Bulletstorm is, or rather will be when it's released, the latest game from Polish developers People Can Fly, the same people who bought us Painkiller, the uber-violent kill-fest on the PC back in 2004 which was basically a game where the instruction manual consisted of two words...KILL STUFF. Unfortunately, aside from being a massively enjoyable game, Painkiller didn't register on enough peoples radar to stop People Can Fly going the way of most small game developers nowadays and getting into financial difficulties, that was of course until Super Hero Cliff Blizinski swooped in with his glowing cape, magical biceps and several sacks of money, promptly purchasing most of People Can Fly's shares and saving the day!!
Ever since that fateful day in 2007, both Epic Games and People Can Fly have had a happy life together and we are soon to celebrate the birth of their first born, a first person shooter by the name of Bulletstorm, now, from the few trailers I have seen of this game, Bulletstorm strikes me as the kind of offspring that has a foul mouth and a penchant for throwing buckets of red paint around.
I downloaded this demo with great expectations of the Next Big Thing on the 360, against my usual better judgement; I had well and truly bought my ticket for the Hype Train and had sat firmly in my seat waiting for it to pull out of Exaggeration Station.
After my first playthrough I felt the actual demo was simply…lacking, severely, there just wasn't enough content to wet my appetite, and whilst I might usually not touch such a demo again, I was highly tempted to give Bulletstorm another go, I’m sure there was something I was missing.
After a few playthroughs I realised that it wasn’t the game that was the issue, but my perceptions of it, I was approaching the game from the wrong angle so I have split this hands-on into three separate parts
You could call my first playthrough the ‘Review’ playthrough, where I took notice of usual things such as graphics, gameplay, AI, the nuts and bolts that make reviewers go all gooey inside. My second playthrough would be my ‘Becoming A Regular Tourist’ playthrough, where I still notice the subtle touches of the gameplay and appreciate the AI and such but I start to feel the effects of Bulletstorm Fever, where I find myself killing my enemies not just to get from checkpoint A to B but to earn more points than last time. My final Playthrough would have to be called my ‘Going Native’ playthrough, where I find myself completely immersed in the experience of the game, setting up Skillshots where I can and trying to eviscerate my enemies in as many different ways as I can before the demo ends. Please, let me explain...
So I start off in a collapsed building, playing as grizzled mercenary, Grayson Hunt, I get to pick two additional weapons on my loadout screen, a revolver and what looks like a grenade launcher, I also have something called The Leash, but in all honesty in my excitement to leave Exaggeration Station I ignored that part of the tutorial so I'll admit I didn’t fully understand the concept, I had seen videos of it but I figured that if it was needed, it would be explained to me in-game.
I run through into the first room to see a grunt standing there, upon seeing me he quickly opens fire and my two team-mates retaliate, his grunt mate behind him jumps over a nearby wall, I duck behind the closest wall for cover, popping out to take body shots at the first grunt, I down him and move onto the next one, after he pops his head up one of my team-mates chances a shoulder shot that takes him out, nicely done for AI, we vault over the wall which the second grunt was hiding behind to see another grunt running up a ramp towards us, in an instinct reaction I empty most of my carbine ammo into this ones chest, he's down...so far, a standard First Person Shooter experience.
We then encounter a grunt in a mask, wielding a brutal looking axe in each hand, he charges towards me but with my carbine and my team mates in tow, he quickly goes down with little effort, the next section of the mission takes me through a heavily damaged section of the collapsed building, rubble and bits of rebar sticking out everywhere, I encounter maybe three more gunner grunts and an axe berserker then things get slightly more interesting, my team is pinned down by a machine gun turret when suddenly I remember that I have a grenade launcher on me, I equip it, swing round out of cover and fire something that reminds me of one of Batman’s toys! Two grenades connected by a steel chain!
By pure chance it wraps itself around the turret-gunners neck, he falls to the floor, being choked by the chain before it explodes in a satisfying red mist. Then a little "press X to use" sign appears above the turret, it was in this next set piece I found myself ripping the turret off of its stand, Master Chief-style, and charging towards a stream of guards running down what appears to be a tunnel, then my little "press X to use" friend appears again near my end of the tunnel so I head towards it.
Upon hitting the switch it was highlighting, a giant pod of metal screams through the tunnel, turning the grunts into meat-mulch, not only do I accumulate a ton of points for this, I realize that the pod was an elevator (this being a collapsed building and all, that makes sense!)
So we make our way through the next few corridors pretty much unscathed and unopposed (aside from a shock or two from a dangling electrical cable but that was my own stupid fault) then we come into an open courtyard style room with about four grunts ranging from gunners to berserkers, the encounter is pretty standard, find cover, pop out, fire, use the time-slowing Kick button to get the berserkers away from you when they get too close.
Moving forward, we make our way through a small passage and find a corridor with about six or seven grunts in it, all ducking behind cover so I promptly do the same, reverting to my FPS roots of duck, pop out, few shots, duck back in, when one of the grunts jumps over the wall I'm hiding behind so I go for the Kick button on instinct but before I could finish him off with my carbine he flies into an exposed metal pole, earning me the Voodoo doll Skillshot, I actually laugh out loud at this because I forgot that this game had things like this in there. After clearing out the remaining wave of grunts me and the team make out way through to the next area when a berserker jumps out in front of me, fortunately I had just reloaded and managed to score a sweet gushing headshot from this guy.
In the next area was the standard mix of gunners and berserkers and the layout was standard too, duck, shoot, move forward, rinse repeat. The whole encounter only took me a minute or so and before I knew it I had made it to the end of the demo, with the grizzly Grayson telling me that I have only just scratched the surface, and I'm presented with my measly score of about 3000 points.
I sat there, wondering if I liked the game or not, I mean, it was a good demo, very fluid and visceral to the point of enjoyable but there didn’t seem to be much depth there, then I remember the Voodoo Doll Skillshot in the corridor and think of what else I can do to earn more points and Skillshots. If I could earn a few extra points by accident like that, what could I pull off when I put my mind to it, and with that, I hit the “Replay Level” button…
So the layout of the level is exactly the same, no deviation for enemy layout or even behaviour from what I could tell, I did notice the "Press LB to use leash" on a hatch in the first room this time though so after killing the grunts here I used this Leash and found that all it did was drop a ton of bricks on the bullet filled corpses of my enemies...ah well, maybe next time... The first encounter with the Berserker went slightly differently this time though, I scored a headshot on him which, in turn, caused the mask he was wearing to split, spraying gunk all over me making the screen go all blurry but I soldiered through, figuring it would go away after a minute or so. After killing another grunt in the next section I realized I got more points because my vision was impaired...interesting… The next few sections went as standard until the open-courtyard section again where I realized that if I held the Leash button I would charge it up, utilizing The Thumper, which sends enemies flying into the air, slowing them down so you can inflict all manner of death and dismemberment on them. I decided it was time to check out the alternative fire modes of the weapons, including the Screamer Revolver which I had yet to use! So I find that the alternative fire of the Peacemaker Carbine fires 100 bullets at once, turning the grunt in front of me into a glowing skeleton (a very nice effect) the Screamer Revolver doubles up as a gun that fires what can only be described as a firework, wrapped in TNT! and the Flail-Gun causes the grenade-flail to act like a buzzsaw slicing through anything organic before sticking into a solid surface, thereafter acting like a normal grenade.
So, after scoring a respectable 5500 points on my second playthrough, I found that the game was not only more profitable, point wise, but also a lot more enjoyable if you stop treating it like a serious first person shooter and just enjoyed the carnage, but before thinking about what other skillshots I could pull off, I realised I had already hit the “Replay Level” button and was looking at the loading screen, oh well…when in Rome…
I run forward, leash the first grunt, during the slo-mo moments I score a headshot, blood shower! More points! Sweet!, I turn left and as the second grunt is jumping over the wall I Leash the panel above him, burying him alive, bonus! More points!!, I leap over the wall to find the third grunt running toward me, quick boot to the stomach sends him into a nearby metal pole, I charge forward, leaving my team-mates still at the first room, pft! I don’t need them stealing my points!
The first berserker runs at me, I switch to my Screamer, headshot!, I practically smear mask-gunk in my eyes as I run forwards into the next section, four grunts, swift boot sends one into some exposed electrical cables, I leash number two and as he hurtles towards me I calmly step sideways and let him hug a collection of metal poles behind me, numbers three and four get sent skywards using The Thumper, out comes the Screamer, alt-fire charges up, flare goes in, grunt three flies off and before he has finished showering a nearby wall the Flail Gun alt-fire has already charged up and had burned through grunt number four.
This is it, I realised that THIS is how Bulletstorm is supposed to be played, not hiding behind cover taking pot-shots at the grunts, but running forward, screaming into the fray with your machine gun on full auto! Bulletstorm had never hidden it’s gratuitous sandbox nature, I just hadn’t noticed it before this moment.
The gun turret/elevator section bit goes as expected, I make my way through to the open courtyard section, constantly scanning the environment for sharp objects to impale the grunts on, ledges I can kick them off of, I managed to use a single carbine bullet to shoot a grunt in the throat, wrapped a grenade around his feet then booted him into an exposed pole for maximum points!
During the corridor section, I noticed that one of the berserkers had broken off to charge at me, I leashed him, wrapped a grenade around him, kicked him into a rebar next to his grunt buddies and detonated the grenade, there were more Skillshot names on the screen that I could count! It felt glorious!
I was like Neo from the end of the first Matrix movie, I had become The One in this demo, the world bent to my will and my will was focused on making everything dead!!
Finally wrapped things up with six berserkers running towards me in almost single-file…this was like a gift from the developers, I thought so I charged up the Flail-Gun, aimed slightly down and ended up turning six berserkers into six torsos and twelve shins littering the floor in front of me, again, the screen was tattooed in Skillshot names, ran down the exit ramp of the demo to net a nice 8500 points.
I felt great!! I was soaked in the blood of virtual baddies and I loved every moment of it, Bulletstorm is a true tribute to the days of Serious Sam and Duke Nukem, this is over the top violence for the sake of it, there is no deep storyline that you need to grab other than “here are some explosive toys, there are 5,000,000 grunts between you and the ’Congratulations’ screen at the end of the game…have fun” before it gives you a gentle slap on the behind and walking away to watch you run around like a complete loony! I can quickly see Bulletstorm becoming my guilty pleasure in gaming once it comes out. As far as the actual game goes, the controls are fine, had to change the controls to the “Alt” setting but that’s just me! The graphics are lovely to look at, there are copious amounts of blood and scoring a headshot on a nearby grunt almost makes you wince in case you get blood in your eyes! There were a few glitches here and there but this is a demo after all and besides it was nothing game-breaking, also, I feel that even if the final product has a few glitches in it they will be overshadowed by the amount of fun you will have with this title!
If you are looking to adopt Epic Game’s and People Can Fly’s offspring and are expecting a Grade-A student taught in the Treyarch CoD-Clone University, then look elsewhere, if however you have a soft spot for out-of-control urchins with a habit for throwing too much red paint at the walls and Tourettes, then you’ll love Bulletstorm!
On a side note, I was greatly looking forward to presenting you with a Crysis 2 Demo Hands-on as not only have I always wanted to play any Crysis game but with all the trailers and game play footage it looked absolutely beautiful…unfortunately this isn’t going to happen as I have tried to play the demo for 2 whole hours I finally gave up and decided to review it with the following words… “Looks great in trailers, will review it after it comes out and after the initial several patches have been released!” I will now go promptly tear up my ticket for Crysis 2’s Hype Train…