common with Halo than Gears. Actually it reminds me most of Force Unleashed where you mostly just play with the emenies. It looks a bit like gears, though brighter and more orange although that's just becasue of the Unreal thing. I would say the story is a modern duke with acrossed with gears fibe. The humour is actually funny and while the story is on the simple side it is handled well (so far).
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  24/2/2011 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Electronic Arts
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  1

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