Bulletstorm (PC, PS3, X360)

Bulletstorm is completely bonkers. It’s the ridiculous, off the wall, and insane action that we’ve all secretly been yearning for deep inside our gamer souls. It’s rude, crass, offensive, sexist, cruel, gross and never softcore. It’s beautiful, vile, and unbelievable all at the same time. You travel across a gorgeous, decimated paradise of a planet, impaling, exploding, feeding and generally munching the locals into little bits with your guns. You meet a motley crew of swearing, aggressive characters, who are all so dislikeable you hang off their every crass word, and never stop having fun. That’s the important part: Bulletstorm abandons many of the conventions of serious shooters such as Modern Warfare or Killzone. This not only is its selling point, but also its fundamental theme throughout the whole game.  This game takes you back to the late 90s, when you‘d shoot things, they’d die, and you never had any gum.  You get points based on the creativity and brutality of your kills, and this ties in with how easily you can re-arm yourself. Truthfully, I just want something to shoot, and boy does Bulletstorm deliver! The game centers primarily around space-pirate Grayson Hunt and his brother-in-arms Ishi, as they attempt to escape from the ruined paradise resort world of Stygia. After warping out of deep space and coming upon the flagship of the General that betrayed them, The Ulysses, Grayson makes a drunken kamikaze attack on the ship, essentially punching the most advanced Warbird in the galaxy in the face. While his ship is nearly destroyed and goes plummeting onto the surface of a strange alien world, the Ulysses is also wrecked, and both ships crash a few miles apart. Grayson then attempts to not only exact his revenge on the general, but get himself and Ishi off the world as well.

The gameplay consists of lots of standard shooter fare with a ton of added kicks in the form of “skillshots”. These skillshots range from something as simple as a headshot (25 points) to something zanier, like kicking someone into electric cables (50 points) or shooting them in the groin, then blowing their head off as they writhe in pain (gleefully named “Mercy” and rewarding 100 points). There are a litany of over 100 skillshots, and every new weapon added into your arsenal further increases the number of creative ways you can destroy and maim those around you. A “leash”, which you discover fairly quickly in the game, is a module that attaches to your hand and displays both skillshot information and your ammo. It ties in with the various dead-drops you discover in the game. These dead-drops are where you cash in the points you make with your kills to unlock new weapons and ammo. In the context of the story, these were left here by a previous military campaign, and (in a delightfully Darwinian twist) were designed specifically so only the good soldiers would receive more ammo or better weapons.

There are a large number of set encounters: Big, crazy scripted battles where you are up against an unusual enemy or have a super powered weapon for a short amount of time. The game plays out nicely, moving at a breakneck pace from caves to trains to cliffs to villages to cities, propelling you through an amazing number of creative, vibrant, and stunning levels. This is one of the things I enjoyed the most as this is a departure from other shooters. Each level looks beautifully detailed, from the massive vistas near a gigantic dam, to the beautiful sci-fi skyscrapers, and crazy, The Fifth Element-headbutts-Bioshock design, to many of the more civilized parts of the city. The natural flora and fauna of Stygia are just as wide ranging and vivid, from electro-flies to huge man-eating Venus fly traps, and hilarious pods called Noms that, when kicked at an enemy, latch onto their heads and start chewing headcrab-style. That’s only a taste of the enemies you encounter on this murder paradise.

The game controls are tight and easy to pick up, and they at least use the matching buttons when giving you quick time events, such as shoot when you need to shoot in the sequence. One button activates the leash, and holding it down fires a “thumper” that launches all enemies caught in the area into the air, making them easy pickings. The artificial intelligence (AI) of your allies is competent enough, and invincible to the point where you usually don’t have to worry about them. The enemy AI is akin to Left 4 Dead, in which melee enemies swarm you, and regular shooter fare by using cover to advance into a confetti of bullets raining down on them.

The game is accompanied by a suitable soundtrack of loud, action movie fanfare, and squishy, gooey, gorey sounds whenever you land a good kill. The weapons have a great, loud kick to them and the charge shots that come with each weapon sound devastating and brutal. The dialogue is ridiculous and offensive, and delightfully colourful. The visuals mix perfectly with the audio, providing graphically sound and satisfying character models, level design, and effects. Explosions in particular look bright and powerful, streaming off like fireworks from their origin.

The multiplayer and “echo” segments, both of which involves replaying single player levels or edited maps, have some enjoyable times to be had, and it’ll keep your interest for a while as you attempt to get three stars on various challenges. But aside from that, it’s a straightforward multiplayer component, with the cooperative “Horde” mode (like swarm or wave cooperative modes in other shooters) adding a more diverse element.

Bulletstorm is raw and distilled fun for a mature audience. If you love cheesy sci-fi pulp and over-the-top machismo, mixed in with a vibrant, straightforward shooter, this is a game to add to your collection.