Hey! This review ain't gonna read itself!
In a sea of realistic, military and usually very dull looking first person shooters, here comes Bulletstorm trying to inject some fun - and most importantly, color - into the landscape. If you're a fan of non-serious FPS's like Serious Sam, Duke Nukem or Painkiller, then Bulletstorm's right up your alley since it's crass, brash, violent and is apparently so filled with awesome, if it were a chick, you'd wanna fuck it. (I'm gonna try to not swear as crazy as the game does but no promises). However, the game's main selling point, and really the thing that separates from pretty much every other game out right now, quickly just becomes part of the game's mechanic and doesn't surprise anymore. Like Split/Second, first time you see one exploding building, or in this case, 5 guys exploding in mid-air, it's awesome and incredibly exciting. The seventh time though? Not so much, and settles into the typical "Bulletstorm" format but oh what action it brings.
The story of the game is...well, I don't want to call it "non-existant" since there is one as characters have names, people have motives and there's an actual end goal to all the craziness. You play as Grayson Hunt, part of the Dead Echo unit, a top secret group hired to do work for a General named Serrano. But when Serrano uses the group to kill innocents, reporters, witnesses and not mass murderers and drug dealers as advertised, the group defects and finds themselves on the run. In a drunken flight of fancy, Grayson attacks Serrano's ship and causes both groups to crash land on the hostile, yet insanely beautiful, planet of Stygia. Mind on revenge and leash in hand, Grayson, friend-turned-cyborg Ishi and a girl they meet along the way named Trishka, battle mutants, ravenous thugs and huge creatures as they make their way to Serrano's crash site.
Now, the one issue I had going in with this game as its use of language, or should I say, the excessive use of it. This is the kind of game you'd probably find funny if you're A) drunk, B) with friends...who may or may not be drunk too or C) you're 11 and your parents don't allow you to swear and anyone who says the word "fuck" is just funny. I don't mind more immature or rough language in my humor but at least have it be funny. Bulletstorm just brings groans, the occasional chuckle or just silence. The game also has a weird tonal flux where the ideas of redemption, revenge and humanity spoken of by the characters are met with "I'm going to kill your dick!". It almost feels like they didn't want to go completely on the other end of irreverent humor and at least tried to make a meaningful story which might've worked if you weren't rewarded for guiding a sniper bullet into an enemy's balls.
Which brings me to the main gameplay component of Bulletstorm: the skillshot system. In this game, you gotta get a little creative with your kills so while bullet slide kick or vertigo are the easiest to get, they won't give you as much points (and consequently, less money for ammo and upgrades). So let's experiment: 2 guys, 3 weapons: what to do? Charge up your assault rifle, line them up and reduce both to skeletons at the same time? Or strap a bomb to one guy then kick him into another, or even strap a bomb to one guy, leash another towards him then explode him? Or, if there's a low ceiling, strap a bomb to one, then thump both into the air so they get crushed into ceiling? The game does reward you handsomely for thinking outside the box but afterwards, it just becomes part of the gameplay and isn't as surprising or special anymore. Anytime I found a low ceiling I fired the pistol's flare gun into the air, let it rain fire on people then thump everyone into the air. While some of them are indeed funny and creatively named and it's rare to find a game that actually rewards you for doing this stuff, oop sorry....rewards you for doing this crazy shit, there's only so many times you can kick a guy into a cactus or shoot an exploding ball while everyone's in mid-air for the novelty to wear off.
Which comes as a surprise to find the Echoes mode to be kind of addicting. This is basically score attack: go through levels cut from the campaign and rack up as much points as you can and beat your friends and everyone else's scores. As somebody who never cared if somebody beat my lap time in Hot Pursuit or never wanting to match a friend's Pacifist score in Geometry Wars 2, I had to admit I did replay some in the hopes that I can actually do better the next time around. Also included is Anarchy mode and it's...decent. It's somewhat like Horde mode but instead of being about survival, it's all about points and most importantly, teamwork. You got to communicate and set up kills as a group and not have one guy doing everything since you won't get as rewarded for it. So while it's fun to strap a bomb to one guy, have another friend leash him towards a guy he's near and explode it, having that one guy just constantly bullet slide or headshot everyone he meets can get kind of frustrating. It's probably not going to become a huge success like the other Horde modes out there, but it works well.
So that's pretty much Bulletstorm in a nutshell: it's completely over-the-top and filled with some incredible vistas and set pieces but too much of one thing can be a bad thing in this case. The "kill with skill" thing is very much encouraged and being rewarded for not playing every encounter like Call of Duty is refreshing but you might find yourself settling into a "routine" of sorts with the system. The game's no question worth a playthrough and having the Gears 3 beta is also a selling point but I hate to be mean but this game feels like it's a fantastic rental, or at the very least, a must-have if you can find a way to bring the price down.