I’ve talked about the problem with FPS games at the moment, namely that there are way too many of them. Another noticeable trend in games is the increasing importance of having a strong story, and more noticeably a unique lead character (Alan Wake, John Marston, Cole Phelps). It’s safe to say, the days of characters like Master Chief and Jack (Bioshock) are gone.
That’s why when I encountered a game which not only managed a fresh, new take on the FPS genre but told the rest of shooters that it would “murder their dicks” (direct quote), and a character who slide kicked his way into my heart by naming a robotic dinosaur “Waggleton P. Tallylicker” – I knew I had discovered a first-person shooter that had no problems setting itself apart from the rest.
And, despite whatever gripes you may have with Bulletstorm’s violence, it’s sexism, it’s profanity, it’s immaturity, it’s awesomeness (too much awesome can be a problem, I swear), nobody can say that it didn't stand out, especially in a genre where a lot of popular games seem very similar to each other (Call of Battlefield, Gears of Halo, Tom Clancy’s Brink Recon – you know the ones I mean).
Bulletstorm puts you in the shoes of murderous space pirate Grayson Hunt, who crash lands on the planet Stygia, which is mostly populated by mutants and blood-crazed gangs of raiders, after slamming his spaceship kamikaze-style into a massive (corrupt) government freighter. Forced to try and reach the rapidly dying survivors of the government vessel in the hopes of hijacking their ride off world, you shoot and boot your way through around 10 hours (slightly longer than I was expecting) of beautiful backdrops, decaying cities and partially (sometimes even fully!) decapitated enemies. The obvious survival motive is offset by an oddly touching emotional one, the last surviving member of your crews hasty landing has to have somewhere around half his body replaced with machinery – and the AI inside him is slowly corrupting his emotional responses.
Bulletstorm is a hell of a ride. From weapons which just feel good to use (like the Flail Gun, two grenades on a string which either wrap enemies to walls or just wrap around their throat, feet, body, whatever – and then explode) to some amazing boss fights (Four-story tall plant? A lot harder than it sounds. I thought I could just smoke my way out…) and of course, the infantile and yet addictively moronic dialogue ("Want to make out? In a totally hetero way?" "Hah!" "That was a nervous chuckle. Either your human side gets the joke, or your robot side likes the way I look in these pants." "Perhaps a little of both.").
And then there is the “skillshot” point system. I’ll be honest here, I was addicted to this before the game even came out (I seem to recall being ranked 500 in the world for the demo, out of around 2 million players – but at least I don’t brag about it). There is a flawless simplicity to rewarding a player based on the inherent “skill” of his kills (something which is inferred by the 160 or so possible kill shots in the game, ranging from simpler ones like Bossed for killing a miniboss all the way up to much harder to achieve kills like Lucky Shot – Kill an enemy with a Cannonball that has travelled over 100 meters without bouncing). The benefit of performing skillshots is twofold ; firstly you are earning more points, which means better upgrades and more ammunition (not to mention achievements), secondly by performing skillshots you look like you are REALLY DAMN AWESOME.
Seriously. Practice some skillshots. Accidently be playing Bulletstorm when that chick/guy you have a crush on comes over. And get laid.
(Probably.) (Well, not probably. But maybe.) (Actually it would probably hurt your chances.) (But it’s something I look for in sexual partners.) (Probably.)
The downside is the multiplayer. Obviously with things like kicks and leashes (I forgot to talk about the leash! Basically you can hook people in towards you at will and then boot them away, or shoot them I guess, it’s awesome) which trigger slow motion, a typical player-versus-player multiplayer was impossible. Instead they tried to integrate an online version of the Horde game mode in Gears of War 2. I say tried, because I have never seen it work properly and instead it just infuriates me. Much more satisfying to pretend there is no multiplayer, the storyline is replayable and is good enough to justify purchase price for me (why didn’t they put in a Co-Op option? I have no idea, but it’s probably a conspiracy).
Bulletstorm isn’t a “smart man’s” shooter like Bioshock and nor is it a “modern shooter” like Call of Duty. And it doesn’t pretend to be. It plays a lot like Gears of War (big surprise, it’s by the same publisher Epic Games) if you take all the depressing, the-human-race-is-doomed vibes out of it and speed up the action by removing cover combat. It has a unique and enjoyable range of weapons, a lot of character (which has worked against it in the past, luckily I enjoy penis references being spaced out with intervals of around 10 minutes) and a score system which enhances the gameplay without distracting from it.
If you are offended by profanity or senseless violence this isn’t the game for you (but if you are, then most games probably aren’t) but if you want a decent length romp through a graphically complex and beautiful environment – and to get some amazing looking kills doing it – then I would pick this up.