Bulletstorm's protagonist, Grayson Hunt, obliges with vigour by getting high off grog, selling out his friends, and chatting about the kind of nonsense you'd be embarrassed to hear in a school playground.
Grayson's not the only character to act like an opposable muppet in Bulletstorm, but beyond the game's irritating cast — and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it storyline about a guy in a funny hat — is a genuinely likeable FPS carried by a brilliant mechanic.
That mechanic is called skillshots. Skillshots are a points-based reward for doing something cool in the game, such as kicking a bad-guy into an electric fence or shooting them in the throat. The magic of the mechanic does start to wane as the campaign draws to a close, but there's definitely a satisfying depth to the game's point accumulating nature.
Bulletstorm's campaign will run you around five hours, but there's an emphasis on replayability, with time-trials and co-operative multiplayer on offer to extend the experience.
First-person shooters are dime-a-dozen these days, but Bulletstorm genuinely attempts to do something unique. The game is much less concerned with gritty-realism, instead leaning on classic shooters like Duke Nukem and Serious Sam for inspiration. There's a decidedly throw-back nature to the way the game presents combat encounters, throwing waves and waves of enemies at you and giving you the tools to dispose of them. Bulletstorm's skillshot mechanic rewards you for exploring the environment. While you can pick off enemies by simply shooting at them in the traditional manner, you'll only get 10 points for doing so. However, if you get more creative with your murder methods, you'll really start to up your points tally. For example, kicking enemies into an electric fence will net you 100 points, while setting them on fire will earn you an additional 50. You'll happen upon most of Bulletstorm's skillshots by accident, but its worth learning the environments if you plan on maximising your score. A lack of variety in the campaign's final third does sap some of the magic out of the mechanic, but watching the screen light up with points after a particularly successful combo-builder rarely gets old.
Bulletstorm insists you play the game differently to other first-person shooters, and People Can Fly do a great job gradually introducing the mechanics of the game as the campaign progresses. While this can result in the game's opening being a little slow, it ensures that by the end of the campaign you're fluent with the game's unique play-style, which is essential to getting the most out of it.
You'll spend a majority of your time with Bulletstorm's campaign mowing down waves of enemies, but People Can Fly's thrown in a number of set-pieces for good measure. One level puts you in charge of the remote control for a giant robotic dinosaur, which is both ridiculous and tons of fun. Another level places you on the back of a run-away train as a horde of bad-guys take chase. The set-pieces add a dash of variety to Bulletstorm's relentless combat encounters.
Bulletstorm is a fast game. You'll spend less time hiding behind cover, and more running around the environment kicking enemies in the face. The animation is fantastic throughout, adding a sense of immersion and believability to the perspective. The game's slide attack in particular reminds us of DICE's first-person platformer, Mirror's Edge.
We're not the biggest fans of the Unreal Engine, but it's clear People Can Fly's benefitted from being taken under Epic's wing. The game is a real showcase for Epic's technology, taking particular effort to look bright and colourful. The game runs at a steady pace, often using lavish backdrops to really highlight the beauty of Bulletstorm's tropical setting.
Throughout the majority of its campaign, Bulletstorm is irritating, stupid, and generally not-funny. While the dialogue suits the tone of the game's dumb gameplay, it's reckless use of expletives for the sake of humour failed to resonate with us. That's not to say the game is without any comical moments though. At one point you're urged to stay quiet by an AI partner, only to cause a gigantic chain reaction of explosions when creating a make-shift bridge. The timing is excellent, making what could have been a throw-away interaction genuinely funny. Elsewhere you'll find yourself thrown into a shootout set to Disco Inferno, a fitting song-choice for a game so ridiculous. The humour's packed with more misses than hits, but when Bulletstorm strikes gold it's genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.
Bulletstorm's the kind of game that implores you to play again and again. While the campaign does get repetitive, it's also quite moreish, compelling us to start a second playthrough immediately after the conclusion of our first. Outside of the campaign, Bulletstorm also includes a pretty neat co-operative multiplayer mode which pits you against waves of enemies with up to three other players. Aside from simply requiring you to meet certain kill conditions, the multiplayer also insists you achieve a certain skillpoint rating. As in the single-player, this can be earned by being creative with your kills, but also by completing a series of team-challenges that pop-up randomly during each wave. The multiplayer's unlikely to generate a feverish fan-base, but as a weekend distraction with friends, it can be a lot of fun.
Time-trials.Echoes are Bulletstorm's answer to time-trials, offering a slice of the game's campaign and challenging players to score as highly as possible in a short span of time. There are ten Echoes available from the off-set, each with three score tiers to achieve and leaderboards. The Echoes are a fun side-distraction, and while they're unlikely to hold your attention for long, provide some good competitive ammunition between friends.
Bulletstorm tries to be funny by throwing out as many casual expletives as it possibly can. In most cases, the dialogue doesn't even make sense, leading us to question its worth in the first-place. Developers People Can Fly would probably argue that their use of provocative terminology is used for comedic effect, but it never really resonated with us. Statements like, "I'm going to kill your dick," are not only alarmingly childish, they're also nonsensical and dumb. We're sure there's an audience that will lap up Bulletstorm's dorky sense of humour, but we're clearly not a part of it.
For a game called "Bulletstorm", its surprisingly tight on ammo supplies. The game rarely drops ammo in the environment, instead asking you to stock up on bullets at little drop-ships scattered around the environment. The mechanic's obviously intended to add worth to the skillpoints you earn from killing enemies, as points act as a currency to upgrade your weapons and buy ammunition. Unfortunately we found this design trait more frustrating than worthwhile. Bulletstorm's the type of game that should allow you to spew off bullets without constraint. It's irritating that the game limits that.
Bulletstorm's skillshot mechanic seems magical at first, with virtually everything you interact with prompting a new kind of reward. Unfortunately, as the campaign draws to a close, the variation in the environments starts to dry up, resulting in a lot of samey locales with similarly familiar skillshots to perform.
It's probably nothing more than a patchable bug, but we had a lot of issues with scripting during our first playthrough of Bulletstorm's campaign. Occassionally NPCs would just not perform the actions required of them to allow us to reach the next part of a level, requiring us to restart at the last checkpoint to progress. Bulletstorm's checkpointing system is good, so it's hardly a deal-breaker, but the bugs should have been picked up in QA, and hopefully they get patched soon.
People Can Fly deserve credit for not relying on an enormous installation in Bulletstorm, but it probably would have been better if they did. The game can take an age to load between levels, and unfortunately the issue is present between deaths too. There's nothing worse than being totally engaged in a fire-fight, only to die and be transported to a never-ending loading screen. It totally pulls you out of the experience.
Bulletstorm's dim-witted exterior can be irritating, but there's a satisfying centre to this balls-to-the-wall first-person shooter.