Hands-On: Bulletstorm Demo (in 3D)

John Funk | 25 Jan 2011 10:00
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Combine those with the player's two abilities - a kick that sends an enemy flying in slow-motion, and a laser leash that can either pull enemies in or knock a whole group of them up into the air - and you have a recipe for havoc. Bulletstorm gives you this simple command, 'kill creatively', and leaves you to figure out just what that means. In Echo mode, however, your objective is more laser-focused: Kill creatively and get the highest score.

Luckily, those two objectives go hand-in-hand. Repeating skill shots will lead to diminishing returns, but combining them will combine the scores, too. So sure, you might get points for setting an enemy on fire and then killing him. You might get points for wrapping an enemy in the flingshot and detonating him in a group of his friends. But you'll get more points for setting him on fire, wrapping him in the flingshot, pulling him towards you with the laser leash and then kicking him into his friends, switching weaponry to shoot him in the throat before you detonate the grenades.

Bulletstorm gleefully encourages that sort of experimentation, particularly in environmental kills. Say you yank an opponent towards you, but you don't notice you're standing next to exposed rebar, which impales him. Or you kick him into dangling power cords, electrocuting him. You can pull that supply cabinet on the ceiling open with a leash, dropping lethal hardware on your opponents, or you can activate one of the defunct now-sideways elevators to squash a group of unlucky enemies (try setting them on fire first for the point bonus).

Since Echo mode has you replaying levels over and over to try and best your high score - and that of your friends - discovering these tricks is really rewarding, because it means you can work them into your delicious combos of death. There are mutant-like enemies that wear strange facemasks, for instance. When shooting the body of one I'd already killed to see if I'd get points for corpse desecration (you don't, but you do get points for wrapping an enemy in a bomb, killing him and then detonating it), I shot the mask, flooding the area with green gas. It made the screen wavy and unclear, as my character was temporarily intoxicated - but killing an enemy while you're intoxicated is another point boost. So that encouraged me to shoot every facemask I could, to try and get that extra bonus.

Discovering these cool tricks is rewarding in itself but executing them is another thing entirely. "Kill with skill" is the motto, after all, and there are times when I found myself looking at the aftermath of a particularly amazing combination and swearing I'd never pull it off again unless it was by luck.

But maybe I'd discover something better. That's part of the fun, after all.

Though the Bulletstorm demo won't be coming to PC - it was a question of time, said Jessen - I was able to play the Echo level in question with the newly-announced Nvidia 3D graphics support. It took some time to get used to the 3D effect in contrast with the 2D HUD, though dialing down the strength of the effect helped. If you haven't been a proponent of 3D gaming before, Bulletstorm probably won't win you over, though there's no denying that the technology does seem exceptionally well suited to a fast, vibrant, over-the-top game like this one. It definitely helps add a sense of depth to fights, and it was incredibly entertaining to take one enemy and keep kicking him into the air and pulling him back with the laser leash (in order to kick him again), but I doubt it'll be a deal-maker or a deal-breaker for anyone.

Besides, it isn't like including the 3D made me any better at shooting guys in the nuts. And if I can't do that, what's the point?

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