Bulletstorm-Review Bulletstorm Review

   20/04/2011 at 07:56       Richard Horne       2 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Bulletstorm, People Can Fly, Epic Games, Dick Tits, Waggleton P Tallylicker

There’s a single moment in Bulletstorm that sums the game up beautifully and succinctly. Grayson Hunt – the game’s main protagonist and resident Hugh Jackman look-alike – enters an elevator and is presented with a key pad, from which he has to select a floor. Instead of pressing a single button with one finger as any normal person would, he instead, Neanderthal-like, slams his entire fist into it pressing about 8 buttons at once and brutally destroying it.

Whether this was intended as a deliberate allegory is hard to tell, but it’s quite brilliant in its symbolism. Bulletstorm is a testosterone-fuelled riot of a game that much like its central character’s preferred way of meting out punishment, gives the FPS genre a massive kick in the gonads. It’s dumb, violent, action-packed and so full of machismo it would probably bleed spunk if you cracked its skull open. In short, Bulletstorm makes Gears of War look like an episode of Glee.

But here’s the best part. Bulletstorm isn’t Duke Nukem, WWE or Serious Sam type dumb. It’s got a cheeky glint in its eye, an all-knowing smirk, and a razor-sharp self-referential sensibility that sneakily hides behind the dick jokes and homoeroticism.

Bulletstorm also somehow manages to be a nuanced first-person-shooter in that the main emphasis isn’t actually on the guns. Instead it’s more about how skilfully and effectively you utilise your secondary weapons and additional power-ups. For instance, in addition to be being able to shoot the dicks off countless enemies using your standard assault rifle, pistol or shotgun you can also use your energy leash to pull enemies towards you. And doing so almost suspends them in time, and allows you to, like Jet Li in the under-rated classic The One, move around them in real-time as they ever-so--slowly move through the air. And then, the game’s coup-de-grace: you get to kick them hard in the balls, and propel them in whichever direction you like onto the nearest dangerous looking obstacle, like a pane of glass, a heavily spiked fence, a dangerously hot lava pit or a vertiginous drop. And it’s this combination of weapons, power-ups and conveniently placed death-traps that make the gameplay come into its own. You see, just shooting the fuck out of someone as you would traditionally in a Halo or Call of Duty game is eminently possible, but it’s far from the most effective way of despatching an enemy. And herein lies the game’s core magic.

Similarly to Call of Duty’s Challenges which reward the player for achieving certain in-game objectives, People Can Fly included an exhaustive database of imaginative ways in which it’s possible to despatch of its enemies, all of which come with amusing titles. Rear Entry - “Kill an enemy by shooting him in the ass.” Gag Reflex - ”Kill an enemy by shooting him in the throat.” And my own personal favourite: Sausage Fest“Kill an enemy using a hot dog cart explosion.”

Trying to unlock and complete them all, fast becomes an obsession and the sheer variety and number of them means the gameplay isn’t just that same 30 seconds of action repeat ad-infinitum. Thanks to the gradual unlocking of weapons and  power-ups, each new level contains numerous varied ways to maim, butcher, decapitate and kill, which after the fact, encourages numerous play-throughs as you strive to unlock every single skill-shot.

People Can Fly also somehow managed to just about shoe-horn this database of skill-shots into the main narrative, defining it as an agency tool used to the track the progress of its soldiers. It’s totally contrived, but knowingly so, and you can’t fail but be impressed by the development team’s bare-faced-cheek and audacity.

Bulletstorm also revels in its set-pieces, which while entirely scripted are still hugely memorable, unique and original. There’s one I won’t spoil, which ends with the immortal words: “I named him Waggleton P Tallylicker, I never even got the chance to tell him. He will be remembered.” Which made the schoolboy in me chuckle in childish delight.

While I mentioned earlier that Bulletstorm’s main focus isn’t on its primary weapons, I’m going to somewhat contradict now that explaining how when you’re left with no choice but to use the myriad weapons eventually available to you, they’re among the best in FPS history. My favourite, the trusty sniper rifle takes its cues from the Burnout series and lets you apply (a lot of) aftertouch in order to steer your bullets around, or up and over obstacles. It’s a brilliant addition and reminds me of the under-rated John Woo’s Stranglehold in that skilfully guiding your bullet into an enemy’s nuts or head is hugely satisfying. The effective ragdoll physics also mean their limp, life-less bodies will react in a believable manner which further increases the satisfaction. What's not so great, however, is the canned animation that kicks in everytime you fire a sniper round, with your target suddenly springing to life, dropping everything and attempting to run away from the imminent head-exploder. It's an understandable addition - sniping would be too easy otherwise - but it quickly starts to grate and makes it increasingly difficult to nail the perfect bollock-shot.

Each weapon in the game has a secondary fire option and the aforementioned sniper rifle eventually allows you to shoot explosive rounds, so not only can you steer them into opposing forces, but once you’ve hit your target you can then steer and manoeuvre it around in order to position it close enough to supporting enemies, ready for you to mulilate the lot of them with one single bullet. This is particularly useful if you find yourself in a low-ammo situation, and also, conveniently enough, opens you up for plenty of skillshot database unlocks.

As a light-hearted alternative to the ever-so-serious Halo and Call of Duty games, Bulletstorm is a very welcome change of pace. And even though it’s Unreal Engine powered – a fact which these days seems to be seen as a negative – its environments and locales are constantly varied and interesting. People Can Fly did a great job of maintaining the pace too, it doesn’t show its hand too soon and gives you new weapons and power-ups right up until its conclusion. Its sharp writing provides constant entertainment and any game that includes the following exchange is always a winner in my book.

Gray: “Want to make out? In a totally hetero way?”
Ishi: “Hah!”
Gray: “That was a nervous chuckle. Either your human side gets the joke, or your robot side likes the way I look in these pants.”
Ishi: “Perhaps a little of both.”

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