Review: Bulletstorm

Russ Pitts | 22 Feb 2011 12:00
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Unless you actually have a life and do things other than sit at your computer refreshing videogaming websites over and over and over (in which case you probably aren't reading this anyway) you've heard of Bulletstorm. What you probably know about it already is that it's gruesome, over-the-top, encourages wealthy men to act like idiots on camera and will instigate serial rapings across the planet upon release.

OK, check all that off your list and let's get down to business: Is it any good? The answer to that question is: Yes, Bulletstorm is fun. It is innovative in some ways and disappointing in others, but on the whole it is incredibly fun. Mind-numbingly fun. It is so much fun they will have to re-write the definition of fun. All of the eggheads saying "fun is not the point of videogames" will lose their jobs once this game is released because, upon playing it, you will remember that fun is, in fact, the entire damn point of playing games and the only reason you may have ever doubted that was because you were playing games that were not this much fun.

Bulletstorm is the latest from Polish developer People Can Fly, creators of the celebrated Painkiller, about which our own Yahtzee Croshaw said "The only way [the Electro-Driver gun} could be any cooler is if it had tits and were on fire." High praise indeed, but Bulletstorm lives up to that pedigree with only one major exception, which is a good place to segue into mentioning that for Bulletstorm, PCF partnered up with Epic Games, creators of the Unreal engine, Gears of War and CliffyB. PCF handled the majority of the gameplay and setup of this game, while, near as we can tell, most of the appliqué of AAA gloss fell on Epic's shoulders. Which is really a sad shame because frankly, Bulletstorm's AAA frills obscure the innovative gameplay.

The gameplay, in a nutshell, is like this: You are trapped on an alien world and must escape. Between you and your escape are hordes of bad dudes. You have seven awesome guns and a whip-like Leash you can use to kill said bad dudes. Killing them in fun and interesting ways earns you points which you can use to download more weapons and ammo with which to kill more dudes. The end.

At any one time, you are armed with three weapons, their alternate fire modes, your Leash and your boot, all of which you can use to kill dudes. Plant your boot in a dude's ass and send him toppling over a cliff earns you skillpoints for the "Vertigo" kill. Wrap a flail grenade around a dude and then kick him off a cliff and you earn the Vertigo and Sadist skillpoints. Wrap a flail grenade around a dude, then shoot him with your shotgun, sending him flying backward off the cliff, and you earn the Sadist and Vertigo and Pump-Action skillpoints. And then list goes on.

Thankfully I've selected my 10 favorite Skill Kills for your amusement in the following video:

Bulletstorm so successfully harnesses the elusive high of fun-based, immersive flow that you will find yourself coming back to it again and again. Luckily, PCF seems to have predicted this, since they included a single-player mode called "Echo Mode" which allows you to play and replay portions of levels as many time as you like, earning points to unlock new levels and posting your scores on a leaderboard to compare measurements with your online friends.

Echo Mode is without a doubt the single coolest thing I've seen in a shooter in a long, long time and neatly fills the gap between slogging through a story-based campaign and jumping into the boner-killing jerk pit that is playing shooters online. If you must play online, however, there are many worse games to play than Bulletstorm

Bulletstorm juices up online play with "Anarchy Mode," a horde-mode style "You-and-Friends vs. Waves of Enemies" time-killer that literally forces players to cooperate to earn the higher-scoring "Team Kills." Sure you can kill dudes in all of the same fun-tastic ways as in the single-player modes, but using the Team Kills earns you more points and certain special Team Challenges earn mega-points. And earning points is the name of the game.

An example of how the Team Kills work would be the "Tug-of-War." Use your leash to grab a dude then have one of your teammates grab him too. The result: quartered dude and a bundle of points. Another example: Use your slide move to send a dude flying through the air in slow motion and have one of your buddies shoot him. Team Slide. Bam! As you can imagine, the possibilities are as seemingly limitless as the number of skill kills.

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