Unreal Game Review: Bulletstorm

Hey everyone, Madison here.  I was emailing with Paul about Bulletstorm and telling him how ridiculous it was when he suggested I write a guest review for Unreality.  Write a guest review and get to discuss a game that awards points for shooting guys in the nuts?  Done.

Bulletstorm is the latest game by Cliff Bleszinki, the guy at Epic games who designed Gears of War.  Like Gears, it’s incredibly violent, visually stunning, and everything – from boots to guns to biceps – is over the top.  But that’s about all it’s got in common with its predecessor.  Bulletstorm is a first person shooter in which points are awarded for how violently and/or creatively you kill your enemies.  It’s a sadist’s dream.  Fortunately, if you’ve played a shooter before, Bulletstorm will feel smooth and natural.  The use of points as both a rating system and currency, as well as the ability to manipulate objects and enemies with an energy leash, make Bulletstorm the most enjoyable and original shooter I’ve played in years.  What sets Bulletstorm apart from the rest, though, is how much it feels like it was designed by a couple of horny 13-year-olds wired on Mountain Dew.

Paul here writing captions for Madison.  I assume one of these two guys is named “Captain Brohem.”

There are literally dozens of different ways to destroy your enemies in Bulletstorm’s campaign mode.  You can kill an enemy with an ol’ reliable headshot.  You can kick him into a giant cactus, impaling him on its thorns.  You can use your energy leash to send him flying into the air and then fire a drill through his torso, carrying  him into the side of a building where his corpse spins in circles around the embedded drill.  Every type of creative kill (or “skillshot”) comes with skill points that can be used to purchase upgrades, new weapons, and ammo, so there’s actually a strategic advantage to dismembering and obliterating your enemies.  In fact, if you play Bulletstorm like a regular shooter, you’ll be low on ammo and without powerful weapons by the time you reach the later chapters.  Give credit to the game’s designers; the concept of needing to kill creatively in order to progress in the game forces players to resist taking cover and shooting from afar and instead to maneuver around the battlefield so that enemies can be killed in bunches, using the environment, or both.

The violence is indeed insane.  Heads explode, bodies are incinerated, and blood is ubiquitous.  The story?  There’s a lot left to be desired, but if you’re playing a game like Bulletstorm for the story, you should probably get your gaming priorities straight.  I don’t want to waste too much time discussing the story – because it’s pretty cliched and forgettable – but you play as Grayson Hunt, a guy who could pass as the bastard love child of Marcus Fenix and Wolverine.  Grayson’s a bounty hunter/space pirate/super meat head whose ship crash lands on Stygia, a planet once used as a resort that is now populated by mutated gangs.  Grayson wants to take revenge on the diabolical General Serrano, who’s conveniently also on this planet, for tricking him into killing civilians way back in the day.  There are a few (predictable) twists and turns, but nothing worth repeating.  What does stand out from the story, though, is the dialogue, and that brings us back to those horny 13-year-olds mentioned above.

They allowed a female character within 1,000 miles of this testosterone-driven universe?

Not only is nearly every line of dialogue saturated with curse words, various forms of the word “dick,” and ludicrous, macho bragging, but many skillshots are named so as to suggest a sexual act, usually filthy in nature.  The skillshot for shooting someone in the throat is called “Gag Reflex.”  Shooting someone in the ass is “Rear Entry.”  Killing someone at the same time as your teammate yields “Double Penetration.”  I think you get the idea.  Well, I’m not above low brow or perverted humor, and Bulletstorm delivers in spades.  Even on subsequent playthroughs, I’ve found myself giggling when the words “Assplosion” appear on the screen.

Aside from the campaign mode – which is unfortunately filled with some unskippable cut scenes – there is a single-player mode called Echoes, similar to Modern Warfare 2’s Special Ops play mode.  In Echoes, you can replay certain areas of the game in which you are attacked by waves of enemies.  It’s essentially just playing a segment of the campaign mode with everything stripped out except the battle itself.  You’re rated based on your score (comprised of skillshots, naturally) and then given one to three stars based on your performance.  Now that I’ve finished campaign mode, I’ll likely be putting a lot of time into Echoes.  But what about the multiplayer?

Ah the dreaded…vagina tree monster?

Unfortunately, there’s no multiplayer mode in which players are pitted against one another; I’m guessing this has to do with the impossibility of incorporating the energy leash into this mode.  Instead, players are placed on a team of four and face waves of enemies like in Gears’ Horde mode.  There is, however, a catch: simply killing all the enemies won’t necessarily advance you to the next round.  No, you’ve got a score to beat, and so even Bulletstorm’s multiplayer mode puts an emphasis on skillshots.  The problem with this, though, is that you may find yourself teamed with a guy who does nothing but shoot down eneemies, wasting valuable bodies that could have been eviscerated for more points.  The fact that bonuses are given for killing certain enemies using a certain skillshot can become particularly frustrating when your teammate kills those certain enemies in the “improper” way.  I’m yet to head into multiplayer with a team of players who know exactly what they’re doing, but I imagine that when I do, this game mode may prove to be the most fun.

Bulletstorm is worth a rental at the very least.  As far as shooters go, it certainly stands out, both in terms of game design and that insane dialogue.  I like to think that the game’s designers did everything tongue-in-cheek and purposely, and the final line of dialogue in Bulletstorm either completely supports or refutes that view – it’s just that I can’t really tell which.  The last line of the game (don’t worry, this spoils nothing) is “God is Dead.”  Now, either this is a wink to the audience, as a knowing Nietzsche reference would certainly excuse all the silly and filthy dialogue throughout, or the designers are unfamiliar with Nietzsche and the line was used coincidentally, in which case the stupidity and absurdity of this game are hammered home.  To be honest, I’m not quite sure which scenario is funnier.

4 out of 5 stars

Alright, I guess I’ll have to rent this too now.

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  1. Worth a rental indeed. It’s funny and the refreshing point system is a nice change of pace, but there are a lot of things that could have been made better. I hate being stuck with the assault rifle as a weapon, and hate it even more that you have the modern staple of only carrying 3 guns. Only these 2 factor bring it down to a rental.

    I also know that the story it’s not the strong point, never expected it to be, but I also never expected it to suck in major league levels. Any atari game has a better story than this.

  2. Great review Madison, I’ll definitely check it out.

    I’m so glad Paul convinced you to do a guest review, we all miss you here at Unreality.

  3. Madison!! Great to hear from you. I wouldn’t mind a post from you once a month or something;) Looks like a real fun game. Does it have a Co-op mode? It would be an awesome game for that.

    1. Thanks. Hopefully Paul will allow me to do some guest reviews from time to time.

      Anyway, no, there’s no co-op mode in Bulletstorm aside from what I described in the multiplayer (the Horde mode-type game).

  4. This game is just pure and awesome fun, and reminds me of simplier times, when games were not so “gritty” or “realistic”. Check it out. Also – Cliff Bleszinski was only a supervisor of the project, it was made by People Can Fly.

  5. When I read the post that Paul had written the other day, where he “mentioned” you possibly writing a review, I thought “How awesome would that be!” I can’t say that I expected one so soon, but hey, I’m not complaining. While I loved the review, I can’t say the same about the game, however creative and original it may be. At the moment, I’m too busy enjoying Killzone 3, even if the single-player was somewhat disappointing. Then again, it’s not like I bought it for that reason anyway!

    “Hopefully Paul will allow me to do some guest reviews from time to time.” This might be the funniest thing I’ve read all day! All kidding aside, I think Paul, and the rest of us for that matter, would welcome you back anytime. Take it easy man, look forward to seeing your name stamped above a future review.

  6. madison, bro, nice to see you. not nice to play the game tho. it is a good game but i dont think its worth the 4 out of 5. the point system is cool but playing the game i got to say…. theres only so many times you can impale a guy in a cactus or on rebar or shoot a guy in the nuts. its the same ten or so moves or and over again. i feel like im listening to that radio station that plays the same song 3 times an hour. i enjoyed the button pushing and configuring of the controls but it was almost like mortal kombat and memorizing moves. leash kick shoot, leash kick kick kick, shoot leash kick off ledge. the plot was soso but i really enjoyed the crass dialogue of the game. i felt like i was yelling with my buddies and just really getting down. matter of fact i think i only finished it was cause of the dialogue. i say 3 out of 5. rental fo sho! love ya brosef

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