I relish the opportunity to play special games – those such as ABZU that through beautiful art and sound design capture a wondrous, evocative experience. Equally, they could feature a gripping, thrilling storyline and appealing characters, for example in titles such as The Last Of Us and Persona 4. Bulletstorm, on the other hand, is not like any of these games. It’s a coarse, brutal, unrefined gore-fest of a videogame, with an almost-entirely dickish main cast and some stark framerate issues. But I loved it anyway.
Right from the offset, Bulletstorm doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. If I had to sum it up for you, it’s a cheap action movie plot with a f***-load of guns sellotaped precariously to it in a way that would surely aggravate Michael, the Health and Safety department’s newest executive manager. I’m sorry Michael. This isn’t going to be a good article for you Michael.
You’ll be haphazardly wielding firearms from the point of view of one Grayson Hunt, unwitting assassin gone rogue when he discovers that Dead Echo, his team of soldiers have been nefariously used to carry out hitjobs on political and press enemies of their employer, General Sarrano. His team wiped out by bloodthirsty gang members following a crash landing aside from the now half-warbot Ishi, Grayson aims to cross the planet and get his revenge on the General, in as gut-wrenchingly visceral a manner as possible.
“a cheap action movie plot with a f***-load of guns sellotaped precariously to it…”
This entire grisly situation is somewhat exacerbated by the ludicrous arsenal of guns at your disposal. It’s hard not to draw a comparison with Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank series in terms of the wacky firearms on offer, but that wouldn’t do justice to the sheer havoc of Bulletstorm. You start with a bog-standard assault rifle, but quickly gain access to a sniper rifle with radio-controlled direction-changing bullets, a flail launcher feat. high explosives and a bouncing bomb launcher.
Not only that, but encouraging you to use these implements to their maximum incendiary potential is the Skillshot system, wherein you are rewarded with skill points (the game’s currency) for performing certain trickshots. Aiding in this endeavor is the other main mechanic of Bulletstorm, an anti-gravity leash that can be used to yank enemies and items towards you, as well as launch a room’s worth of dudes into the air with the appropriate upgrade. Skillshots tend to involve explosion, decapitation and all sorts of other giblet-filled goodness, and the fact that you’re rewarded for experimentation makes it all the sweeter.
There are a million other ways to slaughter foes, if that weren’t enough. Environmental hazards can be found just about everywhere, be it in the form of steep cliffs, spiked fences or even high-speed fans. Try using the leash to launch gang members into everything you can find, or use your weapons’ alternative ‘charged’ firing modes to unleash some semi-righteous fury. These take ranged combat to the next level in occasionally disastrously sadistic ways. Beyond that I’ll say no more.
“…while the foul-mouthed irreverence of the cast is entertaining, the dialogue does feel old rather quickly…”
Unfortunately the sheer number of explosions and particles that surround you can sometimes (by which I mean frequently) cause some amount of slowdown. This may well have been fixed with later re-releases, but my original PS3 copy noticeably chugged during heavy loads. This didn’t particularly spoil the experience for me, but you have been warned. I did however very much enjoy the music during these scenes, as during combat the background sound picks up into a driving powerhouse, which might occasionally send you into a bit of a frenzy – I lost unnecessary lives to that combination. Again, you have been warned.
The characters you’ll meet along the way are pretty uninspired and cliche, but serve as a good vehicle for the mechanics of the game at least. To be honest with you, Bulletstorm is all about the gameplay, and while the foul-mouthed irreverence of the cast is entertaining, the dialogue does feel old rather quickly. The setpieces and environmental themes of each area are enough to keep the game interesting during its relatively short (approx. 6 hours) main campaign, but it’s really all about the gameplay.
If kind-of-stupid-but-still-fun is a vibe you can groove to, then I can’t think of anything better than Bulletstorm – it’s like being thrust into the average Schwarzenegger flick, with equally regrettable scripting and all the big-ass firearms. If you want something other than that, you probably haven’t made it this far into the review, so go figure.
Bullets, bullets, and more bullets. Target-seeking drills too. And explosions. Lots of explosions.