In theory this sounds like a great way to jazz up multiplayer, but in practice it's hit-or-miss. Your experience will vary depending on the level of cooperation you can cajole out of your online friends. Many of the team kills require coordination and precision equal to that of competitive Counter Strike so it may not be fun for everybody, and kind of plays against the perception of Bulletstorm as pick-up-and-playable. Mastering Anarchy Mode definitely requires practice, but if you have a few good friends, it's worth the investment of time and patience.
It's certainly not worth it for the story. Bulletstorm puts you in the gigantic boots of Grayson Hunt, also known as "Gray," also known as "Epic Games' latest attempt to create the most abhorrent main character ever devised and yet still have people lining up around the block to play him." Gray is the leader of a group of soldiers (always soldiers) who have found themselves on the outs with their former commander, General Serrano (always soldiers on the outs), after discovering that they've been lied to and that all those unarmed civilians they've been killing for however many years weren't actually bad guys at all, just people their General didn't like. Whoops, betrayal (always betrayal).
CUE: Dramatic Betrayal Music as Gray and his team turn into a group of wandering space drifters raiding government ships for loot, drinking heavily and avoiding bounty hunters - that is until Serrano tracks them down. Then they foolishly (because Gray was drunk) take on a battlecruiser head-to-head and end up crash-landing on an abandoned planet filled with lots of dudes who want to kill them. And if you're thinking at this point that all of that would make for a neat videogame story, you're right, it would have, but PCF, Epic and Bulletstorm writer Rick Remender (writer of the comic Fear Agent and co-writer on Dead Space) decided that five minutes of cut-scene-laden exposition at the beginning of the game would be the best place for this part of the story and filled the rest with hamfisted, cliché-laden tripe of the kind you'd expect to see written into the first few pages of a game manual.
The characters are one-dimensional caricatures lacking in any motivation and Remender repeatedly hits you over the head with their "unique character attributes" as if videogamers are too dense to recognize characters like "The Screw-up With a Heart of Gold," "The Morally Conflicted Side-kick" and "The Saucy-but-Sexy Girl-who-Needs-Rescuing-but-Won't-Admit-It." What's lying on the Bulletstorm table would make for a fine meal, but is instead over-cooked and under-seasoned and comes out a mishmash of well-trodden tropes lacking in any form of subtlety or spark.
The worst part about Bulletstorm is, in fact, the story, or more precisely the imprecise interjection thereof. It's as if the team couldn't decide if they wanted to make a space opera or a mindless videogame and compromised. Their mistake. Between cutscenes, intentional slowing of the pace and annoying in-mission jabber, the story interrupts the high-octane fun just enough to continually remind you it's there - and is terrible.
Fortunately, a game like Bulletstorm doesn't need a story to be fun. (In fact, if they'd left it off entirely it would have been a better game and our score reflects that.) Once you get past the bullshit (coincidentally, like the game, abbreviated BS), and the game gets the hell over itself and lets you loose, the fun cranks up to 11 and doesn't stop.
Bottom Line: Bulletstorm is the evolutionary "next step" for first-person shooters that makes up for its jerk-off story by adding plenty of new wrinkles to a heretofore tired genre. This is a game that will be remembered for years to come (for a few reasons) and, aside from having nothing to talk about in online forums for the rest of the year, you will be the loneliest kid on your street if you don't have it.
Recommendation: Buy it.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version.
Russ Pitts is the Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist. He blogs at www.falsegravity.com