The lights are on
An anecdote: I actually just managed to tear myself away from Call of Duty: Black Ops' stellar multiplayer long enough to complete the single-player campaign on Monday. I enjoyed the characters and the plot, and many of the big moments (specifically the prison break) were pretty great. I left the experience, however, without feeling like I accomplished much. Maybe it was because, even on the Hard difficulty, the game was a little too easy. In general, though, the game did not leave me with one of those "Wow I've finished another one" feelings.
Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. After crash-landing on one of the most insanely beautiful, freakishly deadly worlds I have ever seen, I was shooting maniacs in the throat for extra points and listening to the most hilariously campy Sci-Fi (SyFy?) B-movie dialogue I have ever heard. Bulletstorm is the God of War of the FPS genre; this is the exact thing shooters needed.
The visuals deserve initial praise. The planet of Stygia is one of the most colorful, vibrant environments ever imagined in any form of media. What People Can Fly have done with Epic's Unreal Engine is, well...I'll refrain from using the pun. But you get the idea. The character models are also well-detailed, especially Ishi Sato, the unfortunate best friend of protagonist Grayson Hunt who is saved from an untimely death by some robotic enhancements.
The controls are air-tight, which is a good thing because the game's lauded Skillshot system requires surgeon-like precision in some cases. The mapping of the sprint function to the X/A button (depending on your system of choice) was not a problem at all for being such a major deviation from the CoD formula, especially considering the need to double-tap the sprint button to execute the slick slide move. Grayson's arsenal of movements make him surprisngly mobile, and lend the game a more visceral personality than others in the genre. The slide move, for example, while having the obvious combat purpose of knocking enemies into the air, also allows the player to reach cover more quickly, and the kick creates some pretty insane moments involving exploding barrels, newsbots, and, hilariously enough, hot dog carts.
The arsenal of weapons is so diverse and fun that I was legitimately annoyed the entire game that i could only carry three at once (including the Peace Maker Carbine assault rifle). Some highlights include the quadruple-barreled shotgun, the Screamer revolver that shoots exploding flares as a secondary function, and a gun which fires bouncing explosive balls which can be kicked at enemies. The skillshots tied to specific weapons are genuinely challenging in some cases, which gives the game so much more variety than the standard military/space marine games. I will admit to dying several times because I became so focused on pulling off a specific skillshot that I neglected my own state of health.
The story is the one factor I was concerned with, since most games of this type do not deliver in this area. Bulletstorm gave me endless entertainment while traversing the campaign thus far (I'm about halfway through). Some of the outrageous things the characters have said are exactly what I expected when reading GI's cover story and what it said concerning the B-movie vibe. While I'm sure many people will not accept the humor for what it is, which is intentionally insane and immature, that does not mean the hilarity must be ruined for the rest of us.
Echoes mode is pretty fun for concentrated bursts of straight skillshot madness without the need to further the story along, and the Horde mode variation is interesting in that it adds skillshots to the mix in order to advance, but otherwise it is more of the same that we've seen in other games. A real competitive multiplayer mode would have been crazy, but it is understandable why it might not work in this game's case.
In all, Bulletstorm delivers on pretty much every promise Epic and People Can Fly have made in the past few months. The game is a giant middle finger to the serious and realistic FPS genre, dominated by the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield, and a godsend to fans of shooters, Sci-Fi, or just plain fun games in general. Don't miss this early contender for Shooter of the Year.
Good review. I'm really digging this game, too.