mikeinsc's Bulletstorm (Xbox 360) review

GOTY 2011


One of the more eagerly anticipated titles of 2011 is out. The minds behind the outstanding Painkiller series paired up with Epic as part of EA Partners to put out a new style of FPS. Gone are the days of precise aiming for head shots...and welcome Bulletstorm. Yes, there is a Gears of War 3 online beta but I didn't care about it before I played it and I don't care about it now. And this is from a guy who really enjoyed Gears 2.

Bulletstorm's single player mode --- which is the majority of the game --- is one of the most eminently replayable experiences in gaming. I've not seen many games as replayable as this. For a truly great FPS experience, you need either brilliant AI or an amazing gimmick. The sheer volume of ways you can lay waste to the cannon fodder of the game. Just running and gunning won't cut it for you, and would be deathly boring to boot. Bulletstorm inspires you to expand your killing repertoire. You can kick them into the water for a skill shot. You can wrap an explosive flail around one guy's head, kick him into his friends, and generate big points for multiple skill shots. You can charge up your sniper rifle, hit an enemy and then direct his dead body into others on his side and kill them. Your weaponry is overall excellent (the pistol doesn't do a lot for me, admittedly) and everything works truly fantastically. The game moves quickly and while the opponents aren't brilliant, they are hyper-aggressive and make you keep track of what you are doing or else you can get overwhelmed.

The story is, well, crap. It's not a problem here as it is simply an excuse to run through gorgeous environments and kill mutated people. The technical genius of the game's design overcomes what flaws it has (what other game allows you to leash a guy far away from you, yank him to you, allow you to shoot him in the head...and, of course, earn another skill shot). You're a convict hoping to gain revenge on a general who screwed you over. You have a robot who assists you...and, well, a lovely vocabulary on the cutting edge of vulgarity. The story, again, just gives you an excuse to murder large swarms of enemies while swearing about it --- a lot --- in the process. The campaign is about 5 hours or so and is a rather non-stop thrill ride. There actually is a fairly healthy selection of enemies --- but there are so darned many of them that it seems like you kill a lot of the same people. Each area seems to have a unique enemy and the mini-bosses all seem to be overall similar, except with different weaponry.

If you don't feel like dealing with the campaign, you can always go to the Echoes, which are simply short parts of the campaign levels where you seek to maximize your points in a short period of time. Here is where you will quickly learn to recognize the different skill shots. You will learn how to combo up skill shots to increase your point total. You won't even mind that you don't seem able to be killed (you can die --- but it isn't easily done) and will, instead, engage in a death match with the clock and the point counter. Each level is, maybe, 5 minutes but you will play them dozens of times in hopes of matching your best score.

The multiplayer is not competitive --- which is rare for a FPS but couldn't work here --- but it is a brilliantly executed co-op affair. Your partner and you have to fight off with tons of enemies. You can team up on kills to achieve challenges, but co-ordination of your efforts is quite necessary. The closest comparison I can think of to this is Rainbow Six's terrorist hunt, but this is just a bit more fun to play.

As I mentioned, the game is a technical marvel. Visually, it is a gorgeous game. Environments have significant variety and all look gorgeous. Slowdown does not occur in spite of the absurd amount of action and explosions on screen. You are a really quick character, which makes the steady frame rate all the more impressive. The voice acting works for what it is shooting to be --- an over-the-top gruff group of killers slaughtering lots and lots of enemies. There isn't a real weakness in the entire package. Yes, the story is idiotic, but the story is almost not needed. The campaign is there and is fun so why should I care if the story is so shallow that it is nearly immaterial.

I cannot possibly recommend this game enough. It is a blast from start to finish and it is a near-perfect FPS. People Can Fly are about as rock solid an FPS developer as there is (true, they tend to be really slow with their products, but Painkiller was amazing as well) and this was an inspired piece of work. I would recommend everybody give the game a shot. It's quick, pick-up-and-play dynamic and ability to constantly improve your points as you learn more and more how to play is hard to not get sucked in by. This is an east GOTY nominee and the most fun I've had with a game up until now this year.

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