If you're of an artistic temperament, someone who likes to create or to experiment, and you're also partial to blowing chunks of flesh off bad guys, Bulletstorm should be right up your proverbial alley. For those willing to go beyond the obvious, it rewards curiosity in the kill, something you'll be doing a lot of.
You'll be taking on the role of one Grayson Hunt, a wanted mercenary who is partial to the odd alcoholic tipple. Accused of heinous crimes and chased around the galaxy by his ex-boss, Hunt and his team of low-down interstellar desperadoes end up crash-landing on a pleasure planet that's now mysteriously deserted.
An action game with nobody to blast wouldn't be of much interest, so naturally appearances are deceptive and the planet's anything but deserted, full of ghastly plants and even ghastlier humans and mutants. Some will use crude mechanical devices against you, others are nimble and some are big brutes that use the traditional rushing in head first mode of attack.
To combat these freaks of nature, you'll be in possession of a dizzying array of meaty weapons, ranging from an all-purpose assault rifle to a drill gun that nails enemies to the wall/ceiling/scenery. The key to the game is using the weapons at your disposal to come up with the most imaginative and stylish ways of eliminating your foe.
For instance, say you have the flail gun, which sends explosives attached to a length of chain at your enemies. Fire at your foe's legs and he'll be pinned in place, unable to move. Fire at his chest and he'll have his arms restricted, while wrapping around his head or neck will blind or choke him out.
More advanced players might try to get the flail to go around the enemy's head and a nearby lamppost at the same, which is a special move that grants extra points. Others might wrap up the guy's legs and then give him a swift kick to send him flying into a cactus' spines.
Points, as mentioned, are awarded depending on the rarity of the kill move and whether you've found it before. The more you get, the more you can spend in the 'shops' in-game to upgrade weapons or buy more ammo.
Making the style points the currency is an inspired move, making it essential rather than optional to explore the huge variety of death moves you can inflict. Barrelling through using only basic shots will be both incredibly boring and ultimately defeating the point of the game. Without the style shots, the game would be a pretty but rudimentary run-and-gun blaster, but their addition adds so much to the experience.
Let's not forget the Leash, of course. Acting kind of like Scorpion's spear (From Mortal Kombat. You know, the “Cmere!” thing.) it can be used to pull enemies towards you or into the path of dangerous scenery. Once they're in the air, they go into slow motion, allowing you time to consider just how you're going to dispatch them, often with the aid of your Duke Nukem-style boot.
The Leash, and all the other guns, have a 'charge shot' (basically, a secondary fire) that adds yet another level of variety to the skill shots. It really can't be understated how many different ways of offing your enemy there are in Bulletstorm.
Multiplayer is exclusively (before any DLC arrives) devoted to the art of the skill shot, with two modes both based on maximising your score. The first and most interesting, Anarchy, is the four player Horde-esque mode that sees you and your team go up against waves of creatures with increasingly challenging points totals to beat.
The only way to progress as the required totals increase is to work together to get multiplayer-exclusive skill shots. For example, if two of you shoot a foe at the same, you get 100 skill points instead of just 25. You're also informed that you pulled off the charmingly named Double Penetration move.
There are plenty of other unique shots that can be performed across the six Anarchy maps, with certain bits of scenery providing some interesting ways of destroying your enemies. One map has a train that periodically passes by, so why not try kicking a foe in its path. Another level has huge industrial machinery that can grind enemies into a fine paste, while there's a vicious-looking bladed fan on a third.
The second mode, Echo, is leaderboard-based, involving going through isolated sections from the single player campaign to see how many points you can get in the quickest possible time, before seeing how your chums have done on Xbox Live or whatever. Both modes will be heavily reliant on extra DLC to keep them fresh, though.
There are a few things that might annoy though. The voice acting is decent, but it's so macho that it can grate over time, especially when you finally encounter your nemesis later in the game. It is meant to be over the top, so in that sense it does the job well, but it does get a little tired at times.
Also present is the usual Unreal Engine foible of loading in textures during play, which can ruin any sense of immersion you might feel when the textures don't come in quick enough, huge slabs of low resolution texturing spoiling the atmosphere.
It is also just a shooter, at the end of the day. No matter how much fun it is – very good fun, in fact – it's not redefining any parameters or anything like that. It's not trying to be, but it's not going down in the history books alongside Half-Life 2.
But that's no bad thing here. It's not necessary to break new ground all the time, and Bulletstorm does what it does brilliantly. With a concerted DLC campaign to keep the multiplayer campaign fresh, this'll definitely be a disc that's always in, around or near your tray.
- Stylish and creative shooting action
- Anarchy is a welcome change to traditional deathmatch multiplayer
- Visuals are, generally, vibrant and full of colour...
- ...but the Unreal Engine's flaws are apparent
- Overly macho script can potentially get on your nerves
- DLC required to keep multiplayer fresh
The Short Version: If you're bored of the run-of-the-mill modern war shooters, fed up with space marines and uber-serious combat, then this game might just be right up your street. No, Bulletstorm is not a revolutionary shooter in any way shape or form, but it does remind us that gaming is supposed to be fun. In taking a simple premise and delivering it in such stylish fashion, People Can Fly have breathed new life (and laughs) into the FPS genre...for the time being, anyway.