Republished on Wednesday 31st October 2018: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of November's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Ahh Bulletstorm, a title whose place in video game history will forever be entwined with the term 'di*ck-t*ts'. It's a real shame that all anyone seems to remember about the original release of this machismo-laden first-person shooter is the low brow humour and some "creative" use of naughty words. Which is a bit of a disservice given that it actually managed to deliver one of the most fun shooter campaigns from the last generation.
With the release of Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition on PlayStation 4 maybe the time's right get past the frequently unfunny and crass humour, and instead look at the core gameplay underneath – after all, we're all older and wiser than we were in 2011, and surely anyone involved in this remaster is going to make damn sure to focus on extolling the virtues of Bulletstorm's brilliant score-attack gameplay over anything else. What's that? They've put Duke Nukem in it? You've got to be kidding!
Questionable additions aside, as you revisit Bulletstorm's campaign you'll come to the realisation that the humour isn't quite as bad as you may have remembered. In fact, you'll probably even find yourself cracking a smile a few times during the course of its over-the-top story. Yes, the entire cast are caricatures who spend most of their time shouting at one another, but there's an occasional juvenile charm to proceedings as protagonist Grayson Hunt cuts a boneheaded swathe of destruction across the planet of Stygia.
Even by today's standards the campaign still manages to be a frequently thrilling ride that delivers both in terms of spectacle and set-pieces. It also maintains a breakneck pace throughout, bouncing you from location to location while keeping you from getting bored during the seven or so hours it takes to reach the conclusion.
The true genius of Bulletstorm, though, is in its combat and the opportunities for creativity that its range of weapons afford. This is a title that doesn't want you cowering behind cover, but instead encourages you to stand proudly out in the open so you can seek out the most unusual way to dispatch your foes. Aptly referring to these acts of murderous mayhem as 'skillshots', the more outlandish the kill, the bigger the reward, with bonus points being racked up the first time you manage to pull each one off.
These skill points can then be spent on unlocking powerful secondary fire modes for each of your weapons or replenishing your ammunition, meaning that the better you perform in combat the more destructive power you'll be able to carry forward with you. The whole gameplay loop is designed to ensure you're always on the lookout for new skillshots to perform, and failing to dispatch someone in a cruel and unusual way never fails to trigger a pang of disappointment at the missed opportunity.
With an array of weapons ranging from a four-barrelled shotgun to a launcher that shoots bouncing balls of destruction, you'll need to combo these together with your grappling leash, kick, and ground slide – not to mention a wide variety of environmental hazards – to deliver a concerto of violence. The satisfaction you'll feel from kicking an enemy into the air, wrapping an explosive charge around them with the flail gun, and detonating it as they fly into another group of assailants is something else, and while the combat isn't particularly hard – any challenge comes from trying to one-up your own mayhem – the ample use of slow motion, as well as the extreme rag dolling and dismemberment of enemies, makes every encounter a worryingly joyful affair.
If you want to spend some time refining the method to your murder then you can also dip into the Echoes game mode which divides the campaign into bite sized chunks – with associated leaderboards – so you can vie for the highest score in the fastest time for each section. In addition there's a four player co-op horde mode – appropriately named Anarchy – that ramps up the carnage, though it's hard to imagine there'll be too many people playing it post release.
Both of these additional modes provide a natural next step for anyone left hungry for more skillshot action after finishing the story, but if you've already experienced everything Bulletstorm had to offer the first time around then does this remaster really have anything new for you? In terms of gameplay there are very few fresh inclusions: there's a new difficulty setting – that lets you play the story with all of the weapons unlocked right from the start – and some new Echo maps, but that's pretty much it.
What's clear is that the focus of this remaster has been to polish the games presentation by updating it with better textures and higher polygon models, while also offering an upscaled 4K resolution on the PlayStation 4 Pro. Make no mistake, Bulletstorm was never a bad looking game in the first place, but the additional polish in this remaster makes it look even sharper than before, it's just a shame that the framerate isn't always that smooth when playing at the higher resolution – especially during some of the more manic combat sequences.
As mentioned earlier in this review, the most high profile addition is probably the ability – via a pre-order bonus – to use Duke Nukem as the playable character in the campaign. Replacing protagonist Grayson Hunt with the famed video game misogynist is presumably of interest to someone, but between the ropey voice acting and some truly terrible new lines of dialogue, you can't help but feel that shoehorning Mr Nukem into Bulletstorm's story only ensures that the attempts at humour miss the mark by an even greater margin than before.
It's really puzzling that in the past six years there hasn't been a lengthy procession of titles ripping off Bulletstorm's excellent skillshot system. Whether you're pulling enemies onto a cactus with your leash or slide kicking them into a furnace, this novel approach to causing carnage will keep you experimenting way past the conclusion of its hugely enjoyable campaign. While the story, dialogue, and characters are as laughably juvenile as you may have heard, it's the gameplay at its heart – along with the updated visuals – that ensure Bulletstorm's well worth revisiting.