Release Date:February 22, 2011
Publisher: Electronic Arts
ESRB Rating: Mature
Bulletstorm is a futuristic first-person shooter developed by People Can Fly and Epic Games. This video game is one of those things where you’ll either dig it or you won’t. Unrepentantly over the top, the game shares a common spirit with movies like Kill Bill or Shoot ‘Em Up. It revels in gratuitous everything, just for the sake of being excessive in and of itself.
Most of the ridiculousness inherent in Bulletstorm stems from the game’s story and much reported on “skillshot” based combat system. The script itself is your typical sci-fi fare, but the manner in which the character dialogue is written really makes it stand out. Mostly because it’s immature to the point of being infantile and heavily laced with puerile profanity- but in a good way. Also, it’s not the amount of profanity that’s staggering, it’s the sheer variety of it. It’s almost like they rounded up a bunch of high school freshman, locked them into a room all night with the assignment to come up with as many vulgar phrases as possible, without repeating themselves. Stuff like <edited>, <edited for content>, and <edited for content unbecoming of a video game reviewer>. You get the idea.
As far as the combat goes, it’s not that it’s excessively gory compared to other first-person shooters, it’s more the manner in which the violence is executed. A short way into the game you gain a whip-like weapon called a “leash.” This weapon allows you to pull enemies towards Hunt (Bulletstorm‘s main character), and interact with your surroundings in various ways to activate traps, etc. Additionally, Hunt can also slide into and kick away enemies. Throw in a variety of weapons, and there are several nasty ways in which baddies can be taken down. Some of the more, shall we say, creative combinations, are awarded points and called “skillshots.” While it may not sound over the top on the face of it, when you spend half an hour using the leash to pull an enemy toward you just so you can kick him away, fire your sniper rifle and steer the bullet all Wanted style into the guy’s genitals, just to unlock a skillshot called “nutcracker,” then you may see what I mean.
The points you gain for skillshots varies depending on the level of difficulty. While you’ll earn 25 points for a headshot, the aforementioned nutcracker will net you 50. Indirect kills can be awarded points too. Take out one or more enemies with your clichéd explosive barrel, and you’ll get the “enviro-mental” skillshot and a cool 50 points. Accumulated points are then used to unlock higher ammo capacities, more charged shots for each weapon, or to purchase ammo. So while it’s not absolutely necessary to earn skillshots on every enemy, the game does reward you for being creative with your carnage and the variety helps Bulletstorm keep from feeling like just another FPS.
The weapons help as well. Sure, there’s the old pistol and rifle standbys, but each weapon also has a charged shot ability that makes it act in different ways. The leash adds a new dynamic, and there are some appropriately futuristic weapons as well. A favorite of mine is the flail gun: a rifle that fires two spiked grenades connected by a chain. Wrapping up a dude with one of those and then kicking him into a group of his buddies was a common highlight in my time with the game.
All in all, Bulletstorm certainly isn’t the title to bring up when engaging in the whole “games as an art form” debate. That’s not to say there isn’t any entertainment to be had here, however. I predict that some gamers .. gamers that are looking for fun gameplay .. gamers that are amused by, or can at least overlook, a completely juvenile sense of humor .. I predict those gamers will find something to like about Bulletstorm. I also predict that most of those gamers will be dudes.