Bulletstorm Review (PS3)

By Zott820Zott820


Bulletstorm is a first person shooter, mashing a point earning system into the killing of enemies. I had low expectations from the game even though other reviews had crafted favorable impressions. The feeling I could not shake was that any game made by Epic was going to be another Unreal Tournament or Gears of War clone, and I had little interest in such things. To my utter surprise, the game led me to movements of genuine glee and amazement. Perhaps the setpieces were crafted just right or the character's consistent dick jokes wore me down, but I grew an attraction to the game.

The game has a couple modes. There is a single player campaign which follows Grayson Hunt and troope as they lead countless innocents to death, countless enemies to slaughter and revenge at every possible moment.

Echos takes single player levels, breaks them down into chewable bits and makes a fine Call of Duty-Esque Time Trial/Operations mode.

Anarchy is the multiplayer component, though a solo version is available. The player and buddies fight in close combat against spawning enemies. Netting the proper skillpoints rewards the player with progression into the next round.

The following shall be a list of the best and worst of the game summarized in list form. Items to the beginning of the list are more of a benefit or nuisance depending on which list they belong

The Best:


1. Points Points Points: This game revolves around killing the enemy in absurd and original ways accompanied by equally absurd taglines. Games have been rewarding points for the killing of enemies for ages, from way back in the NES era and before. What makes Bulletstorm fresh is that it rewards the points not only for just killing enemies but the finesse of the kill. Similar to Madworld, kills earn points through the method of mutilation, but differs in that Bulletstorm doesn't give combos based on kills/time. Instead the game awards more skillpoints for original kills, rather than repetition. I felt this was superior because it didn't force me to try and rush to the next kill as soon as possible to keep the combo up. Instead there was a strategy to lining the enemy next to hazardous objects in return for a more profitable kill. There are over 125 skillshots, the game's identifier for the means of murder. More difficult to achieve kills are awarded with more skillpoints. There are general skillshots available at any time, and there are those that are specific for weapons of mass destruction. This was a strong design choice coupled with the unique bonuses for fresh skillshots. It makes players want to try out every weapon, and experiment with killing the enemy different ways. I often consulted the in-game guide that lists the skillshots so that I might unlock them all. This is a game you can enjoy to play rather than rush through the rooms and stages as fast as possible to clear the next room.


2. Outrageous Zany Fun: The game throws in the whole kitchen sink when it comes to action. At one point your characters outrun a giant wheel while on a train. That's right, one of the bosses is a wheel, a giant. rolling. wheel. If I haven't won you over with that awesomeness yet, have I mentioned you get to pilot a robot dinosaur? How about drunk fighting? No? Drunk fighting in a disco? Monorails, helicopters exploding, and a zombie-enemy type! The game even knows what it is. One part has a setup for a boss battle, hinting of it over and over and over again. When the enemy appears, it dies on its own, no action required. At this point it is should clear that the game did not grow stale in its offerings even if the game is just about killing enemies at heart.


3. Weapons of Mayham: There's no hiding it that the weapons in Bulletstorm are overpowered. THAT is in comparison to any other shooter out there. But Bulletstorm can get away with it precisely due to the design element mentoned. You don't just want to kill the enemies, you want to specialize in the weapon, and because of how powerful each weapon is, you can still enjoy harnessing exploding bombs and 2-hit kill magnums with glee. Luckily the game's weapons are not so unbalanced in that you won't be able to pull of the tricks on still breathing bodies, but enough that if you wanted too, and there's an achievement for it, you could just run and gun your way through the levels easily. The weapons themselves are varied and feature alternative fire that usually takes the base feature of the gun and adds Michael Bay explosions to it: Exploding sniper rounds, bouncing bombs, explosive flares, and the occasional liquefy effect. I had a special spot (In the heads of the enemy) for the sniper weapon as you could guide it towards targets ala the movie Wanted. Heck, the gravity defiance was so much that sniper bullets could almost pull 90° turns around the chosen target.

4. Slick Controls: For a console/gamepad game, and especially for a shooter, I found the controls to be incredibly precise. I never struggled with want I wanted to do that was control based. There is natural lock-on as you aim towards enemies, but this was soft enough to permit headshots and specific body parts being targeted on the fly.

5. Piss Boot-licking Dick Llama: The dialogue in the game is just as outrageous as some of the levels. I've heard "Dick" more times in this game than any other. Its vulgarity borders on satire though. What the characters attempt to speak as insult comes out as an overly grandiose way of saying "You Suck". I'm not a big fan of games with swearing in them, feeling them unnecessary, but this game's blatant overuse of them and in such non-seriousness made it entertaining to listen too. I don't think it quite takes the cake from Mafia II in terms of overall swears, but it sure took a shot at that game. In this vein it once again echos Duke Nukem, and makes a suitable replacement for successor. If you don't know what to say, add more Dick. Here's a flowchart for what the developers used to design most of the insults.


Past the kitsch swearing, the overall creativity and wittiness of the dialogue was strong. Sure most involved the most commonly referenced bodily organs in comedy, but it felt fresh through the whole game with plenty of commentary on most of the game's happenings.


6. Time distorting fun: I have to call out this one feature for being innovative. Leashing, booting or sliding into an enemy will result in them flying into the air. Now normally in any other game the gravity would pull them back down to the planet following proper kinematic formulas. However in Bulletstorm, the enemies glow with a blue hue and will float for about 2 seconds in the air. What purpose could this defiance of Newton possibly give? Reaction time. The player now has the opportunity to line up enemies for special skillshots, enemy bowling, juggling and more. The effect isn't quite like the gravity gun in Half Life 2 however, the one downside. You can't grab any object, just make them hover in front of you momentarily. If you leash a far off explosive container, it will fly towards you and slow down in front of you, but you can't hold it there. So you have to work fast! The advantage is a strong one, but its advantage keeps you on your toes.


7. Le Boot and Leash: Some individuals on the interweb drew the connection between the Duke Nukem inspiration of the boot from Duke Nukem 3D. Others christened that Bulletstorm was the superior Duke Nukem Forever, with equally crass humor, but with the fabled Duke Boot (absent from Forever), to back it up. Without playing enough Duke Nukem, I won't argue except booting the enemies of Bulletstorm was fun and rewarding as I smashed their bodies into cactus neetles. Besides Mr. Boot, Grayson Hunt is also equipped with a leash, a device allowing mild gravity manipulation. Leash enemies to pull them towards the player, boot them push them away. Grayson Hunt also features a power slide, which works much like you'd expect, slide on the ground towards the enemy to trip them. The trippy part was not the sliding, but just how fast you go. It's like the player has wheels on their butt, moving incredibly fast, but also very maneuverable, zipping around corners with ease. Sliding was my preferred travel method through open areas. Vrooom!

8. Sensational Environments: Bulletstorm has beautiful environments. I say that sincerely. Arriving in new environments, the developers often perch the player on cliffs overlooking expanses of land which the player will be exploring later. The views are immense and detailed, and since the gameplay will likely take you to those places, it isn't just for show, but preparing you mentally for the journey ahead.


9. Collectables Suckas: Bulletstorm has functional collectables, not just wall ornaments. What is meant by functional? Think about Battlefield Bad company 2 and its gold bars or communication stations that you collected, did they do anything? No. They had really no point in the game at all. Bulletstorm has three primary collectables, electric-flies, Coffe…Beer, and news robots. Electric-flies will kill enemies that you can throw into them, and better yet, they are a little hunting/accuracy minigame as each fly killed in the swarm yields slightly more skillpoints until the whole swarm is finished off. Destroying them all in the game yields a trophy/achievement, though that, ala gold bars, are not the carrot to killing them. The beer also results in skillpoints, but in a different manner. Blast the bottle and net a boring 100 skillpoints. But consume the bottle and you have a drunken-murder simulator that seems to be oh-so prevalent in the news these days. Your drunken rage nets the skillshot "intoxicated" and moves Hunt wobbly through the levels. And the Newsbots? They felt like homages to the cleaning robot from Time Splitters: Future Perfect, but besides that they were explosive little chatterboxes. Collecting these collectables is no onus, but something you WANT to do, because it is fun, and that is the strongest point there is to make.

10. Bitchin' Theme Song: The first time I got the game I popped in the game disk and left the room to tend to something of a non-videogame nature. About 10 minutes later I heard noise. A noise I could not identify that sounded like choir music. But no, what was it? It was very triumphant and enchanting I moved close and closer to its origin until I discovered it was Bulletstorm's main menu theme. I stopped immediately what I was doing elsewhere and moved to play the game. That's right, the main menu music immediately drew at least 3 hours of gameplay out of me. If only the music can do that, then you know it has hit its mark.. In fact, hopefully you listened to the theme that I placed at the top of the article and it convinced you to read more!

The Worst:

1. Network Woes: When I attempted to play Bulletstorm online I was met with long waiting times in the lobby. It would take approximately ten minutes or more to get into a game. Worse yet was when some online peeps and I were smashing the enemy together online. I would become disconnected from the Playstation network about 6-7 rounds in. This was infuriating as I couldn't get just start at higher levels in Anarchy mode online. Luckily, the game retained my level progress despite the disconnections. However, this was not true for Echo's progress. After one such disconnection, I took to playing Echos, earning my 3 stars on a bounty of the levels. I left the game and came back with an internet connection. The game decided that the internet progress was different and all my off-line work went to waste. Perhaps they didn't want hacking the scores by syncing, but I did not like losing my hard fought Echos star earning process!


2. Buggy: Occasionally the player may get stuck on objects by sliding onto them. They can usually slide off of them though, and so the trouble is not game-breaking. What was game-breaking was the failure of the game to trigger its level scripts. In one Anarchy match I could not continue because 2 enemies wouldn't spawn. On some single player missions and Echos levels, the enemies may be dead, but the NPCs guiding the player won't activate the next section of the game. Compared to the network annoyance, most of the bugs were quite tame, and I didn't notice many until I reached the latter section of the game. It is an annoyance though to lose progress on new skillshots unlocked and be forced a checkpoint reload because the scripts didn't activate correctly.

3. Cliffhanger Ending: This is not a game that deserves any kind of sequel. If the developers wants to add more skillshots, weapons, enemies they can do it on the DLC side, which they have already begun doing. The engine is competent enough for pretty much of anything, using the Unreal 3 engine which has proven itself thus far. I was slightly peeved by how what seems to be the end of the game plays a Battle LA type move (the movie version), giving all the signs that the game is over, and then revving the engine for one more go. I don't want to say that the game was stale at that point, but the addendum before the true cliffhanger ending didn't really add much except for an excuse of 15 more minutes of gameplay and a chance for a sequel if sales were good.

4. Pop-in: This can't be written into the good category, but it isn't that bad. Pop-in is when the textures load after the surface is visible. I'm sure there is some processing benefit to it, and the Unreal 3 engine is synonymous with the name pop-in. Bulletstorm is no different but takes an effort to try and minimize the effect. The textures are cut into what appear to be triangles, and various texture passes are made. What happens then is when the player becomes in view of the texture it slowly appears more and more clear over several passes, as if it were materializing in front of you. In any game striving for realism even this would break the immersion. Luckily, Bulletstorm left realism at the door just about the moment the main characters survived a spaceship crash-landing.

6. Uneven graphics: Environments are good, as I discussed but not everything is as good. Many of the textures are overly shiny. Object and their textures become blurry and blocky up close. Character mouth movements are also awkward and unnatural. Blur appears in the wrong places on occasion. If the game had the style of Mad World, with black and white or cartoony textures I might let this slide, but the game goes for some realistic tones. I don't want this game with cartoony graphics, I think the choice they made was a good one, it's just unavoidable factor. For this reason I cannot ignore the inconsistency. The creed of this game is good from afar, but far from good. As long as you play the game and ignore the extreme details you will find the game a large cut above the rest in visual fidelity.


6. Nitpick: You've executed what appears to be a perfect juggle going on, with a couple enemies in the air and you send them flying with some blasteous attack. And when the enemy lands you are given 10 pts, the lowest skill point amount given for kills. What happened? That is the disappointment that sometimes results from this point driven games. Although it looks like a visual feast going on, the game may think that it was just a regular kill, and plop out the petty. On the one side, I wish there had been more skillshots to explain the situation and award special points. Though the game is quite gratuitous with the kills allowed to give points. Perhaps then it is a failure to recognize the proper conditions. I remember having a hard time getting the skillshot where you shoot an enemy in the crotch with a sniper rifle. I looked around online and someone mentioned that it only worked on certain enemies, not all the enemies have "balls" apparently. Also, it is a little unclear when some conditions override others. I've seen then stack, but have come across situations where I'm sure I've done a skillshot, but the game decided it was one but not the other.

  • Screenshots are from the Bulletstorm Fansite Kit and so don't match up with this PS3 review exactly. However I did not have access to the capture card for direct PS3 screenshots.

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