I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Bulletstorm. I was present at the game’s unveil at E3 last year, when the legendary Cliff Bleszinski took to the stage to unveil his latest creation. Amidst the cheers and whooping of the testosterone-driven crowd, I managed to grab a glimpse of a game that showed bullets spraying everywhere, bodies flying through the air, and no shortage of gore. Fast forward to today and Bulletstorm has finally made it to store shelves, amidst plenty of buzz and fanfare. So I grabbed a copy to see for myself if the game really was “a breath of fresh air in the FPS genre”.
The story of Bulletstorm goes something like this – you play as Grayson Hunt, a brute who was once a secret army led by the foul-mouthed General Sarrano. On a routine mission, Hunt discovers that the targets he’s been hunting down were actually innocent, and so in a wonderful change of heart worthy of a Disney movie, he goes rogue with the rest of his team. A couple of years later he chances upon Sarrano’s ship in space and in a drunken state of revenge, decides to attack. Needless to say, both ships take a significant amount of damage and end up crashing upon the planet Stygia, where most of the action takes place. The rest of the game is a mixture of trying to track down Sarrano and figuring out how to get off the planet. You are thankfully not alone in this mission, as you are accompanied by your only surviving crew member Ishi, who unfortunately fights an ongoing battle with a robotic brain that is trying to take over his body. And yes, it’s entirely your fault.
Rather than just let you wander around the planet and shoot things, Bulletstorm quickly introduces you to its concept of ‘kill with skill’ when you acquire an energy leash from a mangled corpse. The leash serves two purposes – you can use it to latch onto enemies and pull them towards you, thus entering a kind of ‘bullet time’ where you can then neatly execute them. You also use the leash to latch onto dropkits, which are scattered through the levels and serve as points to upgrade your weapons and purchase ammo. The leash is also great for quickly dispensing of enemies from quite a significant distance, so learning to master it at an early stage will work to your advantage. But just whipping around an energy leash isn’t what the game is about – the tagline is ‘kill with skill’ and the game serves up some truly imaginative ways to do so. You can throw enemies off a cliff, impale them onto spikes, drag them into blades, feed them to poisonous plants, set them on fire, electrocute them; the list goes on. For every enemy that you kill with style you earn skill points, which you then redeem at dropkits for your weapon upgrades and ammo.
The beauty of the game is that every weapon you acquire has its own skill points to unlock, so you’ll spend quite a bit of time unlocking all of them. It’s a fun concept that rewards you appropriately for the amount of carnage you’re most certainly going to cause as you tear around the planet. There’s no shortage of weapons as well, and all of them come with a devastating secondary fire. My firm favorite was a shotgun that fires an explosive flare at an enemy, engulfing them in flames and setting them up for the perfect headshot.