Toting an electric whip, a mean “Sparta” kick, and a potty mouth that would make Howard Stern blush, style is the name of the game in Bulletstorm. Taking heavy cues from Devil May Cry, you’re constantly encouraged, and rewarded for creatively dispatching your foes. In one minute, you could be lassoing enemies towards you, kicking them in the air, and shooting them in slow motion as they fly away. In the next, you could be steering sniper bullets around obstacles to hit enemies in the butt – a 50-point feat that the game aptly calls “Rear Entry”.
Though style is at the forefront of the experience, there’s more to Bulletstorm than its overboard machismo. In fact, it’s this excess swagger that’s gotten everyone in this mess in the first place.
You assume the role of Grayson Hunt, the head of a secret black ops team in charge of handling General Serrano’s dirty work. When Gray realizes that this dirty work has actually involved assassinating innocent people, his overly cavalier approach to revenge screws up everything. A bold attempt at taking down Serrano’s ship causes everyone to crash on a post-apocalyptic island. Now stranded with your former BFF, and only surviving team member that blames you for everything, you’ve got to fight your way off this planet, and maybe take out Serrano if things go your way for once.
It’s easy to go into this game having 0 expectations for its story, but it’s much more involved, and entertaining, than I thought. Though the game may appear to be one simply about destroying everything that moves, one of the common themes in the story is the consequences of Gray’s bullheaded actions. From events as grand as cities being destroyed to the strain between Gray and Ishi, all of it is presented really well and goes a long way to giving some meaning to the machismo, and profanity-laden dialogue. I actually enjoyed the story all the way through.
The surprisingly good story though, is the icing on an awesome first-person shooting experience. Every aspect of the game from it’s weapons, gadgets, enemies, and levels have been tuned for maximum creativity. In particular, the whip acts as a primary means of reeling enemies in, and your kick launches enemies away. Combine those two base functions with a number of different weapons, environmental hazards, and character behaviour, and there’s a lot of opportunity for juggle combos and cool kills. For instance, you can unleash your whip through a spiked fence, and impale the enemies as your reel it in. You can also kick explosive canisters at enemies and explode it with bullets as it rolls by. My personal favourite kill was a great example of my own creativity coming through. I lassoed an enemy towards me, and realized I was near a body of water. I quickly oriented myself so that I was facing the water, and in real life, I said out loud to the enemy on the other side of my television, “Time for a swim.” As my opponent flew into range, I booted him into the water.
In theory, you could play this as a straight-up shooter, but it’s to your benefit – and a lot more fun – to use your imagination. Both the whip, are great tools to have in your repertoire. You’re also scored on your kills. The points you gain in battle are your primary currency for ammo, and weapon upgrades. In particular, you can gain bonus points by pulling off any of over 130 unique kills that have point values associated with them. You can refer to a list of these and actively work towards pulling off every kill on the list, but I chose to play it more naturally. By the time I was finished the single player game, I had achieved over half of the kills on the list. It’s cool that I was able to organically achieve over half of the kills on the list, but it’s a bit of a bummer that their current system doesn’t give bonus points for anything that isn’t on it. I felt like I did a number of cool things that I’d reward bonus points to, but the game just isn’t built for that.
Bulletstorm is a great single player experience. It lasts about 8 hours on your first playthrough, which is a bit meatier than most modern-day first-person shooters. It’s a joy to play the first time around, and there’s reason to play it again on different difficulties or to chase achievements. However, I guess I can’t end this review without covering the elephant in the room: multiplayer. The game’s core mechanics don’t lend themselves well to deathmatch, so the game focuses on a horde mode variant. It’s fine in it’s own right, but it’s clearly thrown in. I almost feel like the game would be better if it wasn’t present, as it better helps define Bulletstorm as a single player shooter. However, due to the way the market is right now, it would probably hurt sales to not have multiplayer checked off on the back of the box.
I had a blast with Bulletstorm. It did some really cool things that I hadn’t experienced before in a first-person shooter, and the story was surprisingly entertaining. It’s a shame that Epic Games canned the sequel, because I really would love to see where the franchise go from here. At this point, now that the game is available for cheap at most retailers, it’s a steal.