Bulletstorm and trying too hard

Posted by Oni (2067 posts) -

I played through Bulletstorm over the course of the last two days and some of the things I experienced are worth writing down. Join me as I navigate the labyrinthine passageways of my own thought process!
 
The ad campaign for Bulletstorm was god-awful, I think we can all agree on that. The Epic people tried so incredibly hard to drive home the point that Bulletstorm is totally crazy and fun, and look at how ridiculous it is, that they totally overshot the mark. Yeah, Bulletstorm is pretty ridiculous, but not at all in the teeth-grindingly irritating way that those ads of Cliffy B telling us a shitty joke about his girlfriend's pregnancy are. They should have let the game speak for itself instead of overselling it to the point of almost unselling me on the entire game in the process. 
 

 Seriously, this guy probably brushes his teeth with a toothbrush made of baby bones
Yeah, the game has a lot of made-up swearing, ridiculous situations and outrageously larger-than-life characters, most notably the protagonist, Grayson Hunt, and his arch-nemesis, the evil General Serrano, who is so incredibly evil that you almost like him for being so shameless about it. What's refreshing about the game's story and characters is that they're so unpretentious. So many games these days want to be like a movie and take themselves way too goddamn seriously, or don't know how to properly inject some levity or comic relief without ruining the pacing or introducing some terrible character. Bulletstorm never, ever tries to take itself seriously. It's actually legitimately funny in spots, and most surprisingly of all, the story is actually half-decent. I think it's because of this total lack of pretention, because of its knowing stupidity, that it ca n pull this off. Yeah, Grayson Hunt is a total moron, so what? At the end of the game, he's a total moron who knows he's been a total moron for the duration of the game and the events preceding it. Hardly amazing character development, right?
 
The characters are two-dimensional stereotypes and the writer never attempted to make them anything more than that, which is why it works. Many games try to have interesting characters, but in spite of pretenses, very few pull it off. Mass Effect 2 is one of the few. Then there's Red Dead Redemption, which looks and sounds so much like a movie, it has a lot of people fooled into thinking it actually has a great story, and isn't 90% about a guy running errands for insufferable jackasses. But at the end of the day, the characters in that game are no more layered than Bulletstorm's characters, with the possible exception of Marston's wife and kid.
 
Bulletstorm's total lack of pretension, both from a gameplay perspective and a narrative one, is a refreshing blast of fresh air in a landscape of grimdark games that try to make you care about their characters by using well-worn archetypes and plot devices lifted from other media. As a result, Bulletstorm is a game that has heart. It's an entirely nebulous concept with no real definition other than what I just made up, but to me that's what it is. Which is a far cry from the incredibly cynical ad campaign Epic ran for the game. Give it a chance, and space morons just may win you over.
#1 Posted by Oni (2067 posts) -

I played through Bulletstorm over the course of the last two days and some of the things I experienced are worth writing down. Join me as I navigate the labyrinthine passageways of my own thought process!
 
The ad campaign for Bulletstorm was god-awful, I think we can all agree on that. The Epic people tried so incredibly hard to drive home the point that Bulletstorm is totally crazy and fun, and look at how ridiculous it is, that they totally overshot the mark. Yeah, Bulletstorm is pretty ridiculous, but not at all in the teeth-grindingly irritating way that those ads of Cliffy B telling us a shitty joke about his girlfriend's pregnancy are. They should have let the game speak for itself instead of overselling it to the point of almost unselling me on the entire game in the process. 
 

 Seriously, this guy probably brushes his teeth with a toothbrush made of baby bones
Yeah, the game has a lot of made-up swearing, ridiculous situations and outrageously larger-than-life characters, most notably the protagonist, Grayson Hunt, and his arch-nemesis, the evil General Serrano, who is so incredibly evil that you almost like him for being so shameless about it. What's refreshing about the game's story and characters is that they're so unpretentious. So many games these days want to be like a movie and take themselves way too goddamn seriously, or don't know how to properly inject some levity or comic relief without ruining the pacing or introducing some terrible character. Bulletstorm never, ever tries to take itself seriously. It's actually legitimately funny in spots, and most surprisingly of all, the story is actually half-decent. I think it's because of this total lack of pretention, because of its knowing stupidity, that it ca n pull this off. Yeah, Grayson Hunt is a total moron, so what? At the end of the game, he's a total moron who knows he's been a total moron for the duration of the game and the events preceding it. Hardly amazing character development, right?
 
The characters are two-dimensional stereotypes and the writer never attempted to make them anything more than that, which is why it works. Many games try to have interesting characters, but in spite of pretenses, very few pull it off. Mass Effect 2 is one of the few. Then there's Red Dead Redemption, which looks and sounds so much like a movie, it has a lot of people fooled into thinking it actually has a great story, and isn't 90% about a guy running errands for insufferable jackasses. But at the end of the day, the characters in that game are no more layered than Bulletstorm's characters, with the possible exception of Marston's wife and kid.
 
Bulletstorm's total lack of pretension, both from a gameplay perspective and a narrative one, is a refreshing blast of fresh air in a landscape of grimdark games that try to make you care about their characters by using well-worn archetypes and plot devices lifted from other media. As a result, Bulletstorm is a game that has heart. It's an entirely nebulous concept with no real definition other than what I just made up, but to me that's what it is. Which is a far cry from the incredibly cynical ad campaign Epic ran for the game. Give it a chance, and space morons just may win you over.
#2 Posted by TheSeductiveMoose (3617 posts) -

I thought ME2 took itself way too seriously for it's own good. But other than that I agree with you, it's refreshing seeing games like these from time to time.

#3 Posted by Claude (16251 posts) -

Bulletstorm seems like a mature rated videogame for a bunch of underage teenagers. But I haven't played it and don't intend too, so who am I to judge.

#4 Posted by lmenzol (271 posts) -
@Claude said:
" Bulletstorm seems like a mature rated videogame for a bunch of underage teenagers. But I haven't played it and don't intend too, so who am I to judge. "
im with you there
#5 Posted by DocHaus (1286 posts) -

I remember seeing a behind-the-scenes look with the guy who wrote the game's story as he told the camera that he actually hunted for places to use swearwords even where they weren't necessary or made sense. I want to buy this game but the marketing department and the writer(s) of this game are doing their damnedest to make me wait until I find it on a shelf for $15 used.

#6 Posted by Caligula (174 posts) -
@DocHaus: @lmenzol: @Claude: 
 
your loss. the game is great. and totally inventive and fresh.
#7 Posted by FancySoapsMan (5750 posts) -
@TheSeductiveMoose said:
" I thought ME2 took itself way too seriously for it's own good. But other than that I agree with you, it's refreshing seeing games like these from time to time. "
And RDD's cutscenes did not look or sound like a movie.
#8 Posted by TheSeductiveMoose (3617 posts) -
@FancySoapsMan said:
" @TheSeductiveMoose said:
" I thought ME2 took itself way too seriously for it's own good. But other than that I agree with you, it's refreshing seeing games like these from time to time. "
And RDD's cutscenes did not look or sound like a movie. "
Yeah, that too.
#9 Posted by onimonkii (2421 posts) -

I agree with this, I was also completely turned away by the ads and pre-release hype for this game, to the point where I wouldn't even play the demo. I was actually incredibly surprised by the game though, the pacing is great, keeps the game trucking right along so it's never boring and doesn't overstay it's welcome. And yeah, for as stupid and immature as the dialog is, the story is actually pretty good.

#10 Posted by Cereal_Killa (50 posts) -

I've been wondering, has there ever been another ad campaign that was this unappealing? To the point it put others off the game?

#11 Posted by MildMolasses (3194 posts) -

The gameplay is great and totally makes up for the retarded marketing beforehand. 
 
I will also disagree with the people who don't think this game takes itself too seriously. This game takes itself way too seriously, at least as far as the story is concerned. Everything is so overly dramatic and serious (the betrayals, the internal struggle that Ishi has, the selfish need for revenge) that I find it to be really at odds with the skill shots concept and the out of place dialogue. For the most part this game takes itself as serious as Gears of War does. And the headshot sound isn't as satisfying
#12 Posted by owl_of_minerva (1455 posts) -

Video-game narratives are often cynical about themselves, which I find refreshing. It works because we're familar with these action-hero archetypes and good vs. evil conflicts and their logic is juvenile, no matter serious or artistic in their presentation.The marketing aspect is kind of crappy though, I agree.

#13 Posted by Bloodgraiv3 (2712 posts) -
@Cereal_Killa said:
"I've been wondering, has there ever been another ad campaign that was this unappealing? To the point it put others off the game? "


Sega does what Nintendont.
#14 Posted by louiedog (2331 posts) -

I agree with you completely. The ad campaign for this game completely turned me off and the demo's lack of story didn't do anything to change my mind. I was not going to pick it up. However, fortune favored me and I won a contest for the game. I just finished playing it and damn it was fun. Ignore the marketing. The game is great. The story is no dumber than anything that you've seen in the Call of Duty series (and easier to swallow because it doesn't take itself seriously), the writing is much more fun, and it's actually pretty funny in spots. I don't just mean that in the "hehehe, he said dick tits," way. I hate that, I'm not 14, but there's actually some good stuff in there that made me laugh.
 
It's been awhile since I set out to s-rank a retail game, but I think I will with this because it's so much fun. I already have most of the echo achievements, I really want to see every single skillshot, and it should be pretty easy to get the collectibles as a) they're not terribly difficult to find and b) the chapter selection menu tells you how man you're missing from each.

#15 Posted by sundowner (11 posts) -

I'd be willing to bet for every person supposedly turned away by Bulletstorm's ridiculous ad campaign, many more actually paid attention to the game because of it. As silly and dumb as the marketing was, it really did show you that this wasn't just another FPS

#16 Posted by GloomyTangent (190 posts) -

It seems to me that everything about Bulletstorm, including the marketing, is satire on today's meathead shooters. I'm still waiting on my copy to arrive, but it seems like it's tearing into Gears etc. for taking themselves too seriously when they're shallow as hell. I mean, did you guys see that trailer making fun of the Halo "Believe" spot? Yeah, it was dumb, but I was also saying that the Halo spot was stupid. I can't say I disagree.

#17 Edited by Pinworm45 (4088 posts) -

I avoided that game because nothing seems original at all about the same shooting we have now except now you get points for being "creative" by shooting dudes into objects in the environment (oh boy). 
 
how the game is being praised as fresh and original when all it's really doing is drawing one minor detail - the one media criticizes us for too of all things (getting points for shooting people) - from games of old and applying is beyond me. 
 
I'm sure the game isn't terrible or anything, but god damn is it dumb. And unlike brad, I don't think it's a good dumb.

#18 Posted by Sweep (8541 posts) -

Great blog, dude! I have been looking for an excuse to buy this game so I can get into the Gears 3 beta. What's the multiplayer stuff like? Also, you own this on 360, right?

Moderator
#19 Posted by mfpantst (2574 posts) -
@Sweep:  The multi is schitzo.  Either really satisfying and amazing, or completely frustrating and dumb.  I've leveled up to 32 or so (I think Ive spent 15+ hours in anarchy mode thus far), that EA pass code (or something- not sure what) started me off at level 3 or something.  So it's been more fun than not.  But- when it's not fun it's really not fun.
#20 Posted by Tennmuerti (7721 posts) -
@Oni:  Totally agree with you, good post.
#21 Posted by Oni (2067 posts) -
@Sweep: nah I got it on the PC, found a site where they sold keys for 20 quid (legit)
 
@Pinworm45:
It's not just the gameplay, it's also the art style, color palette, and the general lack of pretense I talked about. It's no dumber than Call of Duty or Gears, it just doesn't try as hard to be serious. I mean, Gears is pretty dumb, and it's not like it has a great story even though it tries to be all dramatic. Bulletstorm avoids that by not trying to be dramatic at all. It has a few 'serious' moments but they work because they almost blindside you with that stuff, and there's still a wink and a nod to everything, like they knew it was totally cliché to have the redemption story arc for the main dude, but they did it anyway. But they don't really beat you over the head with it or try to make it all emotional, it's just there, and you can take it or leave it. Don't judge it if you haven't played it because like I said, it's not half as retarded as the ads made it out to be. And I was lukewarm on the demo too, the game is better than it suggests imo.
#22 Posted by dragonzord (809 posts) -
@Claude said:
" Bulletstorm seems like a mature rated videogame for a bunch of underage teenagers. But I haven't played it and don't intend too, so who am I to judge. "
and yet here you are
#23 Posted by fox01313 (5033 posts) -

After finishing the game today, couldn't agree more on many points. Once you get past the huge amount of trying too hard to be crass, there is a few gems of character development (not many but there were a couple moments I noticed, was playing the game late at times so might be mistaken just showing how little they payed attention to character over language in the dialogue) & story which I thought were somewhat interesting to rival the fun gameplay. As someone who swears quite a lot at times, even I was turned off by the swearing after a while as whoever writing it just trying way too hard to be edgy only to find themselves still standing in a wading pool in someone's backyard. Where Bayonetta developers brought something crazy & were probably sent home to come up with something more crazy; Bulletstorm seemed to try the same but just remove even more dialogue to insert more swearing. To paraphrase Mark Twain about replacing the word 'very' with 'damn' only to have the editor remove every instance of 'damn' to clean up the flow of the writing would have helped with Bulletstorm in my opinion.

#24 Edited by Napalm (9020 posts) -
@Cereal_Killa said:

" I've been wondering, has there ever been another ad campaign that was this unappealing? To the point it put others off the game? "

Dead Space 2's, "Your mom will hate this," is beyond fucking offensive. 
 
@Pinworm45: You say a lot of dumb stuff. I'm glad I never took you seriously. Also, news flash bro: nothing is original.
#25 Posted by Cereal_Killa (50 posts) -
@Napalm: Didn't even know it existed until now, I'm playing through the game at the moment and that is so far from representing the product its beyond annoying.
#26 Posted by Herocide (440 posts) -

My friends have been using the "made-up swearing" aeons before Bulletstorm existed. Why there's such a fuss about the writing being cooky and weird is beyond me.

#27 Posted by Vinny_Says (5630 posts) -

It's still extremely fun and innovative with great controls and a refreshing environment and by simply calling it stupid and childish without trying it you're unfairly judging a pretty great product.

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