I could simply have shot him and ended things right there, but that would have been too good for him. Instead I ran up on him and kicked him with my boot, sending him flying backwards in the air, amusingly still in electrified slow motion. I whipped out my flail gun- basically a weapon that fires a chain with grenades on both ends- shot him with it and giggled as it pinned his arms tight against his body. Deciding to kick him flying even further up in the air for good measure, I pulled out my machinegun and shot him in the head right before the grenades exploded, sending limbs flying and the headless torso plummeting… sadly missing the giant cactus I was hoping it would impale itself on.
Aww. That would have made a great score.
Text pops up all over the screen with the various rewards I’ve earned for the carnage I’ve caused, my score swells with the points I’ve just earned, and I’m grinning like a madman. Enter Bulletstorm.
Bulletstorm is being developed by Painkiller devs People Can Fly in association with Epic Games and being published by EA. They all know that they’ve got something special here- a first person shooter that doesn’t take itself too seriously, feeling like more of a shooter throwback than any game since Serious Sam.
In the game you play as Grayson Hunt, a former mercenary who has fallen on some tough times. It turns out that he was unknowingly doing some evil stuff, and was betrayed by his former friends when he tried to stop. You pick up with him afterwards when he’s become a drunken space pirate, and right about to crash land on a planet with his former co-worker Ishi Sato. The place they land isn’t any normal planet though- it’s a place that used to hold Vegas-style debauchery, but something has happened, freeing all the animals and psychopaths on the planet. What this means is that this is one colorful and varied world, as incredibly dangerous as it is pretty. So he’s got to fight through many foes to escape and get his revenge and blah bah blah- yeah, forget the story. It’s all about the stylish ultraviolence, here.
While the backstory and interactions with your computer-controller companion don’t seem like anything special (although it is being written by Punisher scribe Rick Remender, so don’t count it out yet), the Unreal Engine 3-assisted graphics are absolutely beautiful, the world looking like a rich place that’s become broken-down out of disuse. It seems like there will be lots of objects to interact with, from man-eating plants to poisonous bubbles that can be burst on your enemies to make them fight each other. I played through a level of the game at a recent press event here in NYC and was impressed at how much fun it was to try and find different ways to dispatch your enemies.
As you can tell, Bullestorm is quite unlike the first person shooters of late, using the humor and arcadey fun of old school shooters like Duke Nukem for influence. Rather than just running from cover to cover while aiming for headshots, here you’re trying your best to kill your enemies in increasingly creative ways. Creative kills net you more points, which can be traded in for goodies like weapon upgrades, which in turn give you new ways to kill your enemies.
See, the game rewards you with “skillshots” for different kinds of kills. Shoot an enemy off a cliff? You get a “Vertigo” skillshot. Unload a clip in his ass? Get a “Fire in the Hole”. Just shot an enemy right in the junk and are watching him grasp his ruined future? Shoot him in the head for a “Mercy”.
You can of course chain together multiple bonuses, and the more variety you achieve the better your points. Half the fun is figuring out different methods of killing foes. Your leash will get most of the work here (used by hitting LB on 360) to manipulate foes any way you like and direct them into various hazards. Each weapon can get upgraded at various drop pods that you find along your way, allowing you to charge it up for a powerful attack. The leash will upgrade to the thumper, which allows you to slam the enemies into the ground, effectively causing an earthquake and shaking nearby enemies and objects into the air and giving you a better shot at them. The flail gun will shoot a sideways flail that dismembers anything in its path, Dead Space-style. The game certainly doesn’t skimp on the gore…
The level we were shown offered a whole bunch of weak enemies to have your way with, but we’re promised much more variety in enemies over the course of the game. Near the end of the demo you face a chaingun-wielding miniboss, armored shielding covering every inch of his front. Fortunately you’ve got that electric leash, and by tugging on him you can expose his back to firepower. And at the end of the level we were teased as a giant monster breaks through the ground, a screen-filling boss that just hints at the battles to come.
After the level you are shown your total score, one that’s fun to compare to your friends for bragging rights. In fact, if they’re smart they’d include a co-op mode that allows you to trades turns with friends, because it’s almost as entertaining to watch another player’s tactics as it is to splatter your enemies yourself.
Unfortunately, the developers weren’t able to tell us much else about the game. There’s no word on length, more weapons, or multiplayer or co-op modes (even though there will obviously be some of both). But it’s immediately obvious that Bulletstorm is one to watch out for, an incredibly fresh game that stands out amongst the drab shooters currently polluting the world.
Expect Bulletstorm to hit on February 22, 2011 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.