Five minutes. Five minutes of a very short demo was all gamers needed to decide that, yep, they were definitely interested in whatever twist on first person shooters Bulletstorm had to offer later this February. Of course, it helped that those five minutes could be repeated over and over and over again, each time played with an incredibly different – and incredibly sadistic – approach.
But those are still only five minutes of an hours-long campaign. If that much diversity and insanity can be packed into a demo, what might happen through the course of the entire single player story? Having finished Bulletstorm last month, I can give you an idea. Here's a sample of what I experienced during just the first third of the game…
1. Interrogated a hostage, at gunpoint, while drunk. This is how Bulletstorm opens – with my character, Grayson Hunt, slurring his speech and waving his weapon wildly at the military man he has recently captured on his rebel ship. When the man refuses to reveal the whereabouts of Grayson's sworn foe, General Sarrano, the game instructs me to intimidate and shoot a bottle off his head. Still drunk. And when that doesn't work? I learn the "kick" button for the first time, violently launching the helpless prisoner into the suffocating reaches of outer space.
2. Recklessly endangered the lives of my entire crew. Soon after the scene above, Grayson and company accidentally warp right next to General Sarrano's armada. Although outgunned to a ludicrous degree, and although his mates beg him not to, the intoxicated captain can't resist the opportunity for vengeance. Suddenly, I'm playing a rail-shooter instead of a first person shooter – swooping across the span of a gigantic mothership, taking out turrets and half expecting Han Solo to tell me that I'm "one in a million."
3. Learned what bullying feels like at the hands of a bipolar cyborg. Grayson manages to bring down Sarrano's ship, but in the process, also succeeds in crashing his own. Now everyone – good, bad – is stuck on a former paradise planet overrun with alien creatures and savage gangs. My immediate concern, however, is Ishi Sato. The superhuman cyborg who was my best friend a few minutes ago has now given into his heartless logic circuits, realized that Sarrano is the only ticket off this lovely hellhole and is demanding (quite violently) that Grayson help him both find the General and protect the General's life.
4. Stood on the side of a skyscraper. Literally sideways, with my shoes suctioned on windows and my body parallel to the streets a dizzying mile below. It's such a clever, original setting for a shooter that I wish I could fight a whole vertigo-soaked war up here. Sadly, this is a flashback mission and mostly tutorial, so all I can do is run down the building, smash into an office and slow-motion assassinate the employee inside. Grayson and crew were once a hit squad for Sarrano, you see, and unwittingly murdered innocent people. Thus, the present-day quest for revenge, redemption and alcohol.
5. Decapitated a boss… with my foot. Back in the present, I'm happy to discover that even Bulletstorm's boss battles are infused with the same DIY depravity I unleashed on regular enemies in the demo. The first few are bulked-up gang members with more life and more armor. Once I've whipped off their protective helmets, I can either: a) whip off their heads as well, b) kick off their heads, or for a refreshing change of pace, c) run around and shoot them in the ass, causing a jet of gassy flame to erupt like Old Faithful. Hey, the game ain't shy.
6. Whipped a helicopter to death. No need to dive for cover. No need to search for the rocket launcher. This is supposed to be unapologetically over-the-top fun, remember? So when a fleet of helicopters show up, I simply whip the pilots right out of their seats and riddle their bodies with ammunition before they smack the ground. Bulletstorm rewards my creativity with "Flyswatter" skill points.
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