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Bulletstorm review

AT A GLANCE
  • Genuinely evolved FPS gameplay
  • Immense freedom and creativity of play
  • Secondary modes add depth and give it real legs
  • There's a bit of texture pop-in at times
  • The last act has a noticeable difficulty spike
  • You'll want Bulletstorm 2 as soon as the credits roll

With a carbine, a quadruple-barrel shotgun, an explosive flail gun, a flare-firing Magnum (kill one dude instantly, shoot down his flaming buddies for After Burner points), a remotely-triggered, bouncing, multi-blast grenade (tether it toward you, then kick it around the battlefield like an incendiary basketball), a rocket-propelled drill (You can power it up to redirect on a second flightpath after its first kill. Or embed it in a bad guy before kicking him into another, impaling them both. Or instakill a boss by sticking it into his armour and then getting close enough to boot it through his chest), a sniper rifle with steerable bullets, dozens of environmental kills, and a stack more bonuses for things like hitting specific body parts or killing within a tight time-limit, careful thought and experimentation reveals a pseudo-goofy game which in truth has as much depth and nuance as some of the most lauded titles in the business.

And none of this creative killing is any mere gimmick. It all serves serious purpose. Truly great FPS, whatever the likes of CoD would have you believe, is not just about shooting from a first-person perspective. It’s about allowing you to use a toolset to creatively stamp your own individual mark on the game world through meaningful, inventive interactions with it. Bulletstorm achieves that better than any game in recent memory.

The kind of interactions most games save for their most inventive Achievements or Trophies, Bulletstorm builds its core game around. And when you really start plumbing its depths you’ll discover a sense of personal involvement and purpose within its world that genuinely is groundbreaking.

In fact it feels like the first real evolutionary landmark in the genre for a good long time. We’ve had Quake 3’s speed and bendable physics. We’ve had Half-Life 2’s gravity gun. We’ve had Portal’s portals. And now, the startlingly powerful, multi-layered freedom of Bulletstorm feels like a totally legitimate next step in that path.

Read back through the various actions I’ve already listed in this review. Even in isolation, they provide amazing freedom and scope for player imagination. But when built into tight, strategic combos and combined with clever level layout and enemy placement, they turn every skirmish into a mini-sandbox puzzle. Bulletstorm’s enemies – ranging from feral, Mad Max-style gangs to carnivorous plants to highly trained SWAT troops – are an eclectically challenging bunch. Some are immune to the tether. Others can’t be caught with the flail. Some are heavily armoured and require careful spatial positioning to find their weak points, which can then be exploited with the right combinations of Skill Shots.

And if when you start looking around your immediate environment, you’ll open things up even further. You can treat that carnivorous plant as a friend or a foe. You can shoot that explosive barrel where it is or throw it around to a more tactically advantageous position. You can avoid that deadly plasma storm or stay close and drawn enemies towards it. You can dodge enemy flares, or deliberately walk into them to land a valuable Blind Fire bonus for scoring a kill with impaired vision. With environmental awareness and creative thinking, a Bulletstorm skirmish can take minutes or seconds to clear up, and can boost your currency stash by 50 points or 3000. And the power to make those differences is entirely yours.

And that’s not to mention the ways that Bulletstorm excels in more conventional areas. The main campaign is a tightly-constructed rollercoaster of a thing, relentless and with not a second of filler despite its fairly generous (for a modern shooter) length. It’s also pleasingly stuffed with a fair amount of Gears of War 2’s vast sense of scale. Example: Every FPS is required by law to have an on-rails shooting bit, but Bulletstorm’s standout example, set during a hectic train-ride out of a mountain industrial facility, goes a bit like this:

Particularly during the first half of the game, environments and pacing switch up with razor-sharp timing, smartly using set-pieces and level layout to introduce the advantages of each different weapon and play style without letting any outstay its welcome, all the while setting you up nicely for the more tactical play demanded by the game’s brutal latter stages.

As for the story, drop all preconceptions you may have of it being an annoying fratboy swearfest. They’re totally unfounded. Yes, this is a pulp sci-fi universe that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s certainly not unintelligent. For starters, it’s less sweary than a lot of ‘serious’ games out there, instead using surreally creative cursing to make genuinely funny impact and build vividly individual comic book characters. And it’s never afraid to lampoon its own linguistic logic when it goes too far.

And underpinning all of that is some genuine emotional heft. A couple of smartly written scenes near the start subtly set up some real emotional hooks and serious values amongst the main cast, ensuring that what could have been a clownish group of cartoon characters instead becomes a genuinely likeable bunch of real personalities who you genuinely will care about. Let’s face it, a sense of humour in the face of adversity is a far more human trait than constant glowering and grit. Sorry, Marcus.

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3, PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Shooter
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: People Can Fly, Epic Games
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol
PEGI Rating:
18+

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  • Darkhawk - January 23, 2014 8:33 a.m.

    I hereby bestow this review with the esteemed Andrew Ryan Memorial Overrated Award, celebrating hyperbole since the day BioShock first scored a perfect 10.
  • SDHoneymonster - August 10, 2013 10:17 a.m.

    Picked this up recently as it was going in an XBL sale. Definitely worth the £4, but personally for me it's not a 10/10 game. I find the humour quite tiring - it occasionally raises a chuckle, but it misses more often than it hits. The story too is dull, as are the characters. After a couple of hours I just found myself wanting to blast through it like a normal shooter, which is of course missing the point entirely, but if there's nothing to keep you hooked, why are you going to bother fully exploring the Skillshot system? That said, when you hit a sweet spot, with a load of enemies around, your ammo maxed out and your mind ticking over, it's huge fun to see what you can come up with in terms of kills.
  • Rotten2dcore - March 9, 2011 4:04 p.m.

    how did this game get 10 when GOW 2 got 9
  • twewy13 - February 28, 2011 10:34 p.m.

    I'd sooo much rather have homefront...haha jk... i didn't expect this game to be good truthfully, looks like i was very very off
  • quincytheodore - February 25, 2011 6:46 a.m.

    Didn't expect a 10 here... Might me my next game...
  • Ironarm - February 25, 2011 12:14 a.m.

    @Shazamin In no way does a 10 mean a perfect score. If a 10 meant "Perfect" it would say "Perfect" instead of "Incredible". Of course there's room for improvement for any game. Just look at the end of the review at the "Things You'll Hate" section. And saying that it's above every other game that doesn't get a 10 is just silly. You can't really say that Bulletstorm is better than Dead Space 2, which got a 9. (I'm just using Dead Space 2 as an example). They're completely different games. Perhaps the best example is comparing it to Killzone 3, since they both came out on the same day. Killzone 3 got a 9, so by your logic it shouldn't be as good as Bulletstorm (at least according to this reviewer) but I can name you off a ton of people that think the complete opposite. Review scores are all opinion, and there is no such thing as a "Perfect" score. He just felt that the game was Incredible, and gave that score. Sorry for the rant. I'm not angry or anything. Just giving my two cents.
  • Zeb364 - February 24, 2011 11:36 p.m.

    Bought it, played it, beat it, all in one sitting. I gotta say, I didn't quite like it as much as you seemed to. It's a great game but I wouldn't give it a ten and I really didn't feel it was a massive leap forward for the genre. That said, this review presents some great points and supports them with a fantastic arguments. It's a great read.
  • e1337prodigy - February 24, 2011 7:46 p.m.

    installing now. Can't believe you guys gave it a 10. I trust your judgement. captcha - shatmeet perhaps - lol, kind of ties in with the game and its profanity
  • Ravenbom - February 24, 2011 7:21 p.m.

    The real question this review doesn't answer is: does Bulletstorm make you a rapist as Fox News claims.
  • RenegadePixel - February 24, 2011 6:58 p.m.

    A perfect 10? oh my...may have to check it out. Check out my blog if you have a minute guys.
  • jackthemenace - February 24, 2011 12:32 p.m.

    AAAaaarrggghh... Just recently i decided it might not be the kind of game i'd want... ... BUT NOW I WANTT IT ALL OVER AGAIN!!!!!11!!1!one!!!
  • Lionzest7 - February 24, 2011 9:01 a.m.

    Loved every minute of the campaign so far in this game. People who only whip shoot and kick are boring people. They want CoD to wipe their ass and just hide behind cover and shoot people 24/7.
  • Shazamin - February 24, 2011 4:42 a.m.

    Man it sucks to say this, because this is one of my favorite editors, but i can NOT agree with this review.He has to remember when he gives a game a 10/10 he is saying it is a perfect game. It can not improve in any way and it is above every other game, besides those that have 10's. To say bullet storm is a perfect game is rediculous when other games that are much better are getting more fair reviews. The review seemded a little hasty and biast, so maybe someone else should have reviewed it, since it honestly doesn't deserve the coveted INCREDIBLE status.
  • GrandMoffBubbles - February 24, 2011 2:55 a.m.

    I love this game!!!
  • Aletheon - February 24, 2011 6:04 a.m.

    This is the best FPS after HL2 I've ever played. A 10 for this game makes perfect sense.
  • TheIronMaiden - February 24, 2011 3:48 a.m.

    I couldn't be happier with this game! however my one gripe is I wish I could replay the campaign with my weapon and upgrades still unlocked.
  • AwesomeGuitarSoloMan - February 23, 2011 11:45 p.m.

    I knew this was a great game, but i am pleasently suprised at a mofo-ing 10
  • SunnyvaleTrash - February 23, 2011 9:31 p.m.

    Can't wait to get my copy tomorrow. Hopefully hooking up with strangers for anarchy mode works out well. I normally shy away from playing with people I don't know, but for this I am willing to dive in.
  • Ironarm - February 23, 2011 8:51 p.m.

    I love the people that complain about how "stupid and childish" the game is. Bulletstorm is all about fun and in no way takes itself seriously. I love it. I'm glad one reviewer out there could view the game as it was intended to be viewed.
  • philipshaw - February 23, 2011 3:33 p.m.

    This looks great, I will get it when it's cheaper