Crash, Bang, Wallop! Bulletstorm Reviewed!

The first of the year’s big budget first person shooter blockbusters arrives with all the trademark Cliffy B moments in there for fan’s of the gaming industry’s ‘enfant terrible’. Will it live up to the hype? Or will it fall flat on its chiseled jaw in a heap of gory goop? Let’s find out together in the GamesMediaPro review of Bulletstorm.      

Amidst the deafening roar of hackneyed cynic’s and liberal bleeding heart’s Bulletstorm makes its way to the shelves of your local gaming outlet today with all the attitude of a misogynistic space pirate and intensity of a size 10 boot to the brittle bits. But will the golden touch continue for Cliff Blezinsky and his team of devil-may-care developers at Epic Games? Or has the game industry moved on from over the top, larger than life characters and rivers of blood?  

Right from the opening scenes in Bulletstorm you know that you are not in for your standard run-of-the-mill Call of Duty FPS clone, that every developer and his dog seems to be churning out these days in the hope of wrestling some of that huge chunk of kerching that sits like Finnian’s Gold at the edge of some digital rainbow, ( six? ).   The game introduces you to some spectacular opening scenes as you are introduced to the drunken image of your main character ‘Gray’ Grayson, a man who has fallen from Special Op’s grace to run a rag-tag band of space pirates and mercenaries that is made up by the remnants of his former team of Dead Echoes. On the run from his former employee’s of The Confederation,  and a psychotic Stalin-esque nemesis in the form of the evil  Serrano, after a last disastrous mission when our reluctant hero learn’s the truth about his activities. A quick double cross later and the next thing you know is that the hunter has now become the hunted as you fight for your life to escape the clutches of the evil despot of The Confederation.

Fast forward ten years, and many missed trip’s to a barber’s due to outlandish hangover’s no doubt, and we catch up with our thoroughly thatched hero as he staggers drunkenly onto his spaceship’s bridge, when lo and behold who is this he spies? None other than the very General Serrano who sentenced Gray and his team to death over a decade prior. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but maybe someone should have told Gray that it would have been more prudent to serve it sober, as the whole sorry affair see’s his ship decimated and destroyed with his crew killed and the only other survivor, Ishi,  now being a cyborg rendered that way by a previous act of inebriated lunacy.

Deciding on death and glory our anti-hero Gray opts to end it all by crashing his craft into the hulking monster of the enemy vessel and thus take all hands down with him.  However even a valiant attempt at some form of gallant self-sacrifice seems beyond our hapless half-wit as the two crafts crash into the nearing planet of Stygia with the only apparent people making it out alive being those of the main plot. Still, good effort by the hirsute one.

Upon arrival on the lost planet it is quickly discovered that the survivors are not alone as a band of natives, known as ‘The Skulls’, quickly set about making the new arrivals welcome by attempting to beat them to death with vicious looking clubs, as well as knives, cleavers, machine guns, flare guns, rockets and a whole host of other deadly and deranged weapons of destruction all with the express purpose of giving our boy Gray a ‘bad hair day.’  ( whoops, too late! ). 

So with his half man-half machine matey, Ishi, in tow Gray sets out across the planets shattered cityscape and fatal foliage, ( did we mention the man-eating plants? ), in a bid to locate the downed Serrano and use his homing beacon to get a transport ship off world. Along the way, and with the aid of the games coolest device The Leash, we get to learn of a mystery guest that has survived the calamity and is herself looking to link up with her former commander. Will you be able to enlist the assistance of the elite assassin? Or will she, like the now half-humanoid Ishi who is struggling to control the technology implanted in his body and brain, see through the rough and tough exterior of Gray and learn that he is the ultimate ‘out of the frying pan’ blase braggadocio that we all know and love?

The storyline is very well written with some truly witty one liners from the bottle fed braggart. The characters are believable, even with their larger than life persona’s and over the top murderous streaks. The violence is ultra, and in that respect it works so much better than the ‘combat simulator’ of a more traditional warfare type title as it is so bloodthirsty and, at times, so ridiculous that it has you laughing at loud at the very concept of shooting a guy in the backside and getting rewarded with a ‘Rear Entry’ points bonus, or even better a ‘Fire in the Hole’ if you can make a mini-bosses anus explode like a Bunsen Burner. Already we can hear the shrieks of outrage at corrupting the hearts and minds of children everywhere, but before the liberal’s leap onto their soapbox and rain fiery brimstone down onto People Can Fly and Epic Games for the violence contained within their game, all we have to say is this: The game has an 18 rating for a reason, and if you cannot control your own children and stop them playing adult games in the comfort and safety of your own home then what makes you think a game developer can? The finger of blame in that argument lies firmly with the man, ( or woman ), in the mirror.

The violence, as we have already stated, works well because it is so comic in its nature. It is not meant to be taken seriously. Nor is it meant to be imitated by spotty Herbert’s in long coats with goatee beards thinking they can kick their chum’s into the neighbour’s rhododendron’s and watch as they get mauled by some man-eating triffid named Seymour. The violence and combat in Bulletstorm is no more offensive or outlandish than a Roadrunner and Wil E. Coyote cartoon. With Tom and Jerry doing far worse to each other whilst mothers everywhere whoop with glee as they sit with their five year-old’s. Bulletstorm is crass, it is loud and in your face., and for good reason: Because it’s a videogame, people! This isn’t some recruitment video for Psycho’s R Us.com. So before the Hellfire Harridan’s and the WI. come and pour water on this bonfire of bloody brilliance, we suggest you check it out post-haste!

The graphic’s look sublime with achingly beautiful panorama’s embellished with some awe-inspiring visuals of a dying and decaying planet left to rot by its former inhabitants and brought to ruin by its new tenants. The voice acting is superb with exaggerated bravado replacing staid dialogue or hammy actors that usually make up the list of credits. The sound effect’s are impressive and the gameplay is a genuine joy to experience after playing every other kind of first person filler. The resemblance to Gears and Unreal Tournament  is plain for all to see, but only in the aesthetic’s as the game is a brave new take for Cliffy B and the boys. Yes the armour looks similar to the CoG’s, and yes the weapons bear more than a passing resemblance to the Lancer et al, but Bulletstorm is a world away from Marcus Feenix and Dom, the humour may be here on Stygia but the world is a dark and deadly denizen of death and destruction for those not in tune with the weapons or their upgradeable abilities.

The system adopted by Bulletstorm to reward players for a particularly nice piece of marksmanship or ingenuity see’s gamers granted skillpoints that are accumulated by pulling off acts of gaming prowess throughout the single player campaign. Putting The Leash to good use, in just one more of its numerous roles, see’s you accessing glowing ‘pods’ at varying interval’s where you will be greeted with a clear and precise interface that allows you to upgrade your weapons and purchase everything from extra munitions to additional powered up ammo for those all important spectacles of slaughter, as well as being able to take a look at the list of requirements and tasks that will reap you the greatest rewards . As you acquire new weapons and upgrades you will gain further access to additional skill moves that will net you a bigger harvest of the bonus points. And in the words of the eternal Bruce Forsyth, “what do points make?”  That’s right, my avid murderous gamers, more stuff to kill with! Well, we’re not too sure that’s what he said, but you get the general idea anyway, yes?

More stuff to kill with will come in extremely handy too as you are confronted by an ever-increasing size of adversary that ranges from the melee favouring green ‘goblins’, to the downright anime styled monsters that would not look out of place chewing the leg of Vampire Hunter D. In between these homicidal maniac’s and shrubbery’s of Satan are mini-bosses that will be armed with everything from grenade launchers to mini-guns, as well as being  supported by flying deathtraps’ known as ‘Vultures.’ The end of chapter bosses are truly gigantic and will test even the most talented of Lost Planet gamers as you are faced with enormous swirling plants with massive tentacled limbs and humongous hulking bipeds that look like a cross between T-Rex and the giant Rancour from Star Wars. But with five difficulty levels there is plenty of opportunity to test your skills on a tougher setting as the game has a single player replay value that has not been seen for many a gaming day.

The campaign is no short-lived affair by any means with competition times being totally dependant upon the player’s skill level and difficulty settings. Do not think for one minute that you will be running through Bulletstorm in one sitting on any of the settings above normal.

With a stunning co-op mode also being available for you take the game to the next level online with a friend. and create some truly stunning skillshots of jaw dropping awesomeness. Bulletstorm has more going for it than most with just these two modes. But wait, the jewel in the games crown has to be the absolutely magnificent ‘Echo Mode’. This mode can be accessed immediately but we readily suggest that you experience the game in its entirety first, and maybe even play the co-op mode second , and then, and only then, do you move on to the Piece De Resistance: Echo Mode.  

In Echo Mode gamers get to pick and choose which sections of the game they would like to go back and run through again, with the aim of the mode to get the highest tally of skillpoints, and so having those bragging rights over your friends. There is even an online notification service that inform’s your pal’s when you have surpassed their efforts, and in turn if and when they surpass your own, and thus it allows you to jump right back into the fray to show your friends who is truly the boss of this fantastic game.

Multiplayer consists of some awesome modes all of its own that will see you playing a brilliant game of ‘Anarchy’ that is a similar take on the Gears of War favourite ‘Horde’. You can play this mode solo and friends can join from invite or by just jumping in, but to say that this is merely a copy of Horde is to sell its attributes short as the gameplay is a far more enjoyable experience in comparison. With the skillpoint system being put to great use in the multiplayer to  allow players to strengthen their characters by upgrading everything from personal attributes to purchasing and enhancing every weapon from the campaign mode.

So when all is said and done, has Cliffy B and his band of talented dreamweavers managed to create another game worthy of the studio’s hype? The answer, my friends, is a resounding ‘yes!’, undoubtedly! Bulletstorm delivers on all fronts with a hefty kick to the nether regions and sprinkle of skillpoints. The most imaginative title of the year, and by far and away the most enjoyable as Bulletstorm  cram’s everything you love about videogames into one amazing title. Truly the developers got it right when they named their company Epic, and Bulletstorm lives up the title in every respect.

Graphics: Sublime. Spectacular vista’s awash with living colour that look real enough to reach out and touch. The decay in the crumbling city is in stark contrast to the flourishing natural flora that has developed a taste for meat in its quest to outlive the man-made monoliths and buildings. With some staggering set pieces that make for a supreme experience Bulletstorm looks stunning.    9

Gameplay: The flagship of the titles success with five difficulty settings and more modes than you could shake a blood drenched machete at. Bulletstorm’s ‘skillpoint’ system cries out to picked up and played time and again and offers gamers the kind of experience that has been found lacking in just about every other shooter title for the past few years. Cracking stuff.     10

RePlay Value: This is a game that is just going to run and run and without throwing spoilers around left, right and centre, don’t be too surprised if Mr B is already planning a return for the high haired hero. Awesome visuals, a corking plot with excellent voice acting is complimented by the most enjoyable gameplay for some considerable length of time. A true future gaming classic.  10

Presentation: You have to hand it to all involved with Bulletstorm from the teams at EA and People Can Fly to the brains behind Epic Games and Cliffy B himself, they promised us a game that would ‘knock our socks off’ and they have delivered in every department. The single player is the best campaign in any game for many a gaming moon, and when you couple that with the stunning online and co-op play then Bulletstorm has winner stamped all over it! Truly…Epic! 10

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