There's hardly a lack of first person shooters available these days, but the genre has been stomping around in the same footsteps for quite a while now. With games like Call of Duty on the throne, Epic and People Can Fly try to think outside the box with Bulletstorm and in the process manage to create a refreshing adrenaline bomb that without a doubt while have you grinning like a sadistic madman as you walk through a rain of blood and body parts.
If Borderlands and Gears of War 2 hooked up on a wild night out, then Bulletstorm is the bastard child born nine months later. That said, Bulletstorm is very much its own game, and it's nice to finally see a game in the genre that doesn't try to take itself too seriously.
And that becomes obvious right from the start, when you - in the shape of space pirate and main character Grayson Hunt - in a drunk state try to shoot a bottle off the head of a bounty hunter with his hands tied behind his neck. This mix of guns and alcohol is just as bad as it sounds and soon things start to go wrong. Terribly wrong.
The story in Bulletstorm is rather run of the mill. It takes place in the 26th Century, revolving around Grayson Hunt and his rather beat up friend Ishi Sato. Ishi is partly robot after a war injury, and his mood swings between Terminator-like cynicism to a more human persona. Several times during the game he boils over and the robot in him takes over. Grayson and Ishi are both former members of the military squad Dead Echo that has been betrayed by their commander - General Serano, the main antagonist of the game. All of this is of course filled with enemies that has nothing else on their mind than killing you.
But the game doesn't really dig itself too much into the storyline at all and instead its charm and appeal are to be found in the gameplay and the kick you get when you tear apart a whole bunch of bad guys in miliseconds. You got the classic weapons available - machine guns, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, etc - but your most important piece of equipment is the futuristic whip attached to your other hand. With the press of a button you can grab an enemy and pull him towards you - you are then free to unleash your inner sadist by shooting his head off, or send him flying in the other direction with a well-placed kick. It's very satisfying, in some form of twisted way.
Every kill awards you skill points, all depending on how violent or extravagant the kill is. Words like Pancake, Fish Food, Voodoo Doll and Bulletkick will soon become your best friends, as they all represent different ways you can dispose of your enemies. These skill points are then used to upgrade your weapons and buy ammo and are an integral part of the gameplay. Bulletstorm invites you to constantly try out new moves, awarding you with a steady supply of points as you shoot and kick your way through the game. Grayson also enjoys a strong drink, and chugging down a bottle of alcohol before a fight will earn him even more points.
Like many of you I'm sure, I've played a lot of violent games. Bulletstorm is up amongst the most violent of the bunch, and at times it gets a bit too much. The game wouldn't have suffered from toning down the blood a bit and at times it feels like the developer has gone to extremes only to speak directly to our inner blood thirsty monster. It's probably a good marketing trick, but I could have done without some of it.
As noted earlier the game doesn't take itself very seriously, and humor plays a big part in Bulletstorm. The dialogue is a lot of fun, and both sound and music fits in well. Many scenes are incredibly epic and the environments can be amazingly beautiful. They create a backdrop that feels alive, especially in contrast to the rather bland character models.
Bulletstorm can be terribly addictive, managing to scratch that itch that made me start playing games in the first place. You constantly want a bit more, and every time the screen fills up with numbers representing earned skill points I get that satisfied feeling in my gut. The game mode Echoes allows you to play through parts of the campaign as stand alone levels, and it's pure gaming joy to try to get as many points as possible, as quickly as possible in an attempt to secure a spot on the global, or local, leaderboards.
In many ways, Bulletstorm looks and sounds like the Gears of War-games. Sadly Bulletstorm doesn't include a co-op campaign, which it would have been perfect for. There is a Horde-like mode where you and up to four players get to face off against wave after wave of enemies - sadly I wasn't able to try it out during my time with the review code because there simply wasn't anyone to play with.
Bulletstorm is every action fan's wet dream. It's filled with pure gaming joy and many hours of entertainment. The campaign might be a bit short, I miss being able to play through the campaign with a friend, and it's far from perfect. Still, I know that as soon as I've finished writing up this review I will be back in my sofa, getting my daily dose of insane action. Did I mention that it's addictive?