Headshots are so very passé, don't you think? Clearly People Can Fly think so, having crafted a game along with Epic that rewards you for killing people in creative ways be it flinging an energy whip at them and frying them up with crackling energy, shoving them into the path of a man-eating plant or kicking them in the nuts, garrotting them with an explosive nunchuk and booting them into a nest of their mates before blowing them all to kingdom come.
There's room in this world for 'serious' shooters, swathed in grey and dominated by men who say little, keen to bring an atmosphere of deadly drama and military precision to the FPS genre. But sometimes all you really want to do is slide under a tree branch, kneecap a foe and toss them onto a particularly pointy mutated cactus. That's where Bulletstorm comes in.
If you greeted the news of Duke Nukem's resurrection with a despairing groan, or vilified MadWorld for its heavily stylised brand of macho uber-violence, this one's going to be a hard sell. But for those of you itching for some respite from the rather straight-laced world of Call of Battlefield of Honor games, something with a little flavour, something with a little style, something with a sense of humour...Bulletstorm might just be the game you've been waiting for.
The game itself is beautiful to behold, a paradise of flora and fauna, a tourist resort overrun by nature's aborted children and covered by roving, maniacal gangs who shoot first and ask questions later. The vistas of Elysium - the are absolutely stunning, and the gameplay video at the end of the playable demo is a testament to outlandish scope, towering peaks, gloriously lush valleys, overrun ruins and palatial buildings that once housed rich holidaymakers. But no more. Now it's a hunting ground for the more-Duke-than-the-Duke gruff stylings of Grayson Hunt and his sardonic, pithy female counterpart Ishi Sato as they battle for survival.
For every kill you rack up you earn points, the basic premise being that the more stylish the demise, the more points you earn as a prize. Your bog standard headshot will earn you 50 points, for example. But if you throw someone into a giant, viscerally realised piranha plant you'll earn double, maybe even triple, that.
The Duke Nukem comparison works on a number of levels, not just the wisecracking banter between the two leads: testosterone-laden smack talk and innuendo from Hunt, sarcastic wit and withering put-downs from Sato. FPS kicking hasn't been this satisfying since Duke Nukem 3D, and it's not just a cosmetic device inserted...erm...for kicks. There's a practical purpose too. Give someone the boot and they'll fly off in slow-motion, allowing you to line up the perfect headshot, or cap them in the private parts, pepper them with pellets, or whip them back down to earth...all for delicious points and multipliers.
The score is insidious, ticking over with each and every stylish move, pushing you onwards, egging you on towards bigger and badder things. It becomes fascinatingly addictive, promoting multiple playthroughs to begin with just to try everything out, utilising the environment wherever possible. Variety, it would seem, is not only the spice of life, but the key to racking up some serious scores, all the better for inevitable leaderboards and bragging rights.
There's been talk of a suitably (E)pic story to help drive this game but, looking around at all of the gleeful faces surrounding me enjoying the moment, knowing that the grin on my face mirrored theirs twofold, it's clear that part of the allure of this game is the ability to forge your own narrative time and again. People Can Fly have offered up a fantastic rollercoaster of frivolous, violent fun that refuses to take itself too seriously, refuses to pigeonhole the player, offering up miniature sandbox adventure playgrounds for the brutally-minded rather than forcing you down a bottleneck.
It was a level we've had demonstrated to us before but playing through it ourselves really brought home the frenzied level of action. There's a big difference between marvelling at a supercar going round a track and actually being in the driving seat, after all. After playing through the available demo several times over and chatting excitedly with one or two reps, there's only two words that can really be used in conclusion...