Developer(s): People Can Fly, Epic Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Reviewed: June 2013
Game Type: First-Person Shooter
I wasn’t expecting much from Bulletstorm, so when I finally decided to give it a try, I didn’t have any visions of it being any different to anything else developed (at least partially so) by Epic Games. Sure enough, on completing the game, it clearly does have the ‘Epic’ stamp on the design – the characters clearly look like something out of Unreal Tournament or Gears of War, and occasionally some parts of the levels do too, but overall the locations you visit, which for the majority of the time take place on a holiday planet that has long been abandoned for that purpose, do look very nice indeed. Not only do you never feel like you’ve wandered into the same area too many times, like a lot of shooters, it is also a colourful and rich environment to explore, despite it being a pretty standard linear shooter game. Graphics aren’t everything, though, and so while they do aid with the first impressions of the game, they wouldn’t mean much if the game-play was bad.
Thankfully, the game is quite enjoyable to play, and although it doesn’t do anything wildly different to what you’d normally expect, it is fast paced, fun, and for the most part, quite varied. There are your bog-standard on rails sections, literally, at a couple of points in the game, but for the most part you’ll have a mixture of options at your disposal to get the better of your enemies, which without giving out any spoilery stuff, are the remains of the people left behind when the planet was abandoned, and who have formed various extremely hostile gangs.
The central plot to the game, which as mentioned before takes place on a far off holiday resort planet sometime in the future, involves a story of revenge, and is based around a team of mercenaries at your command suddenly finding out information that makes them turn against their former boss. After a short battle, you end up on the aforementioned planet, and from there you are simply trying to survive and find a way off the planet. As the game progresses, you’ll get to know the main characters a little bit more in a way. The story is nothing heavy, but it is decent enough and binds together your progression through the game quite well.
Bulletstorm uses a system of skill points given for every time you kill an enemy, with more points given for (slightly) more imaginative ways of killing your enemy. The skill points can be used to upgrade weapons that you have picked up along your travels, of which you are limited to four throughout the game.
While you’ll have your usual arsenal of standard-fare projectile weapons, they do all have their own traits and feel useful in their own way. All of them have a secondary-fire option that is available once the weapon is upgraded, with these being more powerful than the primary, but also costing more in skill points when purchasing ammo, and you also get fewer of them. As you gain more skill points, you can increase the size of your ammo slots, as well as using them to replenish ammo, but make sure you’ve picked up any ammo boxes before hand otherwise you’ll just be wasting the points. As I reached the end of the game, there was just enough available to make sure that nearly every weapon was fully maxed out in upgrades.
When it comes to the combat itself, you could just choose to simply shoot at your enemy, but the most effective way is to disable your enemy by either doing a running dive into them or a swift kick if they are close by, both of which make the enemy almost suspend in mid air, and then un-load whatever fury your chosen weapon contains. In addition to those two options, you’ll have an 'energy leash' which can also make an enemy fly towards you in slow motion, and a secondary mode that disables multiple enemies in a similar fashion, but instead making them fly high up and suspend there for a short time. Another alternative once an enemy has been disabled via the above options is to kick the enemies off the edge of a building, kick exploding barrels towards them, or kick them into various hazards, such as spiky cactus plants, or electrified areas. That last method is the most fun, and will save you ammunition too!
The leash itself is also occasionally used for traversing through the game, by bringing down or moving scripted objects to open up the next part of your route. At some points, though, the dreaded QTE (Quick Time Events) appear and are used for climbing from one area to another. Thankfully they are quite easy, and only really affect the number of skill points you get, but near the end they were used in what should have been a final boss battle, but instead was just a quick round of following the key prompts on screen, making it feel less satisfying in my personal opinion.
Speaking of boss battles, there was only one major battle that really stood out, and that was around the half-way point of the game. It involved quite a lengthy encounter, and while it wasn’t too difficult overall, and I only had to redo it a second time because I accidentally slid right into the boss itself, it did go on for far too long. There were many stages to defeating the boss, and no save points after each of these stages, so if you did die right before the very end, you’d have quite a long battle to replay, which could get frustrating.
Now we’ve mentioned saves, and I’ve already given it away about there being checkpoints, I’ll just keep this short and say that overall they seemed fine, but they could have done with being ever so slightly more frequent than they were.
One major weakness of the game, depending on what you consider bad of course, is that the game makes use of far too much profanity. Literally every single comment or conversation seems to be heavily laden with swearing or references to certain male appendages. It’s not that I’m a prude, but it just seems a bit over the top.
Despite that though, the main characters, including the one you control, do seem quite likeable, and part of that may be down to half-decent voice acting. It helps that the female character included in the game is voiced by none other than Mass Effect’s Jennifer Hale (think female Shepard), and if you don’t recognise that game or who I’m referring to, then you should probably just skip this review anyway and go back to playing Call of Duty. Actually, stop right there, because this game is far better than any of your Call of Downloadable-content games, and deserves at least a few hours of your time, and to be honest, that is all it will take anyway. It’s not as short as the game I’ve just mentioned, and depending on game difficulty or skill, it’ll probably take you between 7 to 9 hours to complete.
A minor complaint regarding the controls is that there isn’t a jump key, something I’d have preferred rather than an on-screen prompt appearing when you need to vault over an obstacle, but I can see why they didn’t include one as for the most part it isn’t necessary, and would just mean another key to bind an action to, making the controls too cluttered, as there are enough different actions required as it is.
Overall, I came away from the game with a positive impression of it, and I’d even consider replaying it, not something I’d bother doing with a lot of shooters. The game has a good pacing, its own unique form of combat that worked well for the most part, decent graphics, and a half-decent plot to give everything a purpose. It may not win any awards or be the most amazing game ever, but what it attempts to do is done well, and it stays focussed while maintaining a constant level of interest, whether through the combat, the story unfolding in cut-scenes, or just the basic beauty of the game world.
+ Polished game
+ Fun, action packed and fast-paced combat
+ Nice art direction, graphics look nice and use a lot of colour
+ Half-decent plot/story to keep things moving
+ Voice acting by Jennifer Hale!
- Too many profanities
- Mid-game boss battle took a bit too long, although on the other hand at least it did feel like a proper boss battle without being overly hard
- Quick Time Events in the climax of the game didn’t feel right, but they work well enough elsewhere
- Weak throw-away Multi-player mode
I’m feeling generous today, so…
Arbitrary Final Score:
If you like this, you might also like: Serious Sam, plus anything else by Epic Games
Should I have laid out the review entirely in Bullet points, during a Storm? Let us know in the forum!