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Bulletstorm (PlayStation 3) artwork

Bulletstorm (PlayStation 3) review

"Thereís so many options and rewards from killing creatively, that Bulletstorm becomes probably the only FPS where shooting someone in the face feels like youíre doing it all wrong. "

Bulletstorm is a bit of a belated shock to me. Iíd read this pretty kicking review back in the day, picked up the game, then let it collect dust on my shelf for a few years. Thing is, Iíd played its spiritual foundation, MadWorld back on the Wii in a hopeless attempt to give the console a shot at non-casual relevance, and it didnít really click with me. The basis of that game was to kill, murder and maim in as creative a way as possible; that was its thing, and you were rewarded for being a sadistic artist, bringing new and innovative ways to end lives in gloriously over-the-top fashion. AndÖ that was more or less it. Similar could be said of Bulletstorm, but, here, itís an appreciated tier, not the be all and end all. It serves as skill system, currency well and spectacle lurking behind a small scale war sieged against a luxury resort gone radioactive, filled with drooling mutants, acidpunks and the odd elite military platoon.

If that makes Bullertstorm sound in any way like it should be taken seriously, then Iíve done a slight disservice. Though moments of (usually ham-fisted) sobriety are shoehorned into the campaign, even protagonist Grayson Hunt (voiced by Steve Blum, like all those other video game characters you like) treats his smash-mouth outing like a constant adrenaline high. Starting the game as a drunk, bitter, homicidal ex-vet, his constant stream of bad decisions and quick one liners land him in constant trouble, which he relishes with sadistic glee. Being surrounded by melting mutants with firearms and axes isnít a reason for worry, itís a reason to celebrate; you canít feel bad for putting these poor lumpy miscreants out of their misery, so why not go a little mad, and have some fun with it?

Armed with a small arsenal of guns that make a valid play at being more than the standard fare, and an energy lash you can lasso unfortunate targets with, the battlefield can quickly become a playground. Rope someone in and then kick him into a wall of metallic spikes or a handy nearby cactus? Thatís pretty pedestrian. Throw someone in the air, and then cap his chums before he hits the ground? Thatís better. Getting a couple of bodies airborne, then bolt them together like a shish kebab with a huge cannon that fires rotating spikes that bore into flesh? Now, thatís art.

The more creative Grayson gets, the more rewards flood in. Bonus points gleaned from tragically brilliant deaths are then pooled as a currency to spend at waypoints, that grant him anything from more ammo, bigger magazine stocks or an overcharge that whacks on glorious overkill as secondary fire. The fact is, thereís so many options and rewards from killing creatively, that Bulletstorm becomes probably the only FPS where shooting someone in the face feels like youíre doing it all wrong. Those perfect headshots and chain kills other shooters promote as gaming nirvana are, here, grey and lacklustre. Why gib someone with a shotgun (Bulletstormís version, by the way, is quad-barrelled) when you can launch them into a carnivorous plant, then wait for it to spew back the undigested ammo? Why bother lining up sneaky sniper shots when one of the guns available to you fires a flail chain with a grenade attached to either side?

As such, most of my time was spent amusing myself with this ludicrous ability to end lives, abusing the environments that People Can Fly have really spent a lot of effort into getting right. Some of this doesnít work as well as it should, like taking control of a mammoth Godzilla-like mech with mini-guns embedded into it, by remote control. Though Grayson gets in on the joke with his constant whoops of enthusiasm, the proxy controls are cumbersome, and locking on to targets is frustrating and unsatisfying. Other stages, though, disguise tutorial missions by having you walk down the side of skyscrapers in magnetic boots, or have you play hide and seek with cannibalistic mutants in a scale model of a long razed town. Treks through underground cave networks have you destroying massive eggs in a rock-formed maze, desperately trying to find the exit before whatever laid your rotting obstacles finds you.

Itís also a boon to point out that Bulletstorm is one of those games rallying against the brown/grey dystopian backdrops everyone used to think was so bloody obligatory. The obliterated resort planet Grayson spends most of his time on has long since been reclaimed by nature, buildings coated with ivy and semi-sentient plants you can kick of their stalks and onto the heads of charging enemies so they might have their face eaten off. If it wasnít for the continuous murder, cursing and explosions, it might be a relaxing backdrop. Maybe youíll notice the rusting newsbots still patrolling some areas, trying to tell the small collection of long-rotted corpses the latest gossip, or maybe that disco bar will spring back to automated life should you decide on a spot of genocide beneath the rotating glitter ball. But, yeah, probably not.

Because Bulletstorm does exactly enough to keep you constantly busy. In exploring and explaining a beautiful world gone to hell, or in offering Grayson some slice of redemption, it throws out some of the most solid set pieces youíre likely to find this side of the Gears of War franchise. Then asks you to play billiards with the flailing bodies you fling around the place with reckless aplomb for fun and profit. If it didnít have all these things, I would still be recommending it as a dose of excellently designed shooter that serves as an appreciated remedy to the over serious floods of FPSís weíre forced to accept as the norm. But it also has all these other things going for it, making it a unique patchwork of ideas that perhaps has no logical right to work out as well as it does. This makes it an experience youíll be all the poorer for missing out on.

I let this game collect dust for years -- this makes me a fool. Lets not make fools of us both.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (February 24, 2013)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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