With all of the real-world and all too serious FPS titles out at the moment, it makes a change to see something like Bulletstorm on the shelves. Taking little seriousness in itself, Bulletstorrm is all about fast action and skilful kills, all wrapped up in a gorgeous visual world.
The game casts you as foul-mouthed space pirate and booze hound, Gray, and events primarily takes place on a lush alien world, which Gray and Co. crash-land on early in the story. This world is filled with all manner of mutants, crazed gangs and other hazards, and also happens to be the current location of Gray’s old boss, and evil mass murderer, General Sarrano, whom Gray shot down before crash landing.
The story, which is a little hackneyed, sees Gray and allies try to track down Serrano to make him pay for his crimes, but to be honest, it’s little more than a flimsy excuse to explain the masses of high octane carnage. In fact, the whole ‘kill with skill’ aspect is rather clumsily shoehorned into the story early on, explained as some sort of tracking system used in the field. Hmm.
To be fair, though, this really doesn’t matter, as no one is going to buy Bulletstorm for a riveting story. You want it for one thing: combat and creative violence.
Bulletstorm‘s skill killing mantra is more than a simple tagline to make the game sell, and is, in fact, the core of the game. In order to progress properly through the story, you’ll need to master the ability to utilise not only each weapon, but also the environment. Killing foes in creative ways is the best way to rack up skill points, which are then used to buy new weapons, power-ups and ammo.
These kills are many and varied, such as kicking foes into spikes, off steep cliffs and into electrified objects, or simply shooting them in the privates and then booting them in the head. Some weapons can be used more creatively than others, such as attaching flail grenades to a foe, kicking him into a group of other enemies and blowing them all up, and others, such as the basic assault rifle are more simplistic, but nonetheless effective.
Much of the killing creativity is made possible thanks to Gray’s trusty boot and, once acquired, the leash. Kick a foe and they’ll fly backward in slow motion, giving you ample time to fill them with lead, or plan some other form of heinous death. The leash, on the other hand, is used to pull enemies through the air toward you, also in slow motion.
Enemies can be flung into spiked walls, each other or off ledges, and once powered up, you can also smash foes into the floor or ceiling. The two can be used in tandem too, such as grabbing a foe and pulling them towards you with the leash, and then kicking them into a cactus with the boot.
This slow motion effect is used almost constantly, but oddly, it never becomes dull or repetitive, as there’s always some new way to kill foes. In fact, so numerous are these methods that there’s a special skill kill list that tells you many of the possible kills (although some are kept secret for you to discover yourself).
This skill killing can earn large point bonuses, but to maximise your possible payout, you’ll need to mix and match these kills, as the game reduces the award for kills the more you use them. So, for example, kick a foe into a spiked wall and you’ll get the ‘Voodoo Doll’ kill, and 100 points. Do it again, though, and this value will drop, so you can’t simply rely on this. It’s similar in many ways to Madworld on the Wii, which also awarded creative and varied kills with higher points.
To help with these kills, there’s a range of weapons. I’ve already mentioned the basic assault rifle, which is your bread and butter weapon, and the flail grenade launcher, which fires grenade-toting bolos that wrap around foes, and can be detonated when you wish.
Other weapons include a pistol, which doubles up as a flare gun, a quad barrelled shotgun and a rather effective minigun that turns foes to mulch in seconds. All weapons have alternate modes, which must be unlocked using points, and these secondary modes also have ammo counters. So, to use them, you’ll need to buy them.
Smooth but simple
All of this skilful killing is presented in a typically smooth and silky manner, something we’ve come to expect from Epic. The game feels a lot like Unreal Tournament and handles very well. Weapons all feel right, and the variety in both weapons and environments, not to mention the plethora of ways to kill people, makes for a truly addictive and entertaining title, if one that’s a little short.
Despite not boasting many faults, the game does have a glaring issue, a lack of decent game modes. There’s just not that much in the way of multiplayer action, something that a game like Bulletstorm is crying out for. The only online modes are Echoes and Anarchy. The Echoes mode strips out the best sections from the game’s campaign levels and strings them together into a new, shorter map. Players select these custom maps and then proceed to rack up the highest score possible, which is then graded against the Bulletstorm-playing world.
It’s an interesting addition, sure, but it’s only really of any use for those who obsess over having the highest score. For others, who couldn’t care less about this virtual pissing contest, it’s a mode that’s not going to appeal all that much.
The other online mode, Anarchy, is a co-op mode, similar to Gears‘ Horde mode, and sees players fighting off wave after wave of enemies. It’s fun, yes, but it’s not really enough.
The lack of any real competitive or team-based multiplayer modes is a real travesty. There’s no deathmatch, CTF, domination or anything. This is surely where a game like Bulletstorm belongs and is designed for, no? Hopefully, this may be addressed in the inevitable DLC (which, of course, will probably cost you), but until then, you’ll have to make do.
Want death with that?
Bulletstorm, despite the lack of any substantial multiplayer modes, is a decent and unique FPS that’s well worth checking out. It looks fantastic and plays very well, indeed.
The urge to find that elusive skill kill will keep players coming back for more, and the breath of fresh air it brings to an increasingly stale genre is very welcome. It’s not for everybody, especially with its cheesy frat boy humour and often crude dialogue, but it’s a good blast while it lasts.
Bulletstorm is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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