The Game: Bulletstorm (2010)
Developer: People Can Fly/Epic Games
System: XBox 360, PS3, PC
Buy It On Amazon: RIGHT HERE
The Premise: You are Grayson Cole, a rogue mercenary who, in a last ditch suicide move, has grounded a massive frigate belonging to his sworn enemy, a general who hired him to unknowingly kill innocent people. Gray, his newly cyborg pilot, Ishi, and the frigate crash land on a ruined island paradise overrun with marauders and cannibalistic mutants and now must kill (with style) to get out alive.
Is It Any Good: I think you have to award some level of deep, resounding reverence to a game–no, an anything–that includes the line “Here comes Butterdick Jones and his Heavenly Asshole Machine”. But the extended answer to that question is a little more complicated, though it’s pretty firmly in Yes territory.
On paper, Bulletstorm is everything I hate in modern video games. And I mean that quite literally. EVERYTHING I HATE shows up in this game. Grizzled protagonist, supposed gritty dialogue, characters trying to out-testosterone each other, linear level progression, 6-foot-stack-of-armored-ham character design, oh-look-theres-piles-of-random-crap-everywhere-just-tall-enough-to-cover-behind-I-wonder-what’s-happening-next shootouts. The worst parts of Bulletstorm are when all the expectations come to a head. It’s extraordinarily pretty, especially considering it’s a game that takes place in tropical environs most of the time, and some of the setpieces are genuinely spectacular, but the actual execution is often boring, unimaginative.
That unimaginative game is locked in mortal combat with a game that’s essentially Archer With Space Marines. See, that Wolveriney dude on the cover may look like he’s the centerfold for Guns-N-Ammo’s swimsuit edition every year, but he’s also quite the manchild fuckup. The incident that strands Gray and his crew on Stygia happens because a very drunk Gray decided to go all opening-scene-of-Star-Trek-09 on his arch enemy’s frigate, against the lamentations of his crew. During the course of the game, Gray squeals like a little girl over getting the controls to his own enemy stomping, laser-shooting Mecha Godzilla, which he named Waggleton P. Tallylicker. He has almost a poet’s handle on ways to permute the word “dick”. His Lana is played by Commander Shepard herself, Jennifer Hale, who’s clearly relishing the chance to cut loose and cut blue with the dialogue. Any and every moment silence and stealth is needed inevitably results in Gray going “Fuck it” and blowing something up instead and laughing about it later, simply because it was cool.
The two games meet in the middle with the combat, which has Gears of War‘s sense of power and brutality working in tandem with Ratchet and Clank‘s sense of childish glee. The game’s two big gimmicks are a mechanic involving an electromagnetic leash which allows Gray to pull and launch objects and enemies from half a football field away, and a scoring system which awards points based on innovative kills. And we’re not just talking the usual headshots and melees and moving targets. We’re talking points for shooting an enemy in the balls, impaling someone on a cactus, killing while drunk, blowing up multiple enemies with a hotdog cart, shooting a boss in the ass, grabbing an enemy out of a helicopter mid-flight and shooting him while he’s still in the air, and my personal favorite, kicking an alien pumpkin onto an enemy’s head, then electrocuting him. All shots with such fun names as Assplosion, Homie Missile, Meatfountain, Drilldo, and Blood Symphony.
You might have the impression this is pretty much the game every 13 year old has been waiting for, and it pretty much is. The game earns brownie points for being the rare title that embraces it instead of being dull, substandard Aliens jingoism-a-go-go. There’s room in the world for FPSs that go this far over-the-top in almost every respect. Thankfully, the game itself also plays like a dream. One of my endless list of problems with Gears of War is how killing enemies in that game is a fucking chore, requiring multiple clips, and Time Crisising in and out of cover. Bulletstorm not only makes killing extraordinarily satisfying while not making your enemies pushovers, but it encourages movement, getting up close and personal, toying with your enemies, almost like you’re supposed to have fun or something. The game nurtures orchestrated mayhem like few shooters ever have, and when its at its most hectic, it’s one of the most enjoyable games in its genre in years.
This is, however, a game with Epic’s name on the box, so, the game doesn’t go to nearly the lengths it should to ensure nothing but the good times. The fun and laughter often takes a backseat to half-hearted drama about Gray getting his people killed, or guilt about Ishi becoming a cyborg, or the main villain going into Snidely Whiplash mode, where most of the game, he’s R. Lee Ermey’s even-more profane cousin. The fun and games peters out entirely for most of the game’s final act, a section underground that’s just waves of aliens, light on the glorious environmental kills, and just dull brown and gray for miles and miles. To make the player come back to some sort of grimgritty reality after spending most of the preceding hours in a world with all the restraint of an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon is the worst kind of hamstring.
None of that is enough to nullify the sheer fun, however. And there’s plenty of it to be had, especially at the bargain bin prices the game can be found for, as opposed to when it came out. A $60 experience, Bulletstorm isn’t. But as that game that gladly welcomes one and all to indulge their inner fuck-obsessed asshole preteen for a while, Bulletstorm‘s worth its place on the shelf.
BONUS POINTS: The first room of the first level of the game has a door that breaks, can’t open, and won’t let you continue. Check out the symbol in the middle of it real close, and chuckle.
At least once, you owe it to yourself to turn on the profanity filter. There’s some serious “fight a stranger in the Alps”/”I Hate Everybody” level hilarity in there.
The game was originally supposed to be officially announced on a bigger stage back in 2010, with an appearance by Cliffy B on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. His spot got bumped by Justin Bieber. Even back then, that kid was a douche.