Bulletstorm Xbox 360
Published by Electronic Arts
Developed by People Can Fly & Epic Games
Over the years FPS games have introduced a variety of elements in an attempt to make them more serious and realistic. Cover mechanics, being able to issue tactical instructions to your comrades in arms and many other things have served to reduce some of the raw exhilaration that could be had with early shooters. There have been a few exceptions that have attempted to capture the no-holds-barred feeling of those early FPS titles such as Serious Sam and Painkiller and in some respects the same can be said about Bulletstorm.
Bulletstorm puts you in the shoes of space pirate Grayson Hunt. He's a former member of The Confederation of Planets' covert unit called Dead Echo. Grayson and his comrades learnt only too late that Dead Echo's leader, General Sarrano, had been using them to kill innocent people. Fast forward several years later and Grayson and his companions launch a foolish attack on Sarrano who's aboard the Confederation's warship, Ulysses. The attack ends up getting virtually all of Grayson's crew killed and both spacecrafts end up crash landing on the planet of Stygia, one of the most violent in the universe. Only a few crew members survive the landing and after they've received a rather violent welcome to the planet only Grayson and Ishi Sato, a fellow former member of Dead Echo who almost dies in the attack on Serrano prior to the landing, remain. Before being killed the doctor managed to partly perform a life-saving operation on Ishi. However, he's now essentially a cyborg and the human elements of his personality are occasionally suppressed by the more murderous robotic ones.
On the back of the Bulletstorm box you'll see the words 'Kill with Skill' and it's not just an advertising slogan. In Bulletstorm you are rewarded for Skillshots. Performing Skillshots will earn you Skillpoints and with these you can purchase weapons, ammo and upgrades from the Dropkits that you'll find scattered around. There are a wide range of Skillshots to perform (you can access a database of them at any time so it's easy to keep track of those you've performed and those you haven't). You're also rewarded with Skillpoints for quick reactions to critical events.
Some of the Skillshots are exactly what you'd expect whilst some are a little surprising. A headshot is regarded as a Skillshot as well as firing into an explosive to take out an enemy, or bunch of enemies in a rather more dramatic fashion. When you're on an elevated platform you can boot an enemy over the edge for a 'Vertigo' Skillshot. Using your leash you can pull enemies onto spikes and you can also fire them on to cactus spikes for Skillpoints. In short there are far too many Skillshots to list here and these help to add variety to the game. Relying on the Skillshot over and over again isn't really a good idea because whilst the first use of one may earn you a good amount of Skillpoints, repeated use of one will earn you only a fraction and seeing as you'll want to earn as many as you can to be able to afford new weapons, ammo and upgrades etc., you'll want to use as many different Skillshots as you can.
Skillshots are certainly important to the game as they help you to play the game in a different way to how you'd usually approach an FPS. Without the Skillshots this would still be a decent game but it wouldn't offer anything different from what you may have seen before in the genre. The Skillshots add variety to the gameplay and help to prevent the action from feeling repetitive. The range of weapons also compliments the Skillshots rather nicely. The ability to pull enemies toward you, with the seemingly electrical leash that you'll acquire early in the game, and fire at your enemies whilst they are in mid-air is certainly appreciated but other weapons such as the Flail Gun, which fires explosives that wrap around your enemies which you can then detonate, really makes this feel like a hearty shooter.
Bulletstorm is an 18 rated game so you'd expect to find a decent amount of bad language in the game. What you probably won't expect however is the complete overuse of vulgarity and swearing that's on offer here and most of it feels forced and doesn't fit in. Sure there may be some adolescents who will get a kick out of it but in all honesty even most of those will grow weary of its overuse here. There is an option to turn off the mature language (a terrible way to describe profanity in my opinion) I would rather have seen it toned down somewhat because the real issue is not the swearing (it's an 18 rated game after all) but the senseless overuse of it.
Once you're done with the single-player game, there's a single multiplayer mode called Anarchy. The mode has you teaming up with up to three others to take on waves of enemies with a required number of points having to be earned in the process therefore further encouraging you and your friends to use Skillshots. Between rounds you'll get to spend the points that have been earned to improve your chances in the next round. It's a decent experience providing all the players are working together, but it's not one of the more memorable multiplayer experiences on the Xbox 360. Another mode you can dip into is called Echoes and here you'll play portions from the single-player campaign in an attempt to rack up as big a Skillpoints total as you can with your efforts being displayed on an online leaderboard.
From a presentational standpoint Bulletstorm is absolutely fine. Graphically the game is rather pleasing, particularly the outdoor environments. The interiors of buildings and spacecraft don't look quite so impressive however but for the most part there's little to complain about. The load times are fairly short, even when played straight off the disk and the frame rate remains pretty solid throughout, even when the action is at its most hectic.
Bulletstorm is subtitled so you'll be able to follow the main dialogue in the game. The subtitles don't have any character names or portraits displayed alongside them but for the most part it's clear who is saying what. Objectives are given in text and can be recalled by pressing the start button. You're also notified when objectives have been completed. Tutorial messages are displayed in text. There is some peripheral dialogue that isn't subtitled but it's of no real importance. The screen will redden around the top and lower edges when Grayson is hurt and ultimately you'll receive a text message warning you to take cover if he's hurt too badly. On the whole there are no real problems for deaf gamers.
If you're looking for an action-heavy FPS that doesn't put a strong emphasis on using cover and stealth techniques then Bulletstorm should definitely fit the bill. The single-player game offers full-blooded action and the use of the Skillshot system allows for some truly varied combat during the course of the game. The overuse, and sometimes inappropriate use, of profanity is a shame but ultimately it's not enough to prevent it from being an enjoyable game. Having a single multiplayer mode is disappointing however but enjoyment can be found if you're playing in the right company. On the whole Bulletstorm is an FPS that's well worth your attention even though several aspects of the game could have been done better.