Bulletstorm, from People Can Fly, is a sort of spiritual successor to the famous Painkiller series. It was meant to be a fun shooter that didn't take itself too seriously and aimed to offer something different to the serious, gritty military shooters of today. Did it succeed?
- Worth The Time?Yes, for something different and fun, but the novelty does wear off.
- Things LovedThe Skillshot system, the great graphics, the fun factor, the silliness of the game, the varied and exciting weapons, the awesome level and visual design, the fantastic set-pieces in the main campaign, the humour.
- Things HatedThe repetitiveness, the complete reddening of your screen when you're low on health, the uninspired multiplayer, the lack of co-op play, the short-length of the single-player, the friendly AI.
- RecommendationIf you're looking for something different, non-serious and fun, Bulletstorm is the game for you. But it doesn't have much substance, and most of the fun is in the campaign which doesn't last a very long time. That said, you should still try it. But there isn't a whole lot of value on offer so you might want to consider getting this at a cheaper price.
- Name: Bulletstorm
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online (2-4 players)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox360
- Developer: People Can Fly, Epic Games
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Price: R317-350 (PC), R453-499 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Bulletstorm is an interesting game for a number of reasons. It’s an easy game to recommend to anyone, because anyone can enjoy it easily enough, but to rate it critically, it’s just as easy to pick out a number of flaws with the game that bring down the experience. There are elements in it for everyone, and conversely, aspects to it that are not for everyone. Still, that doesn’t stop it from being really fun, and open to all gamers out there looking for a break from their serious military shooters. In being a solid distraction and enjoyable experience that is different in all the good ways, Bulletstorm succeeds. However it’s far from perfect, and it’s not going to turn heads away from other shooters for too long.
The story of the game is actually a pretty serious and emotional journey, but the way the game goes about it, especially with the dialogue, adds a coating of humour over it all. In the game you take control of crazed pirate Grayson Hunt, and it’s the 26th Century, where the Confederation of Planets are protected by a super secret squirrel black-ops army known as Dead Echo. Alongside Grayson is his cyborg partner Ishi Sato, whose squad went missing after being betrayed by their commanding officer, General Sarrano. The main story of the game starts up ten years later, after a rather impulsive and drunken attempt to take revenge on Serrano and his band of meat-heads, and as a result of the battle, Hunt’s and Sato’s ship crashes on Stygia, which is a dangerous planet overrun with man-eating plants, criminals, mutants and Godzilla monsters. The game follows Grayson and Ishi, and later on a crude military gal named Trishka as well, as they struggle to find a way off the crazy planet, all the while laying waste to armies of the planet’s inhabitants.
However, what’s odd about the story is that for the most part in the beginning it’s rather shaky and hard to follow, with events and cutscenes jumping all over the place, making it all seem rather rushed. But once you actually get into it, and especially towards the end where things heat up, it actually flows more comfortably and gets rather interesting, and you’ll want to see it through to the end. Sure there are some highly predictable cliches, but there are also some humourous twists and events that add a unique flavour to the game. The story gets danced around in humourous fashion throughout, especially with the dialogue, which is – no jokes – entirely made up of profanities, toilet-humour and sexual innuendos. It’s quite funny at times, but it does get to an overdone point, and it makes for a mixed experience, where at times you’ll be grinning like a hyena but at others you’ll just be praying it will stop. As you may see at this point, the story is, in its entirety, an inconsistent experience, and it certainly has a lot of ups and downs. Perhaps the worst part about the story, however, is that it ends rather cheaply setting up for a sequel – there is no final resolution, and this brings down its value. There isn’t much wrong with setting up for a sequel, but in Bulletstorm it’s done so blatantly that it, in many ways ways, makes things just feel incomplete as if to say “cut” rather than “it’s over now, but there will be more where that came from”.
Bulletstorm’s gameplay is where it really shines, but the best of it all comes in the single-player campaign. If you’re looking for a realistic war shooter, then you’d best turn your back and run as far away as you can, because Bulletstorm is absolutely nothing but pure, stylish and over-the-top action. Being a drunken pirate seems to give Grayson access to rather inhuman power and speed, and you’ll be able to execute awesome-looking slides that knock enemies off their feet and into the air, you’ll get to introduce your boot to an enemy’s face and hurl them flying and you’ll get to use an electric leash to toss enemies around and bring them towards you for a good beating. The game really does well to feel free-flowing and slick, as you’ll be constantly moving, shooting and killing in style. You’re able to shoot and reload while sliding and kick while reloading, so you’re never defenseless and never taking it slow – unless your health is low and you need to crouch behind cover. Speaking of, the way the screen becomes almost completely red when you’re on low health is quite annoying, and basically forces you to recover health just so you can see something on your screen again.
But the true point of the game lies with the unique Skillshot system, which is basically a sizable list of challenging, exciting, hilarious and downright awesome ways of killing your enemies. Basically, with each weapon you have, with the different enemy types you face and with the environmental tools you have around you, there will be challenges connected to them. Completing these challenges earns you Skillpoints which can be used to upgrade your gear and purchase ammo from Dropkits that are scattered around the world. The catch is that completing a Skillkill the first time around will give you the full-deserved experience points, but doing the same Skillkill again will give you considerably less points, so you can’t just repeat the same Skillkills, because if you want the most points you’ll need to do the others. Accessing the Skillshot database is done with a quick button press, and from there you can see all the Skillkills you’ve completed, have yet to unlock and have yet to do. To give an example of a Skillkill, you’ll see in the database that one of your challenges would be to perhaps kick an enemy onto a cactus and impale him, or shoot an enemy in the balls with a certain gun and then decapitate him. They’re really fun to do and attempt, and allow you to discover your murderous options.
However the system has some flaws that impact on the amount of freedom you’d want to enjoy. It’s a complex matter, but see, while killing creatively is really awesome fun, for the most part the early hours of the game basically amount to toying around with the Skillshot challenges – essentially, you’ll just be challenge-hunting to get points. This is solely because most of the early levels are restricted in their design, and feature sections that enable you to perform certain Skillshots, so rather than give you total freedom to kill as you please, you’ll simply see all these early gimmicks as “might as well” Skillshot attempts. This is a very difficult critism to make, because it’s understandable that the game would want you to test out the Skillshot system and let you see the many ways in which you can kill in the early hours of the game, but there’s a line it crosses when it comes to freedom. Yes, you can still choose to kill in the ways you want to and do things your way, but as mentioned earlier you get less experience for killing the same way twice, so you’ll only be losing out on much-needed points in the beginning. On the other hand, the Skillshot system is a great way to make players earn their experience points and open up their options, but again, it amounts to challenge-hunting rather than simply enjoying the game the way you want to. You’ll still have plenty of fun, but the early hours of the game feel like you’re playing by Bulletstorm’s rules, and doing what it wants you to do, rather than what you want to do.
On the upside, this means that the game gets better as you progress. How this happens is that the levels open up more, you get access to some real kick-ass weaponry and abilities, like the Thump ability which slams the ground with a massive shockwave, sending enemies flying into the air, and the set pieces are fantastic, such as the run-in with a Godzilla-sized monster. Essentially, you’re given a lot more creative freedom in the later stages of the game, and things become more exciting. However, the biggest problem with Bulletstorm is that by the time you’ve given all the lovely freedom you so want and get to see what the game really has to offer, the novelty of the Skillshot system has begun to dry out, and things begin to get borderline repetitive. It’s a hard game to judge, because the more you play it the better it gets, but the more you play it you’ll also begin to realise what it’s lacking, and it gets more repetitive. There is no denying that Bulletstorm is packed with originality, clever ideas and lots of fun, but it doesn’t do enough to preserve them throughout.
There’s definitely a lot of variety in the game as well, and while there may not be a great deal of weapons, the ones that are available are awesome. All of them are unique, enjoyable to use and have secondary functions, known as Charge Shots. It’s surely a great deal of fun to use a sniper rifle that allows you to control the bullets and guide them into your enemies, while its secondary fire does the same thing except the bullets can be detonated at will and upon impact allow you to actually control your target’s body and move it around in the air while said target flails uselessly about. You’ll also get to use a classic cowboy-style magnum revolver, except its secondary ammo fires explosive flares, and a machine gun that seems standard until you activate its secondary fire, which fires an immensely powerful concentrated blast of energy that disintegrates enemies. These are the kinds of inclusions, combined with the Skillshot system, that make Bulletstorm really unique and fun, packed together with its casual charm and good sense of humour, but it simply runs out of things to offer eventually, and it becomes apparent that it’s lacking elements which would have made it a really great game.
The first thing it lacks is a co-op mode, and this is unfortunate because it really could have worked amazingly well in a game such as this. For practically the entire single-player campaign you have a partner with you, and together with the Skillshot system and creative ways of killing, there is no doubt that it would be an absolute blast to play Bulletstorm locally with a friend and cause mayhem in the well-designed and enjoyable campaign. If it had a co-op mode, the lifespan of the campaign and game would have certainly increased. The next is that Bulletstorm lacks depth and the means to preserve its elements and freshness. About two-thirds in the game will be running dry, and it becomes a repetitive affair, to the point that, for example, you’ll kick about ten enemies into the same environmental hazard, in quick succession, just to get rid of them quickly. And lastly, the game doesn’t have much to offer outside of its single-player, and what it does offer outside of it can’t compare to its main campaign. So unless you’re someone who will do absolutely everything there is to do in a game you purchase, Bulletstorm will be a short-lived, but fun and enjoyable experience. The main campaign doesn’t last that long, and it’s doubtful you’ll spend too much time with the other modes.
Aside from the single-player, which isn’t a very long experience, there is a mode called Echoes and the online multiplayer to tackle. Echoes is basically a set of missions and gameplay sections, some of which are cut out of the main campaign, except you’re given a time limit and a set inventory, and the idea is to rack up as many points as you can and complete the level as quickly as possible. There are online leaderboards to compete with and that’s about all there is to the mode. Speaking of leaderboards, I found it quite curious that there aren’t any for the main campaign itself, which would have been a good inclusion for the competitive out there and perhaps it would have increased its lifespan by a little bit. Back to Echoes, if you’re an achievement junkie or want to make the experience here last longer, then it’s more or less a decent enough mode, but otherwise it’s relatively dull, and it won’t really keep you coming back for more.
The online multiplayer isn’t exactly a treasure either. The idea and basics of Bulletstorm are in it somewhere, but it just isn’t brought together well enough to be anything more than lacklustre and uninspired. The online multiplayer is a cooperative mode called Anarchy Mode. It’s basically a mix of co-op and competitive modes where players will naturally try to get the highest points by being the most stylish with their kills, and players will have to earn a collective amount of points and acquire a certain amount of points to proceed. Certain enemy waves require you to rack up quite a lot of points, and to do it you’ll need to complete team kills given to you by the game, but of course one can see the problem with this. It’s easy to stuff up, and cool-looking team kills you consider to be worthy of some points aren’t rewarded or recognised by the game, so you’ll probably just get annoyed. In the end, it just feels uninspired and gets boring quickly.
Bulletstorm looks amazing, graphically, featuring deep and brilliant colours and fantastic level design with regards to the visuals, environments and backdrops. The world of Stygia is definitely inviting when it comes to looks, and it’s a world you’ll want to see a lot of. It’s just a little bit unfortunate that the PlayStation 3 version of the game doesn’t have some of the lighting effects that the PC and Xbox360 versions have, and I came across one or two instances of framerate problems in the game, but thankfully they were very rare and not very noticeable. What was, however, were the number of loading screens, which appear each time you die or complete a chapter. They’re not too long though, but they can be annoying at times. When it comes to audio, there aren’t any stand-out soundtracks, but the music is fitting enough. The voice acting is of a good standard and it’s fun to listen to the characters chatter, depending on your threshold for profanities and toilet humour that is. Overall, Bulletstorm looks and sounds really great – it’s a treat.
Bulletstorm definitely has a lot of great ideas, and it executes them well enough, but in the end the novelty of it all just wears off. The campaign is where most of the enjoyment is, but it doesn’t last very long and eventually gets repetitive. After all is said and done, Bulletstorm is a unique and really fun game, but sadly it’s not a great one. That said, it’s different in all the good ways and absolutely anyone can enjoy it, but unless you’re willing to do all you can with it, perhaps it would be a good idea to avoid a straight purchase – but don’t pass up the opportunity to give it a try.