Epic Games' latest video game Bulletstorm has received a lot of attention from the mainstream press over the last month. It's an ultra stylistic, violent FPS, that has even poked fun at both Halo and Call of Duty with some clever marketing. Upon receiving wind of its sensationalized violence, FoxNews asked the question, in early February, "Is Bulletstorm the Worst Video Game in the World?" in a report on their website. Well, hopefully my review will quell that pressing question.
At its simplest Bulletstorm is a story about revenge and redemption—one man's quest to absolve himself of the sins and atrocities of his past. Playing the role of foul-mouthed, ass-kicking Grayson Hunt, after crash landing on planet filled with psychopathic mutants, among other horrid creatures, is doesn't take long to realize the only way to get off this ravaged world, is guns blazing.
Early in the story, Hunt comes in possession of an experimental leash that gives him the ability to grab enemies and objects such as exploding barrels and hurl them across the screen to wreak mayhem. Combining the leash with your own boot, weapon or other potentially painful looking environmental hazard results in "skillshots"— People Can Fly’s creative reward system for killing—earning points that can be used to upgrade any weapon. Skillshots are rewarded for simple kills like headshots and using explosive barrels to take down multiple targets simultaneously, but these kills will only earn high points in their first completing. It's all about getting clever, switching up weapons, and looking for environmental advantages to rack up the biggest scores.
What separates Bulletstorm from the myriads of other FPS's that flood the market every year is this unique action system that rewards you for the creativity in which you kill. In Bulletstorm, killing the enemy is not enough to win. In order to truly master its gameplay each weapon, tool and environmental obstacle must carefully planned for each situation, though a little dumb luck helps spice things up from time to time. The ingenious reward mechanic of skillshots gives an overly populated genre a much needed breath of fresh air. Unfortunately this mechanic is also what has given ammo to the main stream press in asking if Bulletstorm is truly "the worst".
Where Bulletstorm is taking the most heat is in the naming of its various "skillshots". With titles like "Gangbang", "Topless" and "Mile High Club" the sexual innuendo that most skillshots bear has caused concern for some. In FoxNews's report psychiatrist and author Carole Lieberman was reported as saying that sexual situations and acts in video games have lead to real-world sexual violence. She was further quoted as saying "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of (sexual) scenes in video games."
From the get-go, it's not hard to realize Bulletstorm is a throwback to its genre's predecessors. Games from the '90s, like Duke Nukem which exuded sex and crude language and Quake which rewarded gamers with enemies exploding into giblets upon well aimed shots. There is a clear "M" for mature rating on the box, and like all games of its rating was created for adults. But like any medium; sex, violence and coarse language can only carry, games included, so far without a strong foundation.
Thankfully, Bulletstorm is built on an extremely solid foundation. The game is beautiful to look upon, from its sweeping vistas to blood-soaked sewers. The game controls silky smooth with intense outrageous actions, that definitely carry a few "Holy Shit" moments that will leave jaws dropped and never wearies on the repetitive. The Schwarzenegger-esque action flick story starts off a little rough with its Mad Libs style dialog that pairs some offensive words in some unique combinations. The dialog which is a little grating at times, like the gameplay is all about the throwing together the unexpected to achieve the ludicrous. Overall though it suites the game quite well, it can be borderline distasteful, but usually the most despicable of quotes are saved for the characters you're not supposed to like. In the end I was definitely involved enough to care where the story was going, and the resolution (I don't want to spoil anything) was handled quite well.
Where Bulletstorm's creative skillshots mechanic truly shines though is in the extremely addicting score-attack mode called "Echoes"—where it's all about running sections of the game and amassing the highest score possible. In these broken down sections of the campaign, one's symphony of destruction can be truly unleashed. The story serves as a good introduction for becoming accustomed to how each weapon works and the situations they are best used in, but Echoes mode is where the best single player action is at. It's like Burnout's old crash mode—fun fresh and most rewarding to those who want to master reaching the of top the competitive online leader boards.
Like I said before Bulletstorm is a breath of fresh air. It is both a throwback to the games that built the FPS genre as well as one that moves it in new directions. While not a instant "classic" the formula that People Can Fly and Epic Games has created in Bulletstorm has me excited to see where they are going to take it next. To answer FoxNews’s question, Bulletstorm is far from being the “worst game ever” on any level.
Lacking a true competitive multiplayer mode, Bulletstorm instead relies heavily on borrowing from Epics’ games other next gen shooter, Gears of Wars 2. Similar to Gears’ Horde mode, Bulletstorm’s Anarchy mode supports four-player co-operative gameplay were the goal is to take down wave after wave of enemies. The catch to Anarchy mode is succeeding is not just about eliminating waves, but rather is about meeting the score requirement of each round.
Where the later rounds of Gears’ Horde mode can be completed with the help of one skilled player, Anarchy mode requires a team working as one, constantly communicating to succeed. While high points are still earned by the most skilled players, to amass the best team score team skillshots must be executed to move forward. These can range from simple team kills such as one person kicking the highlighted enemy while the other does the shooting to more challenging environmental team based kills. This dynamic can be frustrating when playing with random players, but is truly blissful when all players are on the same page. With only six maps currently, hopefully People Can Fly will continue to add to the game through DLC and figure out a way implement a balanced competitive multiplayer mode. One can only imagine the carnage of leashing and booting fellow humans.
Note: This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 game console.
Developer: People Can Fly,Epic Games
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release: February 22, 2011
Available On: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Gears of War Series - Loved it
Quake series - Loved it
Duke Nukem 3D - Liked it
Painkiller - Meh