Bulletstorm is a strange beast. It chooses to violently wag its middle finger at the super-serious games that have flooded the first-person-shooter market, offering a hilariously over-the-top experience defined by its potty-mouthed script, excellent boss battles, and a host of inventive ways to kill the enemy.
You play as Grayson "Gray" Hunt, a space pirate seeking revenge after being double-crossed by his former commanding officer, General Serano. After a devastating fire-fight, both Gray and Serano crash-land on the planet Stygia. In addition to being the home of some fierce wildlife, Stygia's humanoid inhabitants are at war, making Gray's goal of leaving the planet much more difficult.
Bulletstorm's gameplay is suffused with innovative touches, but none more so than the energy leash. It allows Gray to pull enemies into the air while simultaneously causing a slowdown effect, leaving him ample time to set up one of Bulletstorm's varied "skillshots" - shooting them in the crotch, pulling them into a spiked fence, feeding them to a carnivorous plant...the list goes on and on.
As well as general skillshots, like hitting an enemy in the crotch, each level and weapon has a unique list to work your way through. You can access the skillshot lists at any time, and successfully pulling them off earns points that can be traded for weapon upgrades and ammunition. Basically, Stygia is a futuristic reimagining of Macaulay Culkin's house in Home Alone, and there’s a great deal of pleasure to be found in discovering new ways to take out its hostile residents. In addition, Bulletstorm has some of the most satisfying, impossibly huge boss-fights this side of Bayonetta.
Bulletstorm’s gameplay is consistently rewarding, but the dialogue could truly be the star of the show. If Bulletstorm is deserving of an award, it would be for having the vilest, most obscene, and laugh-out-loud funny banter I've heard in a videogame. In the same way that Drake and Chloe of Uncharted 2 would fit in nicely in an Indiana Jones movie, the cast of Bulletstorm could moonlight as the supporting cast in a Tarantino flick.
I never once felt like I was listening to a bunch of beefcake space marines cursing for the hell of it; Bulletstorm rarely takes itself seriously, and the dialogue is a testament to its consistently over-the-top personality. That said, it won’t be to everybody’s taste, and I'm betting that many will hate the dialogue outright. This isn’t helped by a creaky underlying narrative and an ending that telegraphs a sequel with an astonishing lack of subtlety.
Another quibble is that while the enemy A.I. is consistently good, Gray's companions - A cyborg named Ishi and the gun-toting badass Trishka - are a bit spotty. Too often they'll end up blocking a corridor or walking into your gunfire, and at worst they'll get stuck somewhere, leaving you to run around the area until they snap out of it. This didn't happen often enough to be a major issue, but it still made me wish the developers had spent a little more time polishing.
The first-person shooter is the most overpopulated video-game genre, and truly inventive shooters are few and far between. For all of its faults, Bulletstorm goes against the grain of the popular, increasingly homogenised norm, often in exciting and hilarious ways. It's not perfect, but it's still one hell of a ride.
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