Review: Bulletstorm (PC)

Short Review:

Do you like the movie Big Trouble in Little China? How about any other ’80s action film starring Kurt Russell? If your answer is “yes”, then by all means, go out and get Bulletstorm today. Well, that was easy. Another top-notch review completed. Time to go play more Bulletstorm.

Oh, the rest of you want a bit more to the review? Crap, okay.

Yup, the first picture doesn’t have anything to do with the game. Deal with it.

Full Review:

Bulletstorm is a new, over-the-top-crazy FPS from Polish developer People Can Fly and Epic Games. It received its fair share of Fox News hater-ism when the gaming experts there decided it would make you rape anything in sight because… well, I’m not sure why. Something about the word “gang bang” being included in the game (it popped up once in my entire playthrough, but more on that later). In a too-painful-to-read article questioning whether Bulletstorm is the “worst video game in the world,” Fox claims the game is marketed towards children, mentions Postal as a point of comparison (a stupid game from 1997 that no one likes) and claims retailers don’t enforce ESRB guidelines limiting sale of mature games to adults. In the process of putting this information out there of course, they give a bunch of free publicity to the game itself, and probably helped sales more than hurt them. “Hey, Fox News doesn’t like it? It must be good!” So I suppose a “thank you” is in order here. Thanks Fox News! I’m not sure I would have picked this one up if it wasn’t for your sad, uninformed and misguided review of a game you hadn’t actually played!

Now to the game itself. Bulletstorm takes place in what I can only assume is the future. We have space ships and super weapons and androids and so on, so it must be the future! You play the role of Greyson Hunt (the name of an obvious badass) voiced by Steve Blum. If you don’t know who Blum is, he was the guy who voiced Spike Spiegel in the English version of the Japanese anime series Cowboy Beebop, and fits the character’s personality perfectly. Much like Spike, Greyson (or Grey for short) is a cocky drunk with a sharp wit, great fighting moves, and a heart of gold hidden behind a gruff exterior.

Umm, you’ve got some kind of pulsating growth on you there, buddy.

The story begins with Grey and his crew of other badass dudes floating around in space, getting into their particular blend of hijinks when they come across their old arch enemy, General Sarrano and his massive battleship: The Ulysses. Being drunk, Grey makes the brilliant tactical decision to attack the giant floater head on, plummeting both battleship and dinghy to the planet below where the real action takes place.

Before long, Grey and the only other surviving crew member Ishi Sato must tear through some of the most beautifully rendered environments in gaming in order to reach the less-than-good General and get a ticket off the planet. Said planet of course, is full of a variety of insane mutant gang members hell-bent on killing anything that moves. Ishi, being a cyborg, plays an excellent straight man to Grey’s bombastic personality, and the pair make a dynamic duo with plenty of comedy and a good dose of tragedy, creating a rather enjoyable story.

In fact, the degree to which the writing and story excel in Bulletstorm was a surprise. After all, I’ve played my share of poorly written videogames voiced by second rate actors. Considering Bulletstorm’s camp appeal, I figured writing was just a wash, and the game’s strong point would simply be the violence and gratuity. Not so!

Speaking of which, Bulletstorm has plenty of violence! The shear number of ways in which you can kill your opponents is spectacular. The more violence you can push upon your foes before they die, the more points you get with the game’s wonderfully implemented skillshot system. Using the game’s signature weapon, an energy-based whip… thing, Grey can propel his foes into the air, kick them, light them on fire, and dismember them in a variety of ways before they ever hit the floor. The more creative your kill, the more points you are awarded, which is good because you need said points to buy ammo, weapon upgrades and so on. The point system is even worked into the plot in a clever manner that, while not expected, was very satisfying.

The planet you terrorize on your path of gruesome revenge is downright beautiful. Though not the first videogame to make a destroyed post-apocalyptic city environment look amazing, People Can Fly have upped the ante here. I was constantly trying to slow down and just take in the brilliant game world, which is hard considering the insanely hectic, fast-paced combat and action Bulletstorm features. Boss battles (of which you’ll find your fair share) can span over massive areas, and involve everything from towering monsters to a huge… well, wheel which chases you across the landscape as you try desperately to shoot it down. The battlegrounds also feature a surprising range and variety, including one section where you fight through a massive miniature city in some sort of futuristic amusement park.

That giant wheel there? It’s trying to kill you.

Perhaps strangely, Bulletstorm has but a single female character. This is strange because the story describes on more than one occasion that the planet’s inhabitants were civilians turned insane gang members thanks to toxic waste (or something). Though women and children were present pre-mutation, all your adversaries are clearly men. The lone lady in the game is Trishka Novac, a beautiful badass (a pretty girl who can wield a gun and has a foul mouth in a videogame? No way! That’s never been done!) who eventually joins you on your mass slaughter and other drunken shenanigans.

Despite the premise of a crude spiritual successor to Duke Nukem (well, until Mr. Nukem came back to the world of gaming anyway), Bulletstorm manages to keep a surprisingly politically correct tone when it comes to sexuality and women. This is by no means the feminist revolution in gaming some of us want to see, but it reflects a growing maturity in the gaming industry, where we were willing to settle for the mildly sexist, but managed to get something much better and enjoyable.

Which is all the more reason to make Fox News’ the-sky-is-falling approach to the game all the more comical. The reference to a “gang bang” that they point out and numerous other phrases meant as sexual innuendo are the names of many of the game’s skill shots, and do tie sexuality to violence in a manner that yes, you could argue promotes sexual and predatory violence, but only in a vacuum free of the game’s surprising intelligence and much greater elements such as story, personality, and overall quality.

Bulletstorm gives us a fresh dose of humor, variety, and gameplay. It introduces new and likable characters that I hope we’ll be seeing more of in the near future, and I honestly can’t recommend this enough to any gamer who enjoys first-person-shooters, over-the-top violence, and great story-telling and toilet humor.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen Big Trouble in Little China, I recommend that as well!

5 Responses to “Review: Bulletstorm (PC)”
  1. Steerpike says:

    Great one, Armand. I couldn’t agree more. This game is over the top, silly-stupid, and tons of fun. I’ve been playing it for a couple days now and I can report that I don’t feel any more inclined to assault anyone than I did before… so I guess Fox News must be wrong about that. If I lose control of myself I’ll report back here before the cops break my door down.

    Is Bulletstorm great literature? Ah, no. Is it hilarious and crazed? Definitely. A well-deserved 9.

  2. jkdarkseid says:

    Mad World with guns I’ve heard this called.

    Oh god yes. I need something more than a Wii.

  3. Every time I read something about Bulletstorm it makes me want to buy it and play it. I really should play some nice short AAA game that doesn’t tax my soul again soon.

  4. Gregg B says:

    Awesome review Armand, between those screenshots and your fine words, you’ve sold me on it. I really wasn’t that blown away by the demo but it seems that it’s about as representative of the full game as Fox News is of reality. I will say though that the PS3 controller doesn’t really lend itself to the sort of fluidity I get the impression the game is aiming for. Now, about that new PC I really ought to be getting…

  5. Max says:

    Gregg, the game handles quite well on PS3. If you leave aim assist turned on it’s really not bad at all. Nothing will ever match keyboard & mouse, but this is very playable on PS3; I’ve got a zillion headshots already. Come join me: Co-op, competition, fun! (The only wonky and annoying control perhaps is the left-thumbstick used to duck, but fortunately you don’t need to do a whole lot of ducking. I’m playing on Hard and if my vitals are in jeopardy I’m usually safe running behind some bulky object, ducking or not.)

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