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Bulletstorm - an interview with Cliff Bleszinski

I recently got a chance to talk with Cliff Bleszinski about his upcoming game, Bulletstorm. He's clearly excited about his new venture, and so are we here at GR, as can be seen inyesterday's preview. The game is pretty ridiculous, but in all the right ways. I was able to play some of the co-op mode known as Anarchy, and so I'll share some of my own impressions after the video.

As for my experience playing the Anarchy mode, I'll talk a bit about some aspects that weren't covered in detail in our earlier preview. I actually get bored to death by typical Horde modes in games - the idea of just killing endless bots until you get overwhelmed doesn't interest me at all, mostly because I hate infinitely respawning AI since it makes me feel like I'm not making any real progress or working toward a tangible goal. Anarchy mode in Bulletstorm changes that and is the first "Horde" mode that I have actually truly enjoyed playing.

First, the mode is not endless. You and your three buddies must survive exactly twenty waves of enemies. So there is a win condition. Second, since Bulletstorm is all about style and skill shots, just killing the waves of enemies isn't enough. At the top of the screen is a two-layered circular meter. The red meter fills up as you kill enemies, letting you know how close to the end of the round you are. The blue meter indicates your score - and it mustfill up in order for you to pass the round. You need to score enough skill shots so that the blue meter fills up before the red meter does, so waves can become harrowing close-call races as you see the blue meter fall behind the red one. In my experience, several times we were sure we wouldn't win the wave and then managed a badass skillshot on the final enemy for the victory.

If your team doesn't earn the required score, you simply restart the wave. We actually got stuck on one particular wave for a while, but still managed to finish all twenty waves in the end, which took a little over an hour. As mentioned in yesterday's preview, there are countless ways to perform skill shots. Still, Anarchy mode doesn't just let you spam any old combos you want - occasionally, an enemy will enter the arena and he'll have bright yellow text above him letting you know that you have a specific challege for killing him. For instance, if he requires a "Team Mercy" one player must shoot him in the nuts to get him to stagger to his knees, and then another player must kick his head into mush. There are many, many of these team kill challenges, so pulling them off requires serious coordination, and you need to perform them to beat the more difficult waves. Communication becomes necessary, so if you're playing with trigger-happy newbies, prepare for frustration. When playing with friends, though, it's fun calling out "Okay, I've got him tethered... you got him? All right, let's yank this fool apart in three... two... one!"

Above: If you kick enough ass, you can activate Blood Symphony, which gives this blue blurry effect to the screen. When activated, you'll insta-frag just about everything in your path and earn bonus points, which can clinch the win if you're down in score

Another cool part of Anarchy is the purchasing or weapons and upgrades between rounds. Your score becomes money that you can spend on speed and health increases, ammo refills (don't forget!), and Thumper rounds. The Thumper is a special move you can do with your electric whip which lifts a guy in the air and then slams him down for an explosive effect. As for weapon purchases, I enjoyed using the quad-barrel shotgun as my secondary, but I really had some fun with the flail gun, which was difficult to get skill shots with since it is so powerful (although you can get land mine bonuses by dropping bolos on the ground and detonating them when enemies come in range).

Aside from the flashy combo moves, I should note that as a pure shooter, Bulletstorm has a meaty satisfaction to the weapons that's definitely reminiscent of Gears of War, so you can feel Cliff Bleszinski's influence. The shotgun feels powerful the way four barrels should, and the flail gun just gibs enemies with gleeful disgustingness. So even if the skill shots aren't an appealing feature for some, it looks like it will still make shooter purists pretty happy.

Dec 9, 2010

My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.