I like over-the-top games. Games that could have hit this ceiling somewhere near normality, and then decided it was far more fun to just be ridiculous. I think this is pretty evident from how much I loved Bayonetta and putting Saints Row the Third on my favorite games of 2011. And I can pretty easily add Bulletstorm to this list.
Bulletstorm is about Gray, a former government-hitman-turned-space-pirate, who happens to pass by the ship of his former boss that lied to him. He does the logical thing: he rams his ship through that ship, which ends up crashing both of them on Stygia, a former resort planet which is now overrun with gangs. And of course, Gray is still trying to get revenge.
Now, while the plot is certainly there, it’s never really the main focus of the game. The main focus is on ridiculous first-person-shooter antics, mainly thanks to the Skillshot system. This system really reminds me of MadWorld, a game I love in a genre I’m not thrilled about. Just like there, it is very easy to take out enemies in a simple way. You can just shoot them. Just typing that phrase reminds me of how that simple action in most FPSes will never be the same again. Because just shooting them is about the most boring thing you can do in Bulletstorm. And the game acknowledges this by giving you 10 points if you kill an enemy a normal way. You see, the better you kill an enemy, the more points you get, which you use to buy upgrades and ammo for your weapons. And 10 points is nothing. A headshot gets you 25. Nice, but still nothing. Now, shooting an explosive barrel, taking out 2 enemies but leaving one on fire, who you then kick into a wall of spikes? That’s how you get points. And it’s all rendered in pure goriness.
I guess it’s a good time to mention that this game is not for those easily put off by gore. Or language. The former…well, when you shoot an enemy in the head, they explode. The shotgun lets you blow the top half of an enemy off (giving you the Skillshot of Topless, naturally). Bloody enemy parts are just a constant part of the game. The language can best be explained by the phrase the game used in trailers to encourage you to preorder: “Hey, dicktits! This game ain’t gonna preorder itself!” Gray also refers to one situation as “one dildo of a plan”, which is officially the oddest use of the word dildo I’ve ever heard. It’s kind of like somebody took the script and liberally added curse words with no rhyme or reason. Which is apparently what the European development team actually did, having little idea about what the words actually mean in English. Surprisingly, it almost adds to the charm of the game that these characters constantly curse like no human I’ve ever heard.
Back to the gameplay itself, what makes the Skillshot system work is the wide variety of methods it gives you. For one, not only can you kick enemies, but you can also use a leash to pull them towards you. Both actions leave them trapped in slow-motion, which allows you to easily shoot them, or maneuver them towards various other methods of killing them. And the environments are loaded with spike walls, electricity, man-eating plants, any way that you can kill an enemy and get a unique Skillshot for. The game also gives you plenty of weapons. Sure, there’s the FPS staples: the pistol, the machine gun, the shotgun. There’s also a flailgun which wraps enemies up with explosives you can detonate, and a drill-gun, which is a lot of fun when you impale several enemies at once with it. And while you can save these higher-class weapons for the minibosses, the game all but encourages you to use them on any random baddie. It’s just not fun to save them.
The game does have its handful of problems that prevented me from loving it entirely. For one, and this could easily be a personal problem, but my PC just had a hell of a time running it. It technically ran it fine, but all the graphics were at their lowest and it was in a lower resolution than my computer uses. I just had constant slowdown throughout, and there wasn’t much indication about what areas would even bring it about. The sniper rifle is also buggy. In Bulletstorm fashion, you fire the bullet and then can direct it in mid-air. However, you have to lock on to enemies, and the game can be futzy about doing this for some people. This is a minor problem, but it’s required at one point, so it’s annoying. On more definitive gameplay problems, there’s the fact that the final level throws tougher baddies at you than the rest of the game. It shows that it’s far more fun when the enemies are basically a meat grinder than having to load several rounds into one guy to kill him. And the game also attempts a boss battle at one point. It’s far too long, not very difficult, and doesn’t use the Skillshot system at all. It’s easily the game’s biggest mistake.
Really, it would be a mistake for FPS junkies to miss out on Bulletstorm. It takes the genre right back to just being gory fun, and it does it well. I know it almost put me off from its juvenile humor, but I’m glad it didn’t.