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'Bulletstorm' brings the bravado

Mar 21, 2011

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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BulletstormJust as every movie can't be Citizen Kane, The Godfather, or The King's Speech, not every video game can be Ico, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or Half-Life 2.

There have been some fairly epic first-person shooters released in the history of game-dom including Half-Life 1 and 2, Bioshock and Halo. Sometimes though, it's not plot or character development people are looking for. There are times when all gamers want is to shoot a lot of stuff.

For those people, there is Bulletstorm.

An unapologetic, unabashed ode to all things extreme, impetuous and immature, Bulletstorm very much succeeds because it manages to stay lighthearted and more importantly, fun.

You play as Grayson Hunt, an ex-soldier-turned-space-pirate who, after being double-crossed by his old leader, loses his will to fight for good and would rather down a bottle of booze than protect those in need. After spotting that leader's ship in outer space after years in relative obscurity, Grayson takes it upon himself to shoot it down.

Problem is, Grayson is a little buzzed from some alcohol and isn't thinking about the fact that his ship is about a tenth the size of the one he's taking on, nor does he consider that he has an entire crew that he's putting at risk to sate his own feelings of vengeance.

BulletstormGrayson actually does somehow manage to shoot down his target, but his own ship is damaged in the firefight and it goes down as well. Both vessels crash land on a nearby planet, and the meaty campaign begins.

Now, as by-the-numbers as the plot is, little time is wasted setting up the atmosphere in Bulletstorm. Though there are numerous massive setpieces and some downright thrilling moments, the dialogue is mostly lighthearted, and has some of the funniest lines in a video game in years.

At one point, Grayson is arguing with a squadmate who nearly died in the opening crash and had to have much of his body repaired using mechanical parts. The human part of his brain is slowly being taken over by the robot element and it's causing him to question - and sometimes even threaten - Grayson. So how does our protagonist answer back? At one point, he responds by calling him a "robot-head jerk-ass."

While this stuff won't win any Pulitzer prizes, it fits well into the game, and the voice actors deliver the lines absolutely perfectly. There are several genuine laugh-out-loud moments throughout the campaign.

The gameplay itself is just as enjoyable, and there's one hook that sets Bulletstorm apart from most other first-person shooters out there right now.

BulletstormThat hook is the SkillShot system. Bulletstorm on its own merits is a pretty standard FPS, but SkillShots make things very interesting by constantly rewarding players by awarding points for killing enemies in interesting and creative ways. It may sound gimmick-y, but you can bet your next beer funnel that the whole thing becomes downright addictive by about the second chapter.

There are literally hundreds of SkillShots in Bulletstorm, and they're all spread across the game's numerous awesome weapons. Rest assured you don't have to be an expert at first-person shooters to find instant and repeated success with them. Kicking enemies into giant cacti, knocking them off of ledges, shooting them in the crotch, lighting them on fire and sending them, screaming, into a crowd of enemies ... the deaths are morbid and the SkillShot names are sure to offend, but damned if it isn't all a ton of fun.

Best of all is the fact that while you can pull off plenty of SkillShots almost by accident, there are just as many that require a ton of, well, skill to complete. You can also string together multiple types on the same enemy, giving you all kinds of point bonuses.

As fun as it is to rack up points solely for online leaderboard bragging rights, you can actually spend them in-game to buy ammo, earn weapons, and unlock upgrades. It's not a very deep system, but in a game like Bulletstorm, that's something to be heralded, not frowned upon.

BulletstormIt's worth noting that the environments in the game are surprisingly detailed. Much of the planet looks like Earth, but on a much grander scale. You'll witness massive cities teeming with giant buildings in the distant horizon, yet when you have a chance to get closer, you'll see details like individual mailboxes to show you that the planet is alive.

Then of course there are other memorable levels like an amusement park where you're being chased by an out-of-control monster mech, or a disco hall where you're on a stage getting drunk and lighting waves of enemies on fire with your flare gun, all while listening to Disco Inferno as it blared from loudspeakers.

Bulletstorm has some excellent pacing, and besides running one or two levels too long, the campaign is about as solid as they get.

Beyond that, there are still some extras to help keep players from ejecting the disc immediately following the final credits. Echoes mode takes snippets of campaign levels and lets players loose in an attempt to earn as many SkillShot points as possible. The aim is to earn as many stars as possible by racking up the points. Echoes has its merits, but it's best left to those who simply can't get enough of pulling off SkillShots. To be honest, it would have been nice if enemies were randomly generated, or even better, if non-campaign levels were used.

BulletstormThe second mode is called Anarchy and features Bulletstorm's only multiplayer portion. In Anarchy, players are plopped into small arenas where enemies spawn and - you guessed it - they're tasked with wiping them out in the most creative ways possible. In order to get to the next wave, you have to reach a certain point total on your current wave.

The big difference in Anarchy mode is that co-operative kills are given precedence. Up to four players can link up online, and at the beginning of each new wave, dropkits appear briefly, allowing players to buy new weapons and ammo. For all intents and purposes it's Gears of Wars' Horde mode, except that there's very little challenge from one wave to the next. The whole thing feels oddly unsatisfying.

Still, as generic as the extra modes are, there's no denying that Bulletstorm's campaign is a thing of frat-boy beauty. Yet as immature as it is, there's a deep points system hidden behind all the penis jokes and curse words.

Bulletstorm may not be Shakespeare, but the gaming world would be a boring place indeed if we couldn't have some good old fashioned fun every once in a while.

 

Bulletstorm
Format: Playstation 3
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Epic Games, People Can Fly
ESRB Rating: M for Mature 17+
Official Site: http://www.bulletstorm.com/

Rating: 8.5 / 10

 
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