Is Bulletstorm the new Gears?

Both star big, meaty heroes firing big, meaty guns. Both take place in gritty sci-fi universes where you trust your team before you trust your government. Both include enough exaggerated blood and violence to earn an M-rating several times over. And both have really dumb names.

Bulletstorm is clearly being set up as a possible successor to the Gears of War franchise, with Epic Games publishing and designer Cliff Bleszinksi overseeing the development by People Can Fly (which, full circle, was responsible for Gears on PC). The new game is even debuting in 2011, the same year that Gears 3 wraps up that trilogy.

Just how similar are the two series? And what's different – for better or for worse – about Bulletstorm? Here's a comparison, based on my first look at the game last week.

Extremely exaggerated violence

You've seen a curb stomp. You've seen an enemy chainsawed in half. During the span of a single one-hour Bulletstorm demo, I saw worse. Like an enemy being shot in the groin, then kicked in the face after he'd fallen to his knees. Like another man being whipped into the air, strapped to grenades mid-flight, impaled on a cactus needle and left to detonate. And like a final dude who was pulverized to bits and pieces after getting caught between a wall and a runaway ice cream stand. The violence is a little more comical in Bulletstorm than in Gears, but the shock factor remains.

Remember the Hammer of Dawn, which microwave-cooked Locust from the sky above? Or the Torque Bow with its explosive tipped arrows? In Bulletstorm, your primary assault rifle can be upgraded and charged until firing it doesn't merely kill an enemy… it instantly incinerates him into a blackened skeleton. Oh yeah, and your other main weapon is a giant electrified whip that grabs and tosses foes through the environment. And don't forget the flail gun, which shoots two trigger grenades tied together on a spinning, bolo-like string that can wrap itself around almost any target. Yeah, these should be fun.

Gears has cover and the roadie run. Bulletstorm's equivalents are the kick and slide. Neither are actions you'd expect to see in a first-person shooter, but both appear to have plenty of uses. Kicking enemies, in some way not yet revealed to the press, freezes them in slow motion so that you can then unleash all kinds of other pain upon their bodies. Plus, how do you think the previously mentioned ice cream stand was transformed into a lethal projectile? The slide can also knock enemies into the air for follow-up punishment, and when on a watery or oily surface, can enable you to zip forward up to 50 yards in a flash.

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