Bulletstorm Review


In the days of the arcade, repetition was enough. Today, cumulative accomplishment is king. Bulletstorm attempts to bridge the valley separating the two, bloodying the hills on either side with delightful irreverence, the gorgeous rubble of an intergalactic resort town, and more dick jokes than you can shake a stick and two acorns at. It’s old-school gaming wearing modern gaming’s Ed Hardy tee, low-cut Levi’s, and a studded leather belt for that "Suck it, Mom!" edge. If Gears of War, Call of Duty, Duke Nukem, and Leisure Suit Larry had one raucous, disgusting orgy, Bulletstorm would violently kick its way out nine months later. Had enough of the one-liners? Yea, me too.

To clarify, Bulletstorm contains all the elements of a modern AAA FPS title, adds some explosions (and off-color humor, dick kicks, leash combos, and giant dinosaurs), and comes out an enjoyable thrill ride, at least for a while. The entire concept revolves around "Skillshots" which require the player to creatively maim, murder, and massacre enemies while dangling reward points right above a bullet-filled pile of corpses. And getting from point A to bloodbath is just as fun as it sounds the first time through for those who enjoy the thrill of the kill (Note: It’s rated M for a reason, parents). But it’s like The Eagles said, "You don’t care about winning but you don’t want to lose/After the thrill is gone."

Epic Games and People Can Fly offer three game modes in Bulletstorm, each with its own strengths and follies. The single-player campaign shows off the best the game has to offer and the excellent, delicate pacing pulled off by Adrian Chmielarz and crew. The plot sees drunken, ex-military space pirate Grayson Hunt on a one-way path toward revenge and survival as a series of ridiculous events land him and cyborg companion Ishi on the gang-ruled resort planet Stygia. Aside from an inane number of vehicular crashes (seriously, it’s almost every level), a sequel-drooling ending, and some rare sappy dialogue, the direction and the emotion of the characters reign in an otherwise straightforward progression of levels. The cheeky, foul-mouthed one-liners are often genuinely funny and keep the tone light even if they do get a bit old by the end. Certain segments see Grayson completing tasks ranging from climbing across steel bars to piloting a mechanical dinosaur to performing point-driven quick-time events, which mixes up the gameplay, giving players a break from the constant task of accruing points through skillshots.

The skillshots themselves, paired with the implements used to create them, are the real stars. Nothing in Grayson’s arsenal plays quite like a standard weapon, though a shotgun, assault rifle, and pistol are present. Each has some gimmick to it (see bouncing grenades, bullet-control sniping), as well as purchasable charge shots which amp up each gun’s volley for single, extraordinary shots (see vaporizing shotgun, mortar rocket pistol). Add to this the ability to slide and kick enemies into slow-motion suspension and grab distant enemies with an energy leash, launching them skyward for easy pickings, and the trap is set for the poor saps that get in Grayson’s way. Not only that, but the stunning, bright, and dangerous landscape of Stygia offers astonishing, expansive vistas as well as plenty of immediate environmental dangers that can be used to murderous advantage. Needless to say, there are a ton of skillshots, and the real fun of Bulletstorm lies in discovering and combining them all.


In the campaign, skillshots net points that can be used to purchase more ammo, weapon upgrades, and charge shots, adding a bit of incentive to the morbid curiosity driving the gameplay. After the six-hour adventure is spent, however, Echoes mode allows players to retread the levels from the campaign without all that talking and story. Skillshots still rack up points (which unlock new Echoes levels), but this is where Bulletstorm admittedly turns into a game incentivized by pure, in-the-moment enjoyment the way that the old Frogger arcade cabinet did. In an FPS marketplace flooded with RPG elements like the revolutionary multiplayer in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, it’s at once refreshing and disappointing to see a game return to the roots of the industry in terms of player incentives. Although there’s a cathartic feeling to gaining bragging rights and nothing else, there’s a reason that so many other games have adopted deep customization and upgrade systems — players like being tangibly (virtually speaking) rewarded.

Anarchy mode doesn’t do much to break from the trend in Echoes. In Anarchy, players are corralled into teams of four to reach a target point amount for the group as a whole. This requires some teamwork for the pop-up team skillshots and encourages some cooperative competition as well (capitalism at its finest), but like with Echoes, the formula wears thin after a few runs. The levels are pretty small, the waves of enemies get repetitive pretty quickly, and if you’ve played through campaign mode and some Echoes already, then few if any of the skillshots will be new or exciting. Working in a team works great for groups of friends partied up online, but the lone player often gets a fair amount of his/her kills stolen. Either way, Anarchy plays on the same repetitive notions as Echoes: performing skillshot upon skillshot. Most consumers of modern FPS titles will get tired of this with pretty quickly, which is a shame given the imagination and hilarity infused in every bit of the murderous menagerie.

Bulletstorm provides something new and something old in every way. While it relies on tested FPS mechanics, it adds kicking, leashing, bone sublimating, groin pulverizing, and trap shooting to a ridiculous roster of insane skillshots that drive the game’s intrigue and, at some points, narrative. Simultaneously, the skillshots grow on the player and grow old as they pop up time and again throughout the campaign, Echoes, and Anarchy. There’s no doubt that Bulletstorm delivers a solid ten hours of fresh, bloody fun, but any more time spent with Grayson and crew seems a confused antithesis of modern first-person shooters.

4 out of 5


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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