The first person shooter genre is one of the most crowded of our generation. Whenever a new game is released it's often compared against benchmark titles such as the Call of Duty, Halo, and Battlefield series. Because of this, if a first person shooter wishes to stand out it needs to do something different. Bulletstorm, I can happily say, succeeds in that regard. I found it on sale at EB Games for $19 so it's pretty cheap right now, and this review is for the PS3 version.
Writing and Story:
Bulletstorm's story is set a few hundred years in the future where most of humanity is ruled by a dystopian Confederacy. A group of elite soldiers called Dead Echo, whom the player belongs to, were tasked with assassinating targets that they were told were terrorists, murderers, and slavers. However during a hit, they discover that the people that they have been killing are actually innocent people who have defied the Confederacy (in this particular case, a reporter). When they discover this, Dead Echo is disgusted with their general, Sarrano, and goes rogue. They are relentlessly pursued by Bounty Hunters and Confederate forces.
The game's opening is strong but sets a dark tone. The player is introduced to the controls through an interrogation on a bounty hunter that Dead Echo has captured which ends in him being kicked out of the airlock. I personally felt this was unnerving and immediately disliked the characters until it later explained their backstory. The game's plot truly begins when Dead Echo attacks the Ulysses: Sarrano's flagship. This results in both ships crash landing on Stygia, an ill fated resort planet which has been overrun by warring clans of mutants. As one of the few survivors, the player fights to escape the planet and get revenge on Sarrano for the wrongs he made him commit. It's pretty standard science fiction stuff but it at least serves as a motivator to get through the six or so hour single player story.
The game's story is told through cutscenes and there's a plentiful amount of dialogue, but I will say that the characterisation and tone of the story is inconsistent. At times it tries to be serious and make the characters sympathetic, and other times it's loaded with dick jokes and profanity. It especially doesn't help when the protagonist is shouting lines like "Murder time!" and "plenty of murder to go around!" It's almost as if the writer's couldn't decide what tone to use for the story and went for a mishmash of both. It certainly doesn't ruin the game, but it does let the game down.
Bulletstorm's visuals are above average. Environments range from tight corridor fights to expansive set pieces of the ruins of the resort-city. The architecture is beautifully designed and the cityscapes are varied enough to differentiate itself from the maze-like urban jungles that are so prevalent in other modern day shooters. The colour palette though does suffer from having a little too much brown. Character models sadly don't have the same level or artistic direction, it's more or less what you expect from a science fiction FPS and they could easily fit into just about any sci-fi shooter.
The music is a blend of orchestra to heavy rock. Guns sound realistic and carry weight, except for the assault rifle. The strangest part about the sound though would have to be the enemy voices and sounds. They're clearly human but their voices make them sound like monsters.
Bulletstorm is basically an FPS with a few features that help it stand out from the competition, namely its Skillshot system and controls. Early in the game the player attains an electric leash which awards points for kills. Normal kills are worth little but doing things like kicking enemies of ledges, leashing enemies and tagging them, and using environmental hazards. These points can then be spent at places called Dropkits to buy extra clips, unlock new weapons and upgrade existing ones. The game however isn't too hard, most of the campaign can be finished on Very Hard with little difficulty.
One thing I do have to praise the game for is the player's mobility, the player can double tap the run button to slide, knocking over enemies and swiftly moving between cover. Of course it's highly unrealistic to be able to do this constantly like as if you have a pair of rocket boots but it's a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, there aren't many enemies in the game and they don't look aesthetically different from each other, which can make the battles feel stale after a while.
There is a multiplayer mode but the only mode online seems to be a simple survival mode, and the game's lag was simply unplayable. You can of course host your own game and play by yourself with local friends, but online matchmaking simply didn't work for me.
Bulletstorm is a solid first person shooter with Epic's Unreal aesthetic and a few unique features that separate it from the countless other shooters out there. I give it a recommendation for at least a rental.