Monday, July 29, 2013

Graduated Gamer Reviews Bulletstorm

Bulletstorm makes no apologies about what it is, which is pure unadulterated gun porn. The game is vulgar, violent, mindless, and filled with potty-mouthed jokes that you’d likely hear from a middle-schooler just learning how to curse, but dammit it’s a hell of a lot of fun! I just finished a marathon session of playing Prey (courtesy of the recent Xbox Live Ultimate Summer Sale) and I was worried that another FPS would be too much too soon, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Not since I played Black on the PS2 have I had this much fun just unloading gun clip after gun clip into rows of enemies. The people at Epic must have thought that the Gears of War series wasn’t enough to satiate people’s bloodlust, so they gave us Bulletstorm which pays homage to arcade-y shoot-em-ups. This game isn’t going to threaten any of today’s biggest shooters like Halo, Gears, or Battlefield, but for the 7-10 hours it’ll take you to beat the campaign mode you’ll be laughing along with the characters at every Skillshot you make.
Big wheel keep on turnin'....Big wheel keep on turnin'....

The real star of Bulletstorm is the weaponry. Like most shooters you start out with one trusty gun, a rifle in this case, and you also start with a pair of gravity boots which allow you to kick enemies into the air where they float helplessly for a few seconds. Kicking swarms of killers into giant cacti, off cliffs and shooting them to pieces is fun for a while, but in a matter of time you’ll be armed to the teeth with side arms, explosives, and other crazy weapons to maim and dismember enemies with (which, let’s face it, is a lot more fun).

One of the neatest weapons you have is the Leash, a bio-electrical device attached to your hand that allows you to manipulate baddies and the environment around you. Most of the time you’ll use this gadget to pull enemies into gruesome deaths or close enough to get a good shot. The Leash also allows access to hard to reach places by pulling debris to form a path where there was none.
Scorpion would be proud.Scorpion would be proud.

Creative kills are encouraged by the SkillPoints system. With every new weapon you gain you open a new tree of kills, each worth a certain amount of SkillPoints which can then be used at DropKit stations to buy ammo, upgrade your weapon ammo capacity, and unlock special charges. Each gun also has a powerful secondary firing method which can give you an edge against large swarms of enemies or minibosses (and can lead to more creative kills).

One of the joys of Bulletstorm is unlocking these charges and trying them out on your enemies in new and varying ways to get as many points per kill as possible. Pinned down by a dozen enemies? Use your Leash to throw them all in the air and pick them off one by one with your rifle. Sick of that sniper nest across the way? Shoot a guided bullet into an enemy, move him like a puppet towards his buddies, and detonate him for a pleasant surprise. Yes, this is all possible and it never gets old.
The game itself looks gorgeous. I shouldn’t expect anything less from the Unreal Engine, especially after playing Gears for so many years, but I did find myself just stopping to take a panoramic look around at the beautiful scenery. Not all levels are pretty (this is Epic Games mind you so there’s going to by dark and dank underground missions), but when you’re topside near a waterfall, you can’t help but wish you were actually there,  gazing at the destroyed city on the horizon across a crystal clear lake (minus the psychotic killers out to behead you, that is).

There’s story to the game as well, although it’s not anything super creative. You’re an outlaw who’s been wronged, and you’re out for revenge. After endangering your crew with your drunken recklessness, you crash land on an abandoned paradise planet and slowly make the transition from fallen anti-hero to fairly respectable dude with a moral compass of sorts. It’s been done before and you likely aren’t going to find yourself feeling anything for the characters in the game (except maybe a little hatred towards the main antagonist, General Serrano), but chances are you’ll be having too much fun running and gunning to care.
The bigger they are, the easier they can kill you.

The bigger they are, the easier they can kill you.
A couple of flaws hold Bulletstorm back from being an amazing game. The first thing is that the fast-paced gameplay can lead to some untimely deaths. This game is all about larger than life explosions, big kills, and monstrous environments. At any given time there’s so much going on that it’s very easy to miss objectives that pop up on your screen. This happened to me a few times, and I found myself dead because I forgot to meet a certain required objective in time. For a game that is all about quick pace and quick kills, it really shouldn’t hang you out to dry like that.

Second, the dialogue, although fitting with the theme and style of the game, can be excessive in its attempts to be vulgar and controversial. Throughout the game you’ll be treated to excessive swearing, jokes ranging from homophobic to racially insensitive, and even potty humor. Most of the time it’s excusable given Bulletstorm’s tongue-in-cheek nature, but from time to time I found myself almost embarrassed to have the volume up on the off-chance my neighbors could hear. Still, it’s a game that’s meant to be fun above all else, and the dialogue is a part of that; Bulletstorm does a very delicate balancing act between “too much” and “just enough”. Sometimes I found it to be on the former end of that spectrum.
Key character flaw: inability to say anything without an F-bomb or a sexual innuendo.Key character flaw: inability to say anything without an F-bomb or a sexual innuendo.

As for lengthiness, there’s plenty to keep you busy once you complete the main campaign. If you’re an achievement hunter, there are 5 difficulty settings with which to beat the game. If that’s not your style, there’s also an extra game mode called Echo that allows you to play through certain portions of the game again while literally shooting for a high score. I found this to be a nice addition after beating the game because it allowed me to explore more creative kills and to unlock more SkillPoints that I may have missed during my first playthrough. And if you’re looking for some online action, Bulletstorm allows you and up to four friends to battle in the online community.

So there you have it: if you have an extra $5 and 10 hours just lying around, and you love mindlessly gunning through hordes of enemies, you can’t go wrong with Bulletstorm. Sure, it’s not the most creative FPS on the market, and the story isn’t going to win any awards, but who cares? This is gun porn pure and simple - meant to please with insane kills and massive battle scenes, and it doesn’t disappoint.

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