Reviews - Multi Platform
Written by Ryan Farrenkopf Friday, February 25 2011 15:03
In this day and age, video games are a serious business. Once small developers are now big companies trying to make money. The products they turn out are great, but they seem to be missing something. It's like the seriousness of the industry has rubbed off on the games and now they are all...serious. Enter Bulletstorm, developed by People Can Fly and Epic Games. Bulletstorm trades in well disciplined soliders for a group of foul mouth Space pirates, and swaps a gritty, realistic political war for a planet filled with mutants. This is all to remind players that first person shooters can, and used to be, all about having fun. Timesplitters anyone?
But does this formula work? Does Bulletstorm allow us to have fun, or will we be running back to games like Call of Duty for some serious play?
Developer: People Can Fly / Epic Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform(s): Xbox 360 (Reviewed) / PS3 / PC
Release Date: February 22nd, 2011
From the beginning, it's clear that Bulletstorm is going to be telling a compelling story, that does more than just keep the game moving. Bulletstorm is set some time in the future, when space colonization is common place. You play as Grayson Hunt, a former marine who was part of an elite squad known as Dead Echo. However, Grayson and his team discovered that their leader, General Sarrano, has been using them to kill innocent civillians. Grayson and the rest of Dead Echo then devote themselves to getting revenge on him. Years later, this leads to Grayson, now a drunken space pirate, attacking Sarrano's ship and crashing them on a desolate planet that used to be a tropical resort. Now, Gray and his fellow space pirate Ishi, who is now a cyborg, must fight waves of mutant gangs to escape this wasteland.
The story and the characters in it are much more interesting than you'd first imagine. They all have their own personal demons to fight with, which does more than just carry the story along. With the exception of Ishi, the characters are probably the most foul mouth characters this side of Duke Nukem, possibly even more. The bad language isn't simply pasted on, it's built into the characters personalities. Even with the characters contantly spewing out language that would have made your grandma cry, you still find these characters likeable and want to see them succeed, with the exception of Sarrano of course. He's just an asshole. If, however, you have no stomach for that sort of language, you do have the option to turn it and with the gore off. This gives you a mix of bleeped out or over dubbed words, which isn't as funny as you'd hope.
The gameplay is where Bulletstorm really shines. Cliffy B and Co. said they where going to bring the fun back to FPS's and they definitely did. The concept of killing with skill starts off strong and doesn't wear out its welcome. Your best friends in Bulletstorm are your Peacemaker Carbine (assault rifle), your leash, and your boot. With these tools, you'll have endless fun pulling mutants towards you just to kick them away before popping their heads off with your Peacemaker. This really doesn't get old, because of how much you can vary the process. Many times I would try to find way to kill without using my guns; kicking mutants off a cliff to earn a "Vertigo" skillshot, or a "Shocker" skill shot from kicking them into electrical wires.
If this was all Bulletstorm had to offer, then it would get old. Fortunately for us, Bulletstorm is much much more. The story, the well-rounded characters, the action, and the environments all make Bulletstorm strong from start to finish. The addition of some interesting weapons also help out. Throughout the campaign, you'll pick up numerous weapons which can only be described as over-the-top murder machines. A four-barrel shotgun (Boneduster), cannonball gun (Bouncer), and a drill gun (Penetrator) are just a few such guns. Each gun can be upgraded through accessible dropkits. Spending your accumulated Skillpoints will unlock a charge shot for each weapon, as well as upgrading the weapons ammo capacity. I found myself constantly saving up to max out all my weapons. The weapon upgrades do leave much to be desired, though; it would have been nice to upgrade weapon damage and reload rates, which is odd because you can in the online Anarchy mode.
During my playthrough on normal difficulty, I only died a few times. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; Bulletstorm is not meant to be a difficult game like Gears of War, where you are constantly taking cover to try and stay alive. Bulletstorm wants you to be a badass, running around killing everything in sight and only taking cover when you absolutely need to. The story is broken into acts, each with several chapters. The game has plenty of cut scenes to help tell the story, but you never feel like you're being taken out of the game by them. That's because plenty of story is told in-game, and most of the games big moments are in-game as well. You even get awarded skillpoints for paying attention to them.
Multiplayer in Bulletstorm is lacking one of the major modes that usually make up a games' online experience: Deathmatch. It turns out that this isn't really missed. In order for deathmatch to work, it would have had to be dumbed down to remove all the elements that make Bulletstorm what it is. Instead, we get a cooperative mode called Anarchy.
Anarchy has you and three teammates fighting waves of mutants in small, hazardous arenas. Teamwork is essential; to clear a wave, your team must accumulate a set number of points. The best way (and sometimes only way) to do so is to work together as a team. Anarchy mode makes you want to work as a team. Even when playing with random strangers online, I found that people quickly stopped being selfish and started working together. However, without good team communication this only worked to a point. A lot of the matches I went into either had people without headsets or in an Xbox Live Party chat and unable to communicate. When this is the case, the team rarely made it past wave 10. Basically, communication is essential for Anarchy mode to work beyond the first few waves, so I would love to see PCF and Epic Games disable XBL Party chat in a later update.
Anarchy is not the only multiplayer mode. Bulletstorm also offers a high score mode called "Echoes", which allows players to replay moments from the single player campaign with the story removed in order to earn a high score on Global and Friend leaderboards. While it's fun to beat your friend's score in Echoes, it really just makes you want to replay the campaign, which is worth a revisit.
The graphics in Bulletstorm are a little bit of a let down, considering the games that come out of Epic studios are usually gorgeous. Bulletstorm's presentation seems muddy. This is mainly an issue with the texturing; we are used to waiting for textures to pop in with Unreal Engine titles, but in Bulletstorm sometimes you realize after the fact that the texture has already loaded in. Bulletstorm's presentation does have a saving grace, though. The enviroments are extremely large with some beautiful vistas and are very interactive. It's almost as if the environments are their own character, from how much personality they bring to each stage of the game.
Then there is the lighting. Bulletstorm takes full advantage of the new lighting capabilities of Unreal Engine 3.5, including so called, "God rays". The lighting simply looks amazing. I often found myself taking damage from an enemy simply because I was admiring the beams of light coming off of a palm tree. All this makes you almost not care that the textures are a little low quality.
Sound is "full on" in Bulletstorm. Guns have their own unique sounds which are all very heavy. Bodies sound juicy when they hit the spikes, and the voice acting is top notch. All the voices fit their character perfectly. It would have been nice to see R. Lee Ermy play General Sarrano, but the voice actor they got fills the roll of this narcissistic mass murderer just fine.
Bulletstorm has shown us that video games, especially first person shooters, can still be fun and give us a great story. Anyone who picks up this game will have little to complain about, as the sheer amount of fun you'll have while playing it overshadows any problem that the game has. Hopefully, the success of Bulletstorm will usher in a new era of fun, over-the-top games that don't take themselves too seriously. Simply put, People Can Fly and Epic games have made a masterpiece of fun that anyone will be hard pressed not to like.
95 out of 100