Hands-On: Bulletstorm Demo (in 3D)

John Funk | 25 Jan 2011 10:00
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The demo for Bulletstorm, the hyperkinetic shooter from Epic Games and People Can Fly, hits Xbox Live and PlayStation Network today. Given that Epic is right in our neck of the woods in North Carolina, The Escapist was invited to hop on down to Epic's HQ and take an exclusive early look at the demo content. If there's anything that I've learned from Bulletstorm, it's this: I am not very good at shooting guys in the nuts.

When I say that, I don't mean that I idly took aim and fired, or that I sprayed-and-prayed in the general direction of a dude's groin. I mean, I actively tried to take out those enemy tallywhackers. I switched to a more accurate weapon for the sake of being able to aim more precisely at their junk. I took effort to set up elaborate balls-blasting opportunities, launching enemies into the air in slow-motion to try and unleash hot lead into their jimmyjangles. I'm just saying, don't doubt my commitment to trying to shoot out someone's General Johnson. Why? Because that's the sort of mindset Bulletstorm puts you in. Can I do this? Yes, you can. Okay, but will I get points for it? Absolutely. Awesome, I'm there!

Bulletstorm is a game that hearkens back to old-school design philosophies in more ways than one. In the era of the modern "realistic" military shooter, Bulletstorm is unabashedly unrealistic and over-the-top, far more in line with games like Duke Nukem or Serious Sam, where it is you, your guns, and thousands of enemies to kill in progressively more ridiculous ways.

It's also obsessed with points, which seems odd in this day and age. How often did we laugh at mainstream media describing GTA as a game where you killed hookers "for points?" Silly news writers, this isn't Tetris or George Costanza's high score on Frogger - we've moved beyond points! Except that Bulletstorm hasn't - it embraces points and high scores wholeheartedly.

As with everything else, Bulletstorm approaches the idea of points with unchecked enthusiasm. Two game modes - the competitive single-player (no, it's not an oxymoron) "Echo," and the multiplayer "Anarchy" - revolve around points and high scores. PS3 and Xbox 360 owners around the world will get to check out a demo of Echo mode for themselves today.

Echo levels take short snippets of the single-player campaign, turning them into quick standalone missions. The one in today's demo takes place about halfway through the game, says lead producer Tanya Jessen, as protagonist Grayson Hunt and his allies search for the evil general who serves as the game's main villain. To get to the general, players will have to pass through a hotel which has fallen on its side and bridges a massive canyon. As with all of the Echo maps, it really is just a brief section of the full chapter in the single-player campaign that a determined gunfighter can blaze through in no time at all. Indeed, the "time to beat" on this mission was only 6 minutes, though I ended up finishing most times around 8-9 minutes or so.

But before gamers rise up and burn Cliff Bleszinski in effigy for releasing the shortest demo ever, remember it's short because it's meant to be played over and over again, competing against yourself and friends. In Bulletstorm, every single act will earn you points. You'll earn a handful of points by killing an enemy, but more points by killing them creatively. In fact, that's what Bulletstorm means with its motto: "Kill with skill." What it's really telling you is to "kill imaginatively (and executing said kills will take skill)."

The demo starts the player off with three weapons - an assault rifle, a revolver, and a grenade launcher, which throws two bombs linked by a cord that will wrap around any target they hit (whether alive or part of the environment), and can be detonated later. Every weapon also has a limited alternate fire mode that overcharges it, complete with a really neat glowing-red-hot effect. The revolver sets its targets on fire, and the grenade launcher (or "flingshot") will slice through anything it touches like a buzz-saw.

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