Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bulletstorm: FPS On Steroids

In the world of the crowded FPS Genre, it gets difficult to stay on top. Every time a new concept comes along, various clones show up to try and cash in on the idea. However, one key concept always remains in an FPS: using the environment as a weapon. These usually come in the form of red barrels or some other form of explosive object in the background. The concept of realism also stands, attempting to combine the two into masterpiece crafts of the genre. If a game like Uncharted 2 is like a cinematic masterpiece and Call of Duty is a realistic war scenario, then Bulletstorm is a melodic blood symphony that makes the most out of its concept/tagline; Kill With Skill.

Looking first at the story, I wasn't really sure what to expect from it. Usually, a game with a concept as unique as that of Bulletstorm would just have a razor thin excuse plot designed solely to let you run wild. Instead, the story for this game has a surprising amount of depth to it. We start with a very intriguing and potty mouthed opening, which sets the stage for the story. Grayson Hunt finally encounters a ship that General Serrano is on and proceeds to attack it dead on. His ship crashes into Serrano's and both end up landing on the planet Stygia. After having surgery performed on his partner Ishi Sato, Grayson locks onto the location of Serrano and they both proceed to locate him.

It wouldn't really be right to talk about the plot of the game any further, as it is full of twists and unforeseen circumstances. But it would be right to say that it is full of truly spectacular moments and feats of scale never before seen in a shooter. For example, there is one section where Grayson gleefully attacks his enemies with a giant remote controlled robotic dinosaur, and another where Grayson and Ishi have to shoot enemies on an oncoming train while avoiding and attempting to take out a humongous wheel weaving towards them. The story was well-written in my opinion, assisted by top-notch voice acting and hilarious, if very potty mouthed, dialogue. Seriously, the amount of language in this game is enough to rival most games out on the market today. Even so, I was laughing all the way through the campaign.

The biggest part of Bulletstorm is the premise: Kill With Skill. Kills in the game are called Skillshots. In essence, there is a name for just about any kind of kill you can pull off short of just outright mowing an enemy down, each with a point value assigned to it. These points are then used as currency for the various dropkits scattered in the game, so the better you are the more weapons, upgrade, and ammo you can purchase for your guns. These skillshots come from skillfully combining your guns, leash, and standing and sliding kicks to pull off increasingly elaborate shots. Some also involve the environment, such as setting off an explosive near the enemy for the Enviro-Mental skillshot, which is one of the simplest skill shots to perform. If you want to start getting complex, you can use the energy leash's alt-fire, Thumper, to launch enemies into the air and kill them for Trap Shooting. And if you want to really get intricate, you can leash an enemy to your position, wrap a flail shot around them, and then kick them back toward a group and detonate the flail for the Homie Missile and Gang Bang skillshots. There are so many skillshots that I still haven't found all of them. There is a real thrill out of finding new skillshots and weapon combinations to use, which will guarantee more play out of the game in the near future.

The weapons are perhaps the most fun thing about Bulletstorm. Aside from the energy leash, kick, and trusty Peacemaker Carbine (PMC), you have a wide array of guns, each with their own powerful alt-fire modes. The alt-fire allows you to charge up your shots for equally ridiculous effects. For example, charging the Screamer turns it into a flare gun and charging the Head Hunter, a sniper rifle, allows you to detonate the sniper round midair for explosive results. Weapons also include the Penetrator, a drill gun; Flail Gun; Bouncer, a grenade launcher with bouncing orb shots; and Boneduster, a quadruple-barreled shotgun. While using them is always exciting, it helps that the controls are very tight and responsive, letting you feel more like a killing machine than ever thought possible. You can carry two other guns besides the PMC, and some are situational, but it's exciting to find that a combination was very effective even if it wasn't the "correct" one.

As far as visuals go, they were very detailed and fluid. The backgrounds are also very lush and colorful and the architecture is beautifully detailed, which gives you something nice to look at while you paint the walls with the blood and guts of your enemies. It was great to see a game like this use a large color palette, making for more inviting scenery and architecture than something like Fallout 3 or Bioshock 2. The game is also very linear, which minimizes backtracking to just going back to a strategically placed dropkit for a different load out or more ammo. What I knew going in was that the enemies in the game were more randomized to avoid being simply cookie cutter clusters, which I liked when I noticed some of the subtlety in the generated enemies.

Aside from the enjoyable Single Player campaign, there are also the Echoes and multiplayer Anarchy modes. Echoes mode has you replaying specific enemy encounters to compete against your friends by racking up points and finding more skillshots. While I enjoyed this mode for hours, I believe that leaderboard nuts will get full enjoyment out of this mode, compared to someone like me who prefers to play it to squeeze more fun out of the game. Sadly, I am unable to review the Anarchy mode due to unknown circumstances. I can't tell if it was the weather at the time or if it was a bad server connection or if it was my PS3 acting up, but I was unable to play a single map and at best stared at an infinite loading screen for about 30 minutes before giving up. As such, I am not one to say whether or not the online cooperative multiplayer is good or not; you may have to find out from someone else.

So, besides being unable to personally play the multiplayer and an okay ending to the story, Bulletstorm exceeded all of my expectations and then some. Never before has an FPS game make you think so quickly about various kills to the point where it becomes an instinctive reaction. I can definitely recommend this game to absolutely anyone who has played an FPS in their life and is willing to experience something that will expand their creative thinking. As for those who are still on the fence, think about it this way: in this game, you can fire a scoped sniper round at an enemy and redirect it midflight to make sure it hits your target, then control the enemy you just shot midair to another close by and remotely detonate the round.

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