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By NAG3LT17-08-2012
NeonAnderson (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)

The Defence

People Can Fly
Epic Games
Action, Shooter
Release Date:
US 22-02-2011
EU 25-02-2011

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Quad 2.0 GHz
AMD Phenom X4 2.0 GHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 260
AMD Radeon HD 4870
2 GB
9 GB

The Case

"Ha ha! You cannot stop me, unless the cam goes into slow motion and I become easy to shoot." – enemy tempts his fate and falls victim to it. That's a part of ‘Duty Calls’ – Epic's interactive parody of modern war shooters that was released as another advertisement for the game, which Epic believe is different from other shooters. Bulletstorm claims to be a game that is fun to play, challenging and unique when compared to popular "realistic" FPS that saturate the market. Has it actually achieved its goal, or are the daring advertisements as meaningless as John Romero's famous tagline of Daikatana?

The Trial

A bottle of alcohol, gun in hands and an empty bottle taped on the head of another unfortunate bounty hunter – Grayson Hunt doesn't like clean kills, he prefers to play a bit. However, due to the demands of story, for a few chapters after such a nice introduction you will play it in a way similar to many other first person shooters, but with a few small additions thrown in. In the original development plan, the whole game would be just like that, as People Can Fly was making just another action shooter with few additional elements thrown in, but after looking at what playtesters liked the most, development priorities shifted.

A short time after getting in-game HUD and right after the intro act ends, Bulletstorm shows you its true colours. While in many other shooters it matters mostly how fast you kill your enemies, here the focus is on how you kill them. In-game points are used to upgrade your weapons and get ammo, but you won't get much for just killing a lot of meat. Even headshots don't give much XP after the first few. Knocking an enemy from his feet by sliding into him and then blasting him with a your shotgun onto sharp cactus spikes, all while being drunk from alcohol as well as blind from a flashbang – that's the way to go!

Such intricate kills are referred to as skillshots and there are over a 100 of them with a nice in-game list to keep track of them. As a way to stimulate you to use as many of them as possible, many more points are awarded for the first time you perform a unique skillshot than for simply repeating the same ones. They are also separated by type – some are universal, others are specific to each weapon and its firing mode. With all that, you'll be brutal to your enemies: leaving them without balls and then showing mercy by headshotting them, kicking them into helicopter blades, or roasting them to skeletons... The possibilities are endless.

Quick double X-Ray

Quick double X-Ray

The weapons arsenal gradually unlocks as the campaign progresses, giving you fresh ways to bring death to those who oppose you. The starting weapons are the usual assault rifle and your ability to do a powerful kick, which sends an opponent flying into the air. Later you get an energetic leash to bring enemies and objects closer - you also get unconventional weapons for example, one which shoots rotating drills. Together with an alternative fire mode for each weapon, it won't be boring to decimate enemies over and over again with different approaches. It's unfortunate that you're limited to only use two weapons at a time together with the leash and a rifle. The weapons can be replaced either by picking them up from enemies or at drop stations scattered at some points that also give you weapon upgrades and ammo in exchange for the skillshot points you have earned.

Controls are decent enough, however, the consequences of being made primarily for gamepads are noticeable. During sprint, side movement buttons actually rotate you, instead of strafing. The sprint, sliding and obstacle climbing are on the same button, similar story is with the use and reload commands. Good thing is though that there is a support for binding two keys to the same task, allowing you to customise controls closer to what is usually standard on keyboards for FPS games. It is also important to note that aim assist is on by default, so it's usually best to turn it off before playing with a mouse.

Bulletstorm really delivers on the visual part with both good graphics and a nice art direction. The updated Unreal Engine 3 really shines displaying decent textures with almost no blurry loading, as well as sharp objects and good lightning effects. On the other hand, there is some disappointment; the game only supports 16:9 aspect ratio (letterboxed otherwise) and lower resolution pre-rendered cutscenes are blurry compared to in-game graphics. Environments are very varied and detailed - the game seldom recycles old locations. There are also a lot of beautiful vistas to enjoy in between the massacre. The game isn't too long nor too short, it takes roughly 8 hours to finish the campaign on normal difficulty.

UE3 provides beautiful vistas in Bulletstorm 

UE3 provides beautiful vistas in Bulletstorm

Besides the main campaign, Bulletstorm also offers a few additional entertainment modes. First one is Echoes, where you have to get a high score on a small episodes of taken from the single-player campaign. It is a bit useful for refining skills, but mostly aimed at comparing the highscores with GfWL (Games for Windows Live) friends. The real online mode – 4-player Anarchy co-op focuses on survival and highscore with cooperative skillshots. The only way to enjoy it is by playing it together with real friends on voice chat, as the chances of finding a decent random team in the GfWL desert are practically null.

The Verdict

Bullestorm lives up to Epic Games' claims of being a shooter, with fun kills, and a lack of “modern realism”. All the arsenal and possibilities simply ask for the most ridiculous and gruesome murders possible while constantly changing the environments, so they don't get repetitive. The only thing you shouldn't expect from it, is a big online component. All in all, Bulletstorm is an amazing action FPS that I'd recommend to play for any shooter fan.


Additional Notes:

Developers thought that encrypting all UE3 configuration files for Bulletstorm would be a good idea to save leaderboards from cheating. Thankfully encryption isn't strong and there are tools to decrypt files and modify them to fix controls and access more graphical options - Article on Ars Technica on fixing Bulletstorm.

Case Review

  • Slaughterhouse: Variety in the ways to kill enemies.
  • Beauty: A lot of different and good looking environments.
  • Humour: Funny skillshot names and humorous remarks.
  • Length: 7-8 hours long campaign.
  • Little choice: Linear progression.
  • Consolitis: 16:9 only.
  • Consolitis: Gamepad orientated default controls.



Score: 4.5/5
Killing as an art form!
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