by Davneet Minhas
previewed on PC
Desperate for attention
Epic has been talking up Bulletstorm quite a bit recently, which is to be expected as the game hits shelves in about a month. But the ad campaign seems to just go on and on and I’m reminded of this one guy I knew back in school who really wanted to be liked and accepted, but he tried way too hard for his own good. He just came off as desperate, and that’s not attractive.
However, behind Bulletstorm’s silly ad campaign, pulpy story, exposed buttocks and over-the-top one-liners (“Pull up your skirt and slap that dildo on” is one of my favorites) seems to be an intelligent and thoughtful game. Bulletstorm seems to be a game of surprising substance.
Creativity, not efficiency
Some shooters have you ducking behind cover, others have you hiding in the shadows, and the rare one tasks you with assigning skill points, but regardless of any “innovative” mechanic, shooters are almost always about efficiency, about finding the path of least resistance. You stick with a weapon you like and, barring any ammo shortages, mow down enemies as quickly as possible. Indeed, the most satisfying kills are the one-hits: the excessive rocket to the chest, the scoped-in sniper shot to the head, the stealthy knife to the back.
But Bulletstorm looks to obliterate this theme of efficiency with its Skillshots. In the game, your gun is only a fraction of your arsenal, which is rounded out by an energy leash and your boot. Using the leash, you can either pull enemies towards you or flick enemies and surrounding objects into the air. And your boot, like any good boot, is useful for kicking mutants into electric panels, kicking mutants into exposed rebar, kicking mutants off a ledge, kicking mutants into other mutants... You get the idea.
Combine those two abilities with a range of unique weapons – including a four-barrel shotgun that shoots air and the Bouncer Cannon, which shoots big explosive balls that bounce around and detonate when triggered – and you can imagine some intricate ways to kill baddies. Launch an explosive bouncy ball and then kick it into a group of mutants, flick enemies into the air and shoot them out of the sky, pull mutants toward you and kick them off a ledge, juggle baddies into a fire by shooting air: these are Skillshots. Bulletstorm has 135 of them, and for each one you execute, the game rewards you with points that can be spent on upgrading your arsenal so that you can execute even more ridiculous Skillshots. But unlike guns in other shooters, you can’t just pick a favorite and stick with it; the game rewards fewer points when you repeat a Skillshot too many times.