Being the second big FPS to be released in this year, Bulletstorm also signs the return of People Can Fly, the makers of the famous Painkiller. Not scared of measuring itself to Killzone 3, the game has hit the shelves this week and Gamersyde could not lose such an opportunity to give you a full review.
Boys don't cry
To those who thought that Bulletstorm would only be an arcade kind of game where the sole goal would be to reach the highest possible score, you are sadly mistaken. Though scoring is obviously at the core of gameplay (as we'll see in a bit), People Can Fly designed a whole story mode and a plot to go with it.
Careful though, it does not mean they wanted to compete with the likes of Bioshock in that area, as the characters of Bulletstorm are closer to caricatures (like Marcus Fenix and Dom Santiago for example) than to the tortured protagonists of 2K's title. Hardasses and swearing are then to be expected here, along with testosterone and dialog to be remembered:
"Go fuck yourself! You shit piles give chase, I will kill your dick!"
"What? What does that even mean? You're gonna to kill my dick? I'll kill your dick! How about that?"
After a very scripted prologue whose main goal is to introduce the player to the backstory, he finds himself thrown into a very hostile world where he can fully express his imagination and inventiveness to get rid of his enemies. The scenario is clearly not Oscar winning but it is well-paced enough to make it interesting during the 6 to 8 hours the campaign requires (on normal mode, and depending on whether or not you try to master all the skillshots and find all the collectibles).
It is only once on the home planet of the Creeps that the scoring system really kicks in, the beginning of the game being in fact quite similar to what the other games of the genre offer. This typical introduction is still useful and effective as it helps understand the personality of Grayson Hunt, a loudmouth keen on alcohol. I will now let you discover the first 10 minutes of the game (well the first 12 to be fair), and then we can talk business.
Massacreate is your motto
As proven by the numerous promotional videos released in the past few months, Bulletstorm's main identity comes from the phenomenal number of ways given to kill one's enemies. The player is then free to experience different types of combos and create a kind of meat and flesh ballet. Not only are the gunfights incredibly violent, but they are also a lot of fun with a scoring system that makes it very rewarding for the player. Indeed, it is not long before you try to vary your kills as much as possible.
One could think that such stylish executions are only for showing off but there is a lot more to it than that. As a matter of fact, for each kill you make, the points you gain can be traded to acquire new weapons, upgrades or ammo. People Can Fly even found a way to work the scoring system into the plot, and it is rather clever. The better you use your whip, your pair of boots, your arsenal or the environmental traps around you, the more skillpoints you get and the better your equipment. It is also a very good training ground for the addictive Echo mode (that was featured in the demo of the game).
Because Bulletstorm is first and foremost an epic (no pun intended) game, prepare yourselves for some impressive sequences, like for instance this passage where a giant grindwheel is actually chasing Grayson and Ishi. It is basically nothing more than a kind of rail shooting sequence but it manages to be more over the top than what you can see in, say, Killzone or Call of Duty. At some point, you also get to control a sort of remote controlled robotic rancor to clean the area of enemies or just clear the way. I won't say more so as not to spoil too much but suffice to say that it is one hell of a show.
Technically, you won't be surprised to see that Unreal Engine 3 is at work here. What is more surprising though is how colorful the game's world is. Indeed, today, it's almost like we'd all given up to the idea that every game should be grayish and monochromatic. Moreover, the environments are extremely varied, with indoor and outdoor areas : you will go through an abandoned city, creepy caves, an amusement park and much more.
The overall design is very good, unless you have a problem with big muscular guys with guns. The world People Can Fly created is absolutely beautiful and even though not everything looks perfect, you can't help but be speechless when discovering some of the views. That's why we will turn a blind eye to a few rough edges, the aliasing and the rare framerate drops we have witnessed.
Nothing to complain about in the sound department either. The voice over work is top notch, with really funny dialog that make the game even more entertaining. The AI could have beens sharper of course, but the enemies are playing the role of cannon fodder, so it does not really stand out as a major issue in the end.
Just like Gears of War, Bulletstorm is a game that is brutally enjoyable from beginning to end. It may be a bit of a shame that People Can Fly decided that playing the story mode with a friend would not work but if cooperation is your thing, then you can try the multiplayer that is similar to Gears' horde mode. Some might consider that the 6 to 8 hours to complete the game are not much, but trying the harder difficulty settings to meet more challenge is definitely worth it, even more if you're the completionist type (with all the skillshots to master, the collectibles to find). If you are addicted to high scores, you will also spend a lot of time playing the Echo mode, so again, the time you spend on the game is entirely up to you. In a way, Bulletstorm is to First Person Shooters what Vanquish was to Third Person Shooters when it was released. The main difference is that People Can Fly came back to the roots of the genre to make an explosive come back. One of the first good surprises of 2011, definitely.