Fandel Mulkey On March 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm

In the entertainment industry, releasing a product that garners a lot of controversy in the mainstream media normally leads to one of two outcomes: 1) The product will be a creative and commercial hit (Case in point: GTA 3). 2) The product will flop hard after a minor sales bump after people discover that controversy was the only real selling point (Case in point: Manhunt 2).

So where does Bulletstorm fall in line? After all the free publicity that the game has received from Fox News has faded away, will gamers remember the game based off it merits, or will Bulletstorm join the countless number of forgotten games that fallen by the wayside after getting a short-term public relations boost courtesy of the mainstream media?

At first glance, it seems like the later is the answer as the game starts out really slow in the first couple of levels. After the first ten minutes — which is really just a glorified semi-interactive introduction to the story — you’re stuck on a planet Stygia shooting what seems like generic mix of soldiers and mutant freaks while the game is giving you hints on how to play. I know that most games have in-game tutorials to start their games nowadays, but Bulletstorm just seems to drag the tutorial a little too long.

Thankfully the game pics up steam quickly after a couple levels in when you get full access to your leash and some extra firepower. Speaking of which, the leash along with your weapons help compliment the games main selling point, which is the skillshot system. To sum it up, you get a certain amount of points depending on how you kill your enemies. For example: once you leash your enemy into a spiked wall, you’ll earn a ‘Voodoo Doll’ skillshot which will earn you a certain amount of points. Kicking them over a cliff will also earn you extra points. Eventually, you’ll be able to spend these points at certain station pods that frequently appear throughout a chapter. With these extra weapons, you can perform more skillshots which in turn will get you more points.

While in theory, the skillshot should lead to near unlimited gameplay possibilities; in practice, you may find yourself using only a couple weapons 90% of the time. In fact I found out that the most effective way to dispatch bad guys was to simply leash them in and then kick them into a spiked wall or over a cliff. While each weapon has a special secondary firing mode, the ammo was prohibitory expensive and limited to the point where I simply decided to forgo using it altogether, especially considering how easy it is to kill 90% of the enemies by simply leashing/kicking them into an object.

While you do have one or two computer controlled AI, they mainly prove useless, and mainly are there to progress the games uneven story. By uneven, I mean that the game can’t seem to decide if it wants to take itself seriously or not. At first; you think that the game is parodying itself, while other times it gets serious (getting revenge of your former general who used your squad to kill Innocent civilians), only to swing in the other direction (drinking booze while cracking cheesy jokes while controlling an over-sized amusement park puppet. By the final third part of the game, you’ll just end up rolling your eyes and going with the flow.

Graphically, the game looks very similar to Gears of War, which isn’t surprising considering it’s running on the Unreal engine. What is surprising is just how colorful the game is at certain parts. One of the criticisms I (as well as others) have had with most Unreal engine games is the fact that everything was abnormally dark and dreary. Thankfully the developers People Can Fly and Epic Games seem to have realized the trend and added a lot of variety in the environments. Colorful jungles under a bright sun are followed by battles over cliffs with running waterfalls, which are then followed by battles in ruined buildings while an electrical storm rages on. The action does get bogged down by framerate dips frequently, but they thankfully didn’t bog down the gameplay too badly.

There isn’t any co-op, online or offline, which is a little shocking, as there shouldn’t be any reason why there isn’t co-op. As for mutiplayer, it’s limited to one mode, anarchy: You compete with other people for skillshot points while having to reach a certain threshold as a group to proceed. In order to get enough points, you’ll have to do team skillshot kills at certain times, which is a lot harder than it looks. Another mode is Echo, which is a glorified time/score attack-mode where your results are saved via online leaderboards. Neither mode will hold your attention for long, which for PS3 owners may be a moot point, as 19 times out of 20, I could not connect to a online quick match. The games message told me that I may need to improve my NAT (I was NAT 2) but honestly, should a gamer really waste time fooling around with their router just to play a game, especially a console one?

Overall Bulletstorm isn’t a horrible game; in fact it had the potential to be a great one. Long after the controversy about the games violence, the game will be remembered as a prime example of how the little things can separate a great game from a simply good one. The story can be funny at times, but when it wants to take itself too seriously, it’s hard to do so, especially right after doing a skillshots with the name ‘nutcracker’ and ‘glory hole.’ The online anarchy mode may seem unique and promising to some, but the aggravation of actually getting into a game on the PS3 may make some players to throw their hands in frustration. What saves the game from being mediocre is level design and the skillshot system. While it isn’t really necessary to take advantage of it to get through the game, there’s a lot of replay value in attempting to get every unique skillshot on the list. Even though there were a lot of little problems in Bulletstorm, I have to say that there is a lot of fun to be had in the game, at least in singleplayer.


While the skillshot system is at times brilliant. In practice, you really don’t need use 80% of it if you want to get through the game. Still, don’t be surprised if you go back and try to get all of the skillshots at least once, just for the curiosity factor.


In my opinion, this is the best looking console game using the unreal 3 engine yet. Very colorful and varied environments, which is a stark contrast to most other games using the Unreal 3 engine.


While the story was a bit cheesy, the acting was actually top-notch. The music wasn’t memorable but nothing bad. Sound effects are top-notch.


A good game that could have been great if not for a few small, but annoying problems. If online is your chief concern, I’d look elsewhere (or look into the 360 version) but there’s a lot of fun to be had in singleplayer. Just don’t expect this to be a candidate for game of the year.

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