Riley Little of Game Rant reviews Bulletstorm
The modern day FPS is action-packed and filled with countless bad guys to shoot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the genre has started to feel like it’s teetering on the edge of monotony.
Fortunately, it’s the former. When a game like Bulletstorm comes along and takes the normal shooter tropes, and throws them right back in the industry’s face, you know there’s something special about the title. Epic Games and People Can Fly have done quite well with a game that seemed solely established on jokes about bowel movements and comparing male genitalia. While Bulletstorm is by no means a perfect game, the over-the-top combat and entertaining dialogue will ensure that gamers who view Bulletstorm as a campy but fun ride – will thoroughly enjoy their time spent on Stygia.
The main story follows the misadventures of the game’s protagonist Grayson Hunt and his band of ex-mercenaries-turned-outlaws as they travel around in space attacking and looting confederate ships for their booty. The story really picks up when Hunt and his crew randomly encounter a massive Confederate ship that has a certain General on-board that the space pirate is anxious to exact revenge on. The end result of their kamikaze assault on the ship ensures that both groups are successfully stranded on the planet Stygia – essentially a tourist planet that has been ripped apart by rival gangs, mutants, and a massive dinosaur.
Hunt’s focus shifts from getting revenge to getting his surviving buddies off the planet alive — although revenge never leaves the back of his mind. The story isn’t revolutionary in concept, but that doesn’t stop it from remaining an adrenaline-fueled pleasurfest for a large portion of the campaign. People won’t buy this game for the story though, they’ll buy it for the gameplay, and the second players are exposed to the combat they are sure to be more than pleased.
Bulletstorm takes a route that hasn’t been explored in other titles in the FPS genre. The combat utilizes a point system for unique and inventive ways that baddies get dispatched – so if the player kicks an enemy into a cactus then they’ll receive a certain amount of points based on how difficult the kill was to pull off. The various methods in which players can dispose of enemies are called ‘Skill Shots’, and there are literally over ten dozen of them just waiting to be discovered. The points gathered from these ‘Skill Shots’ can be used in the game’s campaign to purchase upgrades for weapons that can be found throughout the player’s journey.
The weapons that are prominently featured in the game only add to the dozens of creative ways players can send waves of mutant cannon fodder to their makers. One of the main weapons that comes into play throughout the campaign is the leash. This device allows Hunt to reach out and grab enemies from a distance — causing the enemies to fly through the air in Hunt’s direction. If there happens to be razor wire or live electrical wires within the enemy’s direct route (as they are sailing through the air) then they’ll get impaled (or fried, respectively). Also, after an enemy is booted or leashed, Bulletstorm sends Hunt into Matrix-like bullet time, giving him a few seconds with his enemy moving in a slowed state – and, subsequently, extremely vulnerable to all kinds of sick and twisted assaults.
The only problem with the game’s campaign was, after facing wave after wave of generic enemies, there were several moments where killing bad guys with style simply wasn’t possible – working against the core gameplay mechanic. Certain areas in the campaign are completely overrun by enemies, so gameplay simply becomes “kick this guy into a cactus” or even worse “I can’t even stick my head out from behind cover to kill these guys! Where the hell are they shooting me from?” The kick and slide kick mechanics can also be a bit wonky, sometimes missing enemies and allowing them to circle Hunt, leaving the player frantically spinning around in an attempt to find where they had gone.
The visuals in Bulletstorm are beautiful, and really show what the Unreal Engine is capable of. A large majority of the chapters and backdrops in the game offer up a bright side of the game’s engine – one that hasn’t really been explored in other titles that have utilized Unreal. Giant spinning wheels of death, massive man-eating dinosaurs, and crumbling building are all beautifully rendered – and help to make the game standout amongst the sea of other similar titles. Sure, the graphics offered by the Unreal Engine aren’t the best currently on the market, but they certainly aren’t an eyesore either.
Bulletstorm also has a couple of other options besides the standard campaign mode, one of them being an entry called “Echoes” – which adds a lot of replay value to the game. Gamers will play through certain parts of the campaign in an attempt to maximize points and skill shots. The mode gives players a rank based on their performance using the classic gold star ranking system – so if players complete the level in a set amount of time and manage to rack up a decent amount of points, they can receive a maximum of three stars. Collecting stars will unlock more levels to play in ‘Echoes’ – which means the higher you score then the more you unlock.
While gold stars are awesome, it’s the global leaderboards that are the main draw in ‘Echoes.’ After completing a level your score will become immortalized in Bulletstorm‘s leaderboards, and you’re score will be seen by your friends (as well as the thousands of others who are interested in being the most skilled… skill shot on Stygia).
The game mode definitely adds replay value; that said, it’s more of a last minute attempt to incorporate leaderboards into the game – rather than a fully-formed addition. Had People Can Fly added leaderboards to the game’s main chapters in the story, rather then picking and choosing a few levels to feature them, then there would have been no need for ‘Echoes’ at all.
The final game offering in Bulletstorm is the multiplayer mode – and it’s a lot of fun. You and a team of up to three others are tasked with competing/co-operating to rack up a high enough score to complete each wave. The game prevents individuals from becoming too selfish with their own scores by occasionally dropping an enemy that must be taken down with team work to secure enough points to pass a wave.
These “co-opp-ortunites” (as I’ve so rightfully titled them) pop up fairly often throughout later waves, but after awhile they’re more tedious than engaging. The developers were right to include them, in order to encourage team work, but other than these staged occasions there’s absolutely no teamwork. Resulting in a mixed-bag experience where everyone is running around competing for kills – only to switch gears to working as a team on the fly. Multiplayer is almost a standard in modern video games, but the fun in Bulletstorm’s multiplayer runs out quickly thanks in part to a lack of lasting appeal.
Taking all of the negatives into consideration, Bulletstorm is still a standout title. The game offers up a fun twist on an over-flowing FPS genre and it’s truly an accomplishment to make anything standout among the vast sea of cover-based first-person shooters. The graphics are gorgeous, the story is enjoyable, and the combat is some of the most fun that a player can have in a shooter.
However, Bulletstorm replayability is almost non-existent. Unless you become a Bulletstorm addict – chasing the top of the leaderboards as well as every skill-shot, there’s no reason to go back and replay the campaign or any of the other modes. Players might, from time to time, pick up the multiplayer – but its appeal fades after a few matches.
For anyone looking for a fun game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is good for some innovative combat, as well as laughs along the way, then Bulletstorm is a solid offering – but if you are looking for a deep title with loads of replayability (and one without rectum jokes) then Epic Games “Kill with Skill” shooter might not be for you.
Bulletstorm is available now on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.