Welcome back to First Person Saturday, where we take a look at a different First Person Shooter every week. Now, it’s weird calling Bulletstorm obscure, but it seems that the past three years have not been kind to this game’s legacy. In a year with Rage, the Battlefield 3 vs Modern Warfare 3 debates, the return of Deus Ex, and the high profile failure that was Duke Nukem Forever, it’s easy to see why this title is overlooked by gamers. However, that’s a crying shame, as Bulletstorm is one of the best seventh generation FPS games out there.
Bulletstorm stars Grayson Hunt and his robotic pal Ishi, who once worked as mercenaries for the foul-mouthed General Serrano before realizing they had been played, causing the mercenaries to become space pirates. The space pirate crew is taken down after a suicide run on Serrano’s flagship, leaving Ishi and Grayson as the sole survivors. I was honestly surprised at how gripping the plot was, especially during the third act. The writing for all the characters is downright brilliant, especially Serrano’s frequent swearing fits, which sound like they were stolen straight from a twelve year old Call of Duty player trying to act as a Drill Sergeant. Grayson and Ishi have some great banter, and Thriska, the fourth main character introduced nearly halfway through the game does a great job changing up the Grayson/Ishi dynamic.
The gameplay is styled like an overclocked Call of Duty, using a weapon limit, extremely linear levels, and iron sights, but adding in some very out there elements to keep the game interesting. Most obviously is the skill-shot system, which rewards players for creative kills. While shooting enemies in the chest does get the job done, players are encouraged to kick enemies into venus flytraps, shoot enemies in the groin, and have flare-gunners fire flares into their allies. This chaotic element not only makes the game more fun, but also directly helps player progression.
You see, after a large combat encounter or two, you will find stations to restock your supplies. The only way to get entire magazines of ammunition, unlock secondary fires, and purchase ammunition for said secondary fires is to have skill points, which are awarded based on skill-shots. The harder the skill-shot is to pull off, the more points awarded. Not only does this encourage the player to experiment, it makes playing Bulletstorm different then how you would approach a normal FPS. Most enemies can’t deal a lot of damage to you, so you’re actively encouraged not to kill enemies as fast as you can, but rather have as much fun killing an enemy as possible.
This mindset is something I wish more games took to heart, as sometimes forfeiting difficulty or realism for fun is for the best. Mind you, that’s not to say challenge isn’t welcome. I was quite disappointed at how easy the game was, as I only died four times throughout my entire run on normal difficulty, two of those deaths being in the final chapter.
While some people would be intimidated by having to use environmental hazards to get the necessary gear to progress, the game basically does everything short of making hazards glowing for the players. Obviously-placed cacti, streams of fire, sheer cliffs, and spikes dot the landscape for the player’s convenience, and it doesn’t take much to get enemies lining up next to hazardous parts of the map.
To help out with knocking enemies around, players have Q and E assigned for the whip and kick respectively. The whip can reel enemies or environmental hazards in, and the kick knocks them away. Both boot and whip can also slow down enemies when used, allowing you to position yourself around them to knock them into more obvious hazards or line up skill shots. Explosives generously burst into flames upon contact with enemies after being kicked, so you rarely have to worry about over-shooting your kicks.
The game has the usual FPS lineup, but like the rest of the game, everything’s taken to the extreme. The sniper rifle has bullets you can direct in flight to hit foes behind cover, the shotgun can fire a blast of acid to melt the skin and organs right off enemies’ skeletons, and the pistol can fire flares that double as rockets. Each of these weapons have their own skill-shots attached to them, but the three weapon limit does prevent the player from getting to experiment with all of them. There were two or three weapons in the arsenal I didn’t use in the slightest, and I never felt the need to switch off from my assault rifle/shotgun/sniper rifle combo. Even if I wanted to, the assault rifle is always locked in your inventory, limiting your chances for mixing up and combining more interesting guns even further.
Inevitably, for everything Bulletstorm does right, it does something terribly wrong. The game is short, with the campaign clocking in at around five hours, not nearly long enough. The easy difficulty doesn’t help in the slightest, allowing players to breeze through entire chapters with ease. On top of the sloppy difficulty balancing, levels all look very similar after the fourth chapter, which is quite the shame as the early levels were quite varied.
So would I recommend Bulletstorm? One hundred percent… At a discount. While the game is a lot of fun, with the pathetic difficulty and length the game doesn’t feel worth twenty dollars. However, if you ever see it with a heavily slashed-price at a Steam Sale or in a bargain bin, you really have no excuse not to give Bulletstorm a shot.