Bulletstorm boasts an over the top approach to pretty much everything. Storyline, weapons and especially gameplay have evidently had enough development time put in to ensure complete ridiculousness.
The plotline follows a gang of foul-mouthed and rowdy space pirates, one of which, on a drunken whim has decided to seek revenge on an old and corrupt general responsible for tricking the gang into years of slaying innocent civilians.
Unfortunately, largely due to main protagonist Grayson Hunt’s intoxication and lack of planning, the gang’s ship crash-lands into a dangerous ex-holiday resort planet named Stygia. Hunt and his cyborg buddy Ishi Sato are then forced to somehow find a way off this largely abandoned mutant and bandit-infested world.
The main focus of Bulletstorm’s gameplay is to rack up points by performing “Skillshots”. These basically involve learning to kill “creatively”. Points are distributed according to how difficult a Skillshot is deemed, how crazy it is, and how often the player’s used it. It’s something I’m sure your gran would have a little trouble understanding but never mind, it isn’t likely her that developers Epic Games and People Can Fly are trying to impress.
Today, Epic have given us the chance to try out multiplayer modes Anarchy and Echo.
Echo takes away all the stuff that isn’t purely gameplay (i.e. cinematics) from the single-player campaign and tasks players with scoring points as a clock ticks by. At the end of each round players are given a time bonus on top of their Skillshot total and the scores are submitted to a global leaderboard. It’s very much arcade-inspired, suitable for up to four players and will especially appeal to the kind of gamers who suffer the savage compulsion to constantly better their scores.
Once again, it’s all about getting Skillshots, and was in fact created partly as a way to force players to focus on creative killing without being distracted by the story. It’s a great way to get to know the finer details of the single-player maps for future playthroughs, as using the environment is vital to earning top scores.
Anarchy is again for up to four players and pits your online team against multiple waves of baddies in a bid to survive as long as possible. It’s a little like Gears Of War’s Horde mode, only with a lot more emphasis on killing with style. In fact the focus is placed so highly on suave murder methods that you’re actually punished by not being let at the next wave without sufficient points.
Another incentive to rack up high scores in Anarchy mode is the unlock shop that appears between waves and lets players upgrade weapons and stats with points. The constant promise of upgrading keeps play addictive and obviously allows for variation in killing styles as the team progresses.
Playing through Anarchy presents a chance to really show off your co-operative side, as scattered throughout are moments in which you’re tasked with “Team Challenges”. These are a series of Skillshots only achievable with the help of a friend. They’re a delightful bunch of moves sure to bring a smile to your face and, like all Skillshots, each comes with a pleasingly juvenile comedy title.
“Feeder” makes some good use of co-operative environmental killing and requests one player sends an enemy into the air before another slams them into a plant known as the Venus Man-Eater (think Little Shop of Horrors).
“Not In Kansas” is one of the many Skillshots that requires the use of a level-specific environmental feature: namely the giant tornado that’s in the middle of a map named Dead Rock. To earn the shot one teammate must send a bad guy into the air before another knocks them into whirly tornado oblivion.
Most Skillshots are achievable in a variety of slightly different ways, many of which involve the Energy Leash, which players are able to use without putting away any other weapon they’ve got out.
It’s basically a hyper-charged electronic whip complete with two different attacks: the first lassos an enemy and then pulls them towards the player, then puts them into a stasis field. Its second attack is named The Thumper and whips enemies to the ground with an explosion that’ll send them skywards into a stasis field with considerable altitude.
Delivering enemies into stasis will quickly become second nature after a little play on Bulletstorm as it’s vital to helping get those high scores. This is due to the simple fact that it gives you or your teammate an extra few seconds to fit another attack in before your victim hits the ground.
Bulletstorm’s developers have dreamt up some rather comedic and whacky weapons for players to use that will undoubtedly bring about some pretty memorable moments.
Take the Flailgun for instance, which fires two grenades attached to each other by chain. Depending on your needs, the explosives can be remotely detonated or left to go off by themselves. Charge the gun (with fire no less) by holding down RB till the chain is super-heated, fire it at an enemy, and your shot can pack enough temperature to slice a head off rather than simply wrap round a neck.
Another weapon known as the Bouncer fires massive cannonballs that explode on impact. Hold down the trigger and you can choose when your ball will detonate, allowing you to bounce it round corners or off walls for more tricky shots. Charging the Bouncer before firing will cause its cannonballs to bounce round the map and explode with every impact with some devastating results.
The game’s visuals are certainly up to the standards of anything Epic Games (or anyone else) has produced in the recent past to say the least, boasting the use of Unreal Engine 3.5 and some very careful attention to a distinctive visual style. Levels are adorned with a range of colorful elements that not only form a very stylized and detailed appearance but also allow for significant amounts of player interaction. Moss and ivy-like plants that have taken over the planet’s buildings and palm trees and vegetation litter the levels really bringing to life this idea of a neglected planet.