March 24, 2011

Bulletstorm is the type of game that makes no excuses for itself. It is brash, ballsy and unflinchingly crass, but will its over-the-top action and humor allure an audience or drive it away like a poorly-executed joke? 

Not for the faint of heart, Bulletstorm strives to be a “mature” title by throwing all sorts of adult-themed potty-language at the player. This barrage of obscenity never ceases from the cut-scenes to the gameplay, as you constantly aim to get bigger points with ever more ridiculously-named skill shots that can easily offend the most amiable player. If you can get past this one quirk though, you are in for one of the most fun and fresh shooters to come along in a long time.

Seeing an opportunity to get revenge, Grayson Hunt drunkenly rams his spaceship through the flagship of the Confederate Navy, hoping to kill the commander who betrayed him and his squad years ago. As both ships crash on the former pleasure planet Stygia, Hunt is left with knowing his impudence killed his remaining squadmates and left his best-friend Ishi a cyborg. Swearing to make things right to Ishi, they leave the wreckage to face a hostile planet filled with gangs, murderous vegetation and building-sized monstrosities to find a way off of the rock, even if it means making friends with the enemy.

As trite as the story sounds, it is well-executed to the point that you actually care about the characters by the end of the story. Minor plot twists to introduce the villain into the party worked extremely well if just to hear the brilliantly-sarcastic General Sarrano coddle his former lackeys. Voice acting is superbly done as well, as it walks the fine line between cheesy one-liners and deeper moments when characters show their conflicted nature. All of this is done while maintaining a brisk pace.

This game is all about action. Not content to be a standard shooter, Bulletstorm tries to pull out all the stops for over-the-top kills, giving them names and point values in the way of the Skill Point system. The harder it is to execute a kill, the more Skill Points you receive. Straight shooting an enemy nets no SP, scoring a headshot scores a little SP and shooting an enemy in the crotch then kicking him in the head scores more. With the combinations of leashing and kicking, there are numerous individual unlockable SPs to discover with more and more ridiculous themes.

Skill Points are vitally necessary within Bulletstorm, as they can be used at pods scattered around the game to upgrade weapons or more importantly buy additional ammunition not found elsewhere. It is this reliance on SP that drives you to try bigger and badder combinations of mayhem to feed your minimum existence so that you ultimately crave larger crowds of enemies to get multiplier bonuses. In addition, the environment is extremely versatile, allowing you to kick enemies off cliffs, leashing them into prickly plants or allowing for the random hot-dog cart to be used as an explosive device with awesome results. The game begs you to come up with interesting ways to kill your opponents. Add to that the over-the-top variety of guns and you have a smorgasbord of ridiculous annihilations possible.

Stygia itself is a marvel to behold, from lush green environments to decayed city-scapes to underground tunnels, the fast-paced nature of the game requires you to stop occasionally and look out over the beautifully-rendered landscape. It’s a double sword for the game, because you feel a sense of urgency to get to the next objective, and although the game isn’t short, it makes it feel like the end comes too quickly. To supplement that, developer People Can Fly added “Echo Mode,” which allows you to play certain levels over for time and skill trials. While this was a welcome addition, it feels like a diversion rather than a legitimate timesink. In the same vein, the multiplayer challenges you to get great SP kills against other team members, but lacks map variety.

Despite the shortcomings in additional content, Bulletstorm is a blast to play. The witty humor and solid gameplay make it a breath of fresh air in the first person shooter genre.

Pros: Quirky story, character and mechanics; beautifully executed and fast-paced

Cons: Short campaign, lackluster multiplayer


Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.