Bulletstorm Review

Press LMB to kill everything in a storm of bullets.

 

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

I’d pretty much ignored everything relating to Bulletstorm because I figured that it’d be a generic shooter without much in the way of being interesting. We see them turn up every year, more pointless bullshit without substance, bought up mostly by the console gamers, another goddamn blip on the radar quickly forgotten. I still figured I’d better give it a try since Epic Games shit all over the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchise, as it damn well should have. Bulletstorm visits that special place which I hope Duke Nukem Forever will visit. At least it damn well better visit this place, or May will be the most disappointing month ever, and I’ll have wasted over a decade waiting for it. I’m talking about that place where the game is generic and has a storyline written on toilet paper, but somehow manages to entertain you. Not ever game can have a story arc the size of Planescape: Torment, and that’s probably just as well, because we’d never finish any of them. Bulletstorm gives you a story, then says “Who cares? Kill everything!” while doing absurd things like chasing you with a giant drilling wheel while you’re on a train.

Bullet... KICK!

Bulletstorm’s storyline is fairly simple: set in the 26th century, you play some guy who looks like Wolverine by the name of Grayson Hunt. You used to be an assassin for the Confederation of Planets, which as you’d expect is commanded by a Southern hick General. Think of the Confederacy in Starcraft, and you’ll know exactly what you’re doing. Anyway turns out you were actually killing innocent people and not criminals, so your team promptly goes rogue. Sometime in the future though you get drunk, attack a flagship, and end up getting almost everybody killed. From there a bunch of stuff happens, and… well, it all comes down to “Kill everything” and I’m fine with that.

 
Bulletstorm isn’t just about killing. Okay, actually it is, but it’s more about killing stylishly. There’s an obsceme amount of ammo, enough that you’re probably never going to need to worry about finding it, so simply holding down your left mouse button or a trigger is going to work. But the game rewards you for killing people in stylish ways. One of the many rewarding methods to do this is given as follows: “Shoot an enemy in the balls and kick or shoot his head off.” Take a moment to digest that. This game asks you to shoot somebody in the testicles, and then apply traumatic force to their head, either with your high powered assault rifle, or with your equally high powered boot. I honestly can’t think of another game which has asked me to do this. There are lots of other ways to kill people, like kicking them off ledges, using the “whip” (some kind of gravity gun spin-off, like in The Incredibles) to launch them into the air, and various other nasty things.

Shoot enemy in balls. Kick off head. Genius.

By pulling off this shots you earn skill points. Skill points can be invested in upgrading your weapons and the whip, or by buying ammo. There’s usually a lot of ammo kicking around though, so it’s usually better to save up for the upgrades. Much of the game is just spent romping around like a pissed off, berserk assault robot on the set of a high budget action movie, shooting people in the arse, blowing up strategically placed explosive barrels, and swearing. The game’s liberal use of swearing is kind of endearing… it sounds like a bunch of hicks out of Deliverance at times. It’s kind of like Duke Nukem delivering one liners while shooting the living shit out of anything and everything. It’s pretty simple to come to grips with, and there isn’t a great deal of thinking involved, but you know what? That’s okay. Bulletstorm doesn’t pretend to be People Can Fly’s answer to Mass Effect or Half Life 2. It’s there purely to kick the living crap out of everything, quite literally in fact, and it doesn’t try to lie to you about it. I like that about Bulletstorm. I’d be pretty pissed off if they tried to pass it off as an epic story or something, and all I got was a simple rage shooter. It’s absurd, it’s violent, and it’s fun. Honestly, that’s all you need to know, and if that’s all you want, you’ll be extremely happy. It takes the piss, it doesn’t take itself seriously, and it’s easy to get into.
Graphically though the game doesn’t look too impressive, at least not on the PC. For a console game… I’d hesitate to call it pretty. Some people suggest that it’s a weird issue with ATI cards. I think the issue is that some of the textures look a little bit washed out, and given that the game’s palette is mostly brown, like Unreal Tournament 3, it’s probably not so much that the textures aren’t detailed, but more that there’s no real differentiation between visual elements. On the one hand taking it to extremes like TF2 wouldn’t work here, but when everything mixes in with computer graphics that have to be rendered in real time (i.e. without realistic lighting, like in the real world) it can make things look bad. Running on UE3 though makes the game run on plenty of systems and it scales well, though with everything on high on my i7 920, 5850 and 6GB RAM system I did notice random FPS drops. As in completely random, without any apparent visual cause. Sometimes a door would close and the FPS would go up, but nothing else was prevented from rendering that I could see (in this particular case, the room had a window looking into the room that the door leads to). Bulletstorm by no means looks like arse or fails graphically, but it’s not quite as good as I was expecting. It looks a lot like Unreal Tournament 3… even the character models look like they stepped right out of UT3, and some of the level assets would look at home in a UT3 map. And man, SO MUCH BROWN! There’s more brown here than in Borderlands!

Not pictured: bullets.

DisCONNECT is using a new review system, a modification of an older system I tried to give the game a more accurate average. A game can score a total of 10 points. 4 of those go to Gameplay, encompassing every aspect of the game’s substance like storyline, playability, gameplay mechanics, and so on. 1 point is given for lifespan; if a game is replayable or takes something over about 10 hours to finish, it gets 1 point. 3 points are used for graphics; 3 means it looks awesome and runs very well, 2 means it’s slightly dated or there are performance issues, and 1 means the game looks bad or has severe performance issues (or maybe even both). Finally there are 2 points for sound; 2 points if sounds are good and voice acting is at least solid, 1 point if I’m unimpressed.
Games that score a 9 or 10 are EXCELLENT and deserve to be played by everybody. Games that score a 7 to 8 are Good, and are worth getting, especially if you’re a fan of the genre. 5 to 6 are Pass, and are worth checking out if you’re interested in the game’s genre or if you’re willing to overlook a few technical issues. 3 to 4 is a Poor rating, which indicates that the game has some serious issues that prevent it from being fun, but might still have some value to some people. Games ranked 1 to 2 earn a Fail grade, and aren’t worth anything except joke fodder.

Just as well you can't jump in this game.

GAMEPLAY: 3/4

Bulletstorm’s gameplay is fun. It’s nothing startlingly new, although the points awarded for killing people in unique ways definitely makes it a lot more interesting than simply holding down LMB and spraying the place with bullets (a storm of bullets, if you will). At times it gets a little bit repetitive, but it also sticks in plenty of action sequences on rails, like escaping from a giant monster, or the aforementioned giant drilling wheel.
GRAPHICS: 2/3

Bulletstorm’s graphics are pretty good, but they suffer from a few issues, namely with everything being brown. Like, there’s brown everywhere. So much brown! The art can be a bit generic, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m not playing Unreal Tournament 3, which is hard to do when playing a game that uses the Unreal engine and has a lot of brown in its colour scheme. There are also a few weird performance drops which I’m unable to trace, which makes me wonder if it was well optimised on release. Still, it’s firmly a current-gen game, and looks great all the same, and you won’t notice any weird issues when playing.

SOUND: 2/2

Bulletstorm has a lovely number of explosive and squishy noises, making the game feel pretty brutal. The voice acting is actually pretty decent, and the cheesy, stereotypical hick-solider lines are delivered quite well. It’s not going to win an award for dialogue or sound, but it’s definitely good and doesn’t make you groan.

LIFESPAN: 0/1

It’s fun, but I can’t really see the need to go back and play it all again. The game doesn’t get too stale, namely because of the action sequences that break up the gunfights, but it’s not exactly something you’d want to jump right back into. You’d want to revisit it a few months later, but otherwise it’s a standard length game that doesn’t outstay its welcome.

TOTAL: 7/10 = GOOD

Honestly I like Bulletstorm, which surprises me because I thought it’d be stupid. It’s not an intelligent shooter, there isn’t any thinking involved, and it’s not going to enthrall you with its storyline. What it offers is exactly what it promises; lots and lots of shooting, violence, and explosions. There’s a plot, and it’s entertaining (especially with some of the dialogue), but it takes a back seat to all the shooting. If you were looking for a game with an interesting storyline and tactical gameplay, go elsewhere. If you’re simply after a game that laughs and points at all the ridiculous ways that you kill people, as if it’s some sort of action movie focused on having something explode every 5 seconds, then you’ll love Bulletstorm. It’s not a classic, but it’s a goddamn fun time!

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