by Andrew Hallam
reviewed on PC
Yo Ho, A Space Pirate's Life For Me
Epic games have long been know for their, well, epic games with the Unreal Tournament series and Gears of War being their most well known titles. As UT and GoW both brought new innovative gameplay mechanics to their respective genres, effectively paving the way for many other games, it was only a matter of time before they decided to attempt to reinvent another genre within the world of video games. This is where Bulletstorm swaggers in, drunk as a skunk and shouting more swear words than a convention centre full of Tourette's sufferers.
While Call of Duty may see itself as the serious shooter of the genre Bulletstorm is like Call of Duty's college frat boy roommate who goes out partying while CoD stays home studying. If the idea behind Bulletstorm's core gameplay mechanic 'Skillshots' wasn't a clear enough indication that it is meant to be a silly shooter, then the storyline and dialogue will surely seal the deal. You play as Grayson Hunt, the alcoholic ex-military special forces space pirate who is out for revenge against his old general for screwing him and his squadmates over. The game begins with Gray's ship ramming the general's in the orbit of some forgotten planet, causing both ships to crash land, stranding the crew's on the feral world overrun by savages and mutated wildlife.
It's All About The Skill, Baby...
While you are free to play Bulletstorm however you like, you would be missing the point entirely if you didn't take advantage of the skillshot system. This is what sets Bulletstorm apart from modern shooters, apart from its colourful dialogue of course. Throughout the campaign you will be rewarded with points which can be used to buy weapons and ammo from Dropshops dotted around the world. To earn the points, you have to kill enemies in a variety of different ways. Each weapon has its own set of skillshots to utilise. For example, the game's more inventive weapon, the drill gun, has a skillshot called 'Shishkebab' where you are required to literally skewer two enemies with the same drill for gruesome hilarity. While you may think a gameplay mechanic like that might get boring, the game paces itself well, making sure there are always new and inventive ways for you to kill enemies as you progress.
Even without the skillshot system, Bulletstorm's stupid and over the top storyline is surprisingly involving. Like many modern shooters Bulletstorm thrives on set pieces. The entire campaign is one massive explosion and hilarity filled scene after the next, be it the ingeniously simple but visually stunning movement tutorial in which you casually walk down the side of a skyscraper with anti-gravity boots or an exhilarating high speed chase on a bullet train while being chased by machinegun toting gyrocopters and a giant spinning wheel of death. Not only do these set pieces feel awesome, they truly look awesome too. In the brief moment of calm you may find yourself in amidst the endless exploding and decapitating of mindless savages, I urge you to look at the amazing world that People Can Fly have created and subtly hidden behind the mountains of enemies you will meet along the way.
Ready For A Bit Of Ultra-Violence?
No shooter would be complete without multiplayer and that is where the gamemodes Anarchy and Echoes come in. Echo missions are small sections of the campaign, stripped of set pieces, cutscenes and most dialogue which challenge you to score the most skillshot points you can in the mission. While the multiplayer aspect of these missions only amount to showing off your rank on global leaderboards, they are a nice way to add replayability to the game. Where the real multiplayer mechanics come in however is in Anarchy mode. Anarchy pits you and up to 3 other players against 20 waves of enemies, much like Gears of War 2's Horde mode. While the maps themselves are quite small there are 6 to choose from and the aim of each wave is to rack up enough points to advance. This means working together to kill enemies, such as two players using the game's “Leash” weapon on one enemy to rip him apart for maximum points. While matchmaking is included, icing fools with your buddies over the microphone is much more satisfying than playing with random people, as you can usually coordinate kills for the best scores.
In memory of Wallington P. Tallylicker.
If you are one for immature humour, stupid storylines, surprisingly deep characters, or just blowing shit up, Bulletstorm is the game for you. Essentially, Bulletstorm is a slightly more sophisticated Serious Sam with a big-budget campaign slapped on the top for good measure and a surprising cleverness under its simplistic arcade exterior. This is a game that can appeal to almost any type of player as its skillshot system can make for simple fun or give way to competitive matches based entirely on skill. So get your war face on and get ready to blow hordes of mutant convict scum back to the stone age.
Eyepopping visuals and set pieces. Full on awesome sweary gameplay.
Skillshot system may get boring after a while. Some minor bugs and strange lip syncing.