Bulletstorm is not what you think it is. Whatever you thought of the demo and wherever you sit on the expectation scale, whether you currently perceive it as a potty-mouthed piece of juvenilia or a glorious hark-back to the balls-out fun of Duke Nukem 3D and Quake, you’re wrong. It’s far, far more than that, and it’s far, far better than that.
Bulletstorm you see, is a very intelligent, highly intricate, and sumptuously nuanced design masquerading as a big dumb action game. In fact it’s such an evolution of the FPS experience that it’s very probably destined for that pantheon of rare games to be deemed worthy of the word “important” in a couple of years time. Yeah, the i-word. I went there.
Above: Bulletstorm's Polish box art revealed. We like it
Bulletstorm is not just a shooter. In fact, once you’ve taken the time to really explore its depths, you’ll realise that being a shooter is just one small part of what it’s about. It’s just as much a 3D puzzle game, high-speed strategy game, and even, if you really get into it, a bit of a maths challenge too. Also, shit dun blows up real purdy like. But I’ll come to all of that. First, the basics.
In Bulletstorm’s main campaign, you play Grayson Hunt, a former government spec ops agent turned hard drinking space pirate. He has a well-reasoned vendetta against his former employers, which leads to a large-scale space battle near the start of the game, which in turn leads to Grayson and his crew crash-landing on the wrecked resort planet of Stygia. From hereon in, it’s all about finding a way off-world, while ideally getting hold of the chief bad guys along the way. And that’s where things get very, very exciting.
Early on, you’ll gain access to an electric tether. It’s essentially a grappling hook with which you can grab hold of almost any enemy and a vast array of objects, whip them towards you, and then hold them in front of you for a few seconds, suspended in slo-mo. From there, your options are limitless. Being also equipped with a powerful kick, your most obvious follow-up is to boot your flailing target back up into the air before pumping it full of lead.
But that’s just the most basic training-wheels principle underpinning a complexity and depth you have not yet experienced in first-person combat. The leash/kick/shoot string is simply the equivalent of learning your first special move in Street Fighter, or initially getting your head around the basic mechanics of Aperture Science portals. Small acorn, full-blown Amazonian rainforest to come.
You’re constantly judged on the complexity and inventiveness of your kills, and scores decrease with repetition. The points you score for clever killing are the currency you use to buy new weapons, as well as functionality upgrades for your existing ones. Every gun and additional perk is meticulously designed to integrate with and balance against the others, opening up a pantheon of new options with each one that’s added to the mix.
These options make up Bulletstorm’s comprehensive list of Skill Shots, a line-up of circumstantial kills and stacked combos detailed in the pause menu, which comprise every possible violent interaction you’ll concoct and plenty you won’t. We’re talking well over a hundred individual “moves” here, with an accessible freedom of blendability that evokes the glory days of Tony Hawk’s combo system.
Examples? The flail gun launches an explosive-charged snare which attaches to enemy and environment alike, ready to be detonated at will or after a countdown. Cool, but what happens if you tie it to a mook, tether him in, kick him at a group of friends, and then detonate? Big points, that’s what. Or how about if you quickly switch to another gun and kill him just before the charge wipes out his mates? Now you’re rolling a real combo. And then how about if you achieve that early kill with a specific head-shot, throat-shot or ass-shot? Now you’re thinking.
Or you could use a specially charged tether whiplash to launch every enemy in the vicinity straight up, before gunning them down back to earth for a Trap Shoot bonus. Or you could instead flail-shot one of the launched goons and instantly detonate, wiping out the whole suspended group before they even start to fall. Fertiliser bonus. Or you could immediately re-tether one of them and whip him back down into the ground with fatal speed. Slam Dunk bonus. And I’m still just scratching the surface here.