Review: Bulletstorm

The People Can Fly and Epic Games developed FPS –  Bulletstorm – brings in a new level of killing  takes away the repetition of cover-shoot-cover-shoot  that can be found in the oversaturated FPS market. The “killing is an art form” sums up the game precisely. It gives you freedom to experiment in killing enemies with a combination of weapons and the use of the environment. New elements are introduced throughout the game to make you mix up your player style.

The back story was explained eloquently as it could be in a FPS, and without losing the player along the way. The story line has many similarities to the Gears of War story, however it explains a lot more than the GoW storyline. Epic orchestra opening music on the title screen. On idle, the screen pans out from the main characters standing erect, to a pastel coloured sci-fi city and then back to the characters. A pretty and proud start to the brutal game.

The game revolves around Grayson Hunt on his quest to right wrongs. He and his black-ops team went AWOL when they found out the truth about their commanding officer. There are three supporting characters important to the storyline; Hunt’s cyborg partner Ishi Sato, General Sarrano and a female soldier Trishka. A majority of the story takes place on a failed resort resort planet, Stygia. The start of the story is used to ease the you into the mechanics of the game. That’s not to say it isn’t full of action but neither is it full of fast past playable action – most of it is cut scenes and talking.

The environments are destructible i.e hiding behind a semi opaque billboard will eventually be blown away bit by bit. A lot of interactive elements are scattered throughout the environment to kill enemies with, such as: explosive barrels, hot dog stands, parasitic pollops, walls of spiked metal, electric cables and man-eating plants, just to name a few. These elements are a lot of fun to play with and are highly entertaining for the first couple of times they are employed as killshots.

Default speed felt like the sprint mode on other shooters, while the sprint action was flat chat. Sliding – double tap A – is a grand way to get around. Can slide into enemies to stun them or shunt them into obstacles. Do your leg presses cause you’ll be doing a lot of kicking. Certain types of enemies get up into your face pretty fast, so kicking them sends them hurling into the air in slo-mo. This gives you time to pound on them. Turning around was slow in relation to the other controls, it was too easy for enemies to get behind the character and slash away. At least on the console version, you will definitely need to crank up the sensitivity on the controls.

There are 135 Skillshots in the game, there are both skill centric and gun centric skillshots.  Skillshots reward you for getting creative in your murdering. For instance you are only awarded 10 points for a normal kill, while “Fire in the hole” – Leash a miniboss’s helmet off, stun him again, then leash his head off – will award you with 250 points. The first time using a skillshot will award you up to 5 times the usual amount awarded. Skillshots can be strung together.  A large majority of the Skillshots can be crossed off by the end of the game without trying too hard. The points awarded are used as in-game currency, to buy weapons, ammo and upgrades which gives you further incentive to go out of the box.

All weapon classes are represented: the Leash; a handgun, the Screamer; Peacemaker Carbine; chain-linked-grenade-shooting Flailgun; Turret Gun; the explosive ball firing Bouncer Cannon; drill firing heavy weapon, the Penetrator; sniper rifle, the Headhunter; shotgun, the Boneduster. Most weapons have secondary fires which are unlocked and bought with skillpoints. One favourite is the Leash’s, which has the Thump, enemies in the vicinity are shock waved into the air or obliterated and explosive environmental elements are triggered. You will get a chance to unlock all of these weapons throughout the game, and will even get attached to two or three as weapons of choice. There are segments in the game where a certain weapon should be used, like the Headhunter to dispatch enemies at a far distance. Some weapons have a twist. The Headhunter is no ordinary sniper rifle, you take control of the bullet once it has been fired. Was a novelty to use at first but became tedious and time consuming by the end of the game.

Thankfully team mate AI’s don’t pick up ammo dropped by fallen enemies. An added bonus is that ammo is easily picked up from a distance using the leash. Enemy and friendly AI don’t make use if the interactive elements, such as exploding barrels. Not a even a stray bullet of theirs will cause an explosion. The game does introduce new enemies, all have varying AI attributes, which coax you to  change your player style to accommodate.

It was easy to run out of bullets at the start because you will have a tendency to rely on weapons rather than using the environment.   The variety of set pieces in the first few chapters were incredible but these gave way to traditional Gears of War style repetitive gunning your way through levels set pieces. These do serve to give you time to experiment with kills and knock off a few skillshots off the list. There was one cut scene towards the end that would have worked better as a payable section and cut some of the more repetitive sections out. There are some old school boss fights scattered throughout, with a good measure of mini bosses throw in.

The voice acting is what you would expect from a Willis or Schwarzenegger action movie but with added jazz. The dialogue is a tapestry of colourful words, while some would call them vulgar expletives. I loved the language right from the start. Somewhere in the middle of the game the banter between Ishi and Hunter became unbearably obnoxious, perhaps because they were the only two speaking characters for a long stretch of time. Or maybe it was because the game became highly repetitive in those chapters! Some respite was offered when the other characters were reintroduced. The main character sounds like a gruff, sarcastic Jack Nicholson.Ishi’s character oscillated from a whining wet blanket to hardened cyborg. But it doesn’t make sense – why would a whining wet blanket want to become a death guzzling soldier in the first place?  The Generals dialogue is over the top racist and derogatory with lines like “sushi dick” directed to Ishi and degatory terms like “faggots” and “You namby-pamby cock sucks” are a constant. This character instantly grated on me at first but by the end of the game he was my favourite character.

The multiplayer mode, Anarchy, puts you and up to 4 other players in a enclosed map, with a finite number of spawning enemies. The aim is to beat the set skill kill score with in the required time. Again, creativity is rewarded and collaboration with team mates is a must as there is team skillshots goals to accomplish. A major let down was this only multiplayer option. Echos are segments of the campaign where you have to get through them as fast as possible for time bonus points while racking up as much skill points as you can. Always a good idea to stay within the vicinity of your AI buddy because you won’t progress until he gets through all of the enemies. So its best to help him out so he’ll finally get moving.

Overall the art style is brighter than Gears of War, bright pastels and lush greens were laid on thick. Also, it was like someone took Gears of War and just cranked up the gamma on the monitor.  A particular environment section felt lifted straight out of Borderlands, and there were several scenes that evoked strong flashbacks of Gears of War. Some would say immersion was broken by the light blooming and liberal use of lens flare in the environment. These visual effects reduced as the game progressed and as the environments changed. The environments really shone when the lush organic environments –  and city scape segments – of the game were introduced.  The character design was the typical space marine physique. The main character looks to have heavy influences from Enslaved’s Monkey and Wolverine. Triska’s design was sexy and strong, without being a near naked, top heavy, sex bomb with a trout pout. All of the characters texturing looked a bit off, the skin had the sheen and the translucency of Tupperware.

Happily, no frame rate issues were experienced in the actual game play. There was one segment that chugged unashamedly in a cutscene at the beginning. Encountered bug at the end of a chapter which involved a lengthy gun fire battle with no checkpoints.  At the conclusion of the battle, the character became stuck, could only move the head and not the body. Had to restart from check point and do it over again, with no issues the second time round. Another bug was encountered later on in the story. There is a race against the clock to get to point B –  a trench run through enemies and sheets of bullets. Do this section too fast and some enemies won’t spawn, nor will the option to jump over the required barrier appear. Had to do this section a few times over to find the sweet spot – not too fast and not too slow so the timer doesn’t run out.   Another few issues that may irritate you, it is only possible to jump over a barrier is approached in the middle of the obstruction – this is really annoying when you are in a rush. Also, the mini bosses seem to have overly large clip zones, this becomes an issue in smaller fight zones.

Even FPS fans will be divided on this game. For those players who love the efficiency of a clean kill, you will get impatient with the “cat playing with a half dead mouse” approach to dispatching enemies. For those who are are looking for hoot hollaring kills, with the language on the side as garnish, then this game is for you. The story is extremely linear, but, hey – the killing isn’t. I finished Bulletstorm on Hard and was challenged about two or three times.

Bulletstorm is available now for PS3, Xbox 360 and Windows. The Epic edition of Bulletstorm comes with a code for a limited edition blue armour blue pmc, golden leash, 25k XP to use in multiplayer mode Anarchy and six Echoe mode maps.

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