Gaming on a Timer

Bulletstorm – Impressions

Bulletstorm box art.

In the past few years, the Halo template on first person shooters has been prevalent (limited weapon capacity, regenerating health, “realistic” character endurance et al), to a degree where most current generation titles share some worrying similarities. There have been a few exceptions to this rule however, titles like Serious Sam or Painkiller which forego the norm in favour of frantic combat, finite health (and restorative items) and generally involving enemy numbers which a more “realistic” game could not accommodate as easily.

Thus comes Bulletstorm, the latest title from People Can Fly, the Polish developer behind Painkiller. The game follows Greyson Hunt, part of a commando unit gone rogue, waging guerilla warfare against their former commanding officer General Sarrano who has been ordering assassinations on civilians. The game begins with a space battle against the general’s forces, forcing both him and Greyson’s team  to land on the nearby planet Stygia and, for most of it, centres on Greyson’s attempts to reach Sarrano and escape the planet with the last surviving member of his unit, Ishi Sato.

Main cast members Greyson Hunt
(left), Ishi Sato (right).

As far as stories are concerned, this one’s average at best; there is an ongoing attempt to cast Greyson in what amounts to a remorseful anti-hero, struggling to cope with his bad decisions. This, however, falls spectacularly short of the in-game dialogue, since it seldom manages to retain any sort of atmosphere – the character may quip sarcastic remarks one minute and brood over his comrades’ deaths the next. It feels as if character development was of two minds on this project, with the mood jumping disjointedly between dramatic and comedic settings. The dialogue also comes across as juvenile in some parts, mainly due to the cast’s tendency to use profanities with every other sentence – making any sort of atmosphere building (comedic or not) crumble away for any player past puberty.

Leashing enemies often leads
to interesting skillshots.

Gameplay-wise, the game shines and the developers’ previous work shows its influences; frantic combat that is genuinely fun to play, with a multitude of weapons, each with a variety of effects to suit a good deal of play styles. The premise is that the game awards points for performing kills in specific ways, ranging from the mundane headshots or killing multiple targets, to the more exotic environmental kills or “trick shots”; such as killing an enemy with a sniper round, then exploding the body so it takes out a different enemy. This system rewards creative thinking and works wonders in breaking up the dull tedium of most first person shooters of today, by giving some much-needed variety to the entire combat mechanic. Points awarded by this so-called “skillshot system” are then used to upgrade weapons and purchase ammunition for the player’s arsenal of weaponry.

The water effects are also a
beauty to behold.

Greyson also comes armed with an anti-gravity boot attachment, used to temporarily slow down enemies during combat, as well as an energy leash used to pull enemies towards him (also allowing activation of certain mechanisms during exploration). Said exploration is usually short, doing a good job of providing contrast against the frantic, fast-paced combat segments – a function the majority of today’s FPS collective foregoes completely. The controls also warrant mention here, as they facilitate smooth navigation with a flowing control scheme that allows for seamless transition between running, jumping and sliding around the battlefield.

Graphics are also a strong point here, with lush, colourful environments and gorgeous scenes that really push the limits of what the Unreal Engine can do. Of merit is the dam scene, which does a great job of giving the player a sense of scale, as well as a particularly enjoyable carnival level, which also features one of the most hilarious weapons of the past few years I’ve seen in a game.

All in all, this is a return to form for the FPS genre, with many old school shooter elements incorporated in a fresh and interesting new way, dressed up in current-gen graphics, only let down by a poorly executed plot and bad character development; thankfully, this turns out to be largely inconsequential in lieu of the sheer amount of enjoyment to be had by the combat system, making Bulletstorm a highly recommended title for a few hours of mindless fun.

* Bulletstorm Demo (via Steam)

One thought on “Bulletstorm – Impressions”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: