One of Gears of War's greatest innovations was the active reload – a small addition that made the simple (and usually unremarkable) act of changing ammunition a constant game in and of itself. Bulletstorm takes that idea much, much, much further, overlaying the entire combat system with a scoring system that rewards you with points for murdering your enemies in creative ways. Just kill? +10. Headshot? +50. Whip three men into the air, freeze them, grab a nearby trash can, rig it with explosives and send it flying and exploding into their midst before they hit the ground? +… Well, a hell of a lot more, obviously.
Here's where Bulletstorm and Gears start diverging. Sera, the home planet of Marcus Fenix and friends, was obviously once a beautiful place, but is covered in ash, fire, death and despair by the time the first game starts. While the setting of Bulletstorm is also a crumbling city, the vibe is completely unique. The sun is shiny and bright. Gentle waves lap on pristine beaches. Exotic birds squawk and colorful jungle flowers sway in the tropical breeze… if they're not trying to kill you. Most of the game takes place on an abandoned resort planet, and all of humanity's survival isn't at stake, so the mood is noticeably lighter.
At first, the characters in Bulletstorm seem exactly the same as those in Gears. The main protagonist is grumpy and no-nonsense, with a talent for muttering strings of swear words between every breath. And from the dialogue I heard during the demo, he's definitely got a bromance going on with one of his teammates. Plus, I could swear his female sidekick shared a voice actor with Anya, Marcus's potential love interest.
Here's the difference: The soldiers in Gears had a right to be angry. They were at war, hanging by a thread to lives that were already destroyed. The characters in Bulletstorm, however, just come across like cranky assholes. Hopefully, the game's setup – which will apparently introduce hero Nathan Grayson as a drunken and bitter pirate on the road to revenge and redemption – will win me over more than on this first impression.
To see Bulletstorm in action for yourself, check out the debut trailer - and first gameplay video - below.
May 13, 2010
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