Bulletstorm gives new meaning to the term "aggressive."
As soon as you get past the strangely tranquil title screen of palm trees and sunsets, the game grabs you by the shirt like a surly drunk and, with gritted teeth and flying spittle, commences to shout the most obscene things you have ever heard...while standing mere inches from your face. Every time I load up my saved game, I have to blink through watering eyes because of the boozy fumes the game seems to exude. It is exactly the kind of testosterone-soaked, roller coaster ride of Ulitmate Warrior-level intensity that you would expect from the love child of Epic Games (Gears of War) and People Can Fly (Painkiller).
By Stu Horvath
STORY (if you can call it that)
Much like the Gears of War franchise, there's juuuust enough story in Bulletstorm to keep the game moving forward and the player invested. It ain't Hamlet, but you can never accuse Bulletstorm of not being entertaining or giving you ample motivation to shoot things. In a nutshell: a crack team of government assassins goes rogue as space pirates because of their commanding officer's dirty dealings. During the course of some ill-advised drunken revenge, pirates and officer crash on a planet full of bloodthirsty mutants. Hijinks ensue.
Players take the role of pirate captain Grayson Hunt and the action unfolds pretty linearly: Hunt, his cyborg partner Ishi, and the tough female solider Trischka going from Point A to Point B to Do Something so they can access Point C. Along the way, they grind every living thing into a gooey red paste, shout a lot, and come up with increasingly bizarre ways to use the word "dick" in a sentence. Such as when when Trischka threatens Hunt and Ishi that she'll "kill your dicks." Even the acrobatically foulmouthed Hunt is at a loss to explain what that means.
Bulletstorm's controls are about as tight as you'd expect for the studios involved. Level design is surprisingly open, and the overblown setpieces keep things varied and exciting through most of the single-player campaign (the pace does slacken a bit towards the end of the game, unfortunately). The real selling point of Bulletstorm is the skillshot system, which encourages players to use the environment, their weapons, and their natural sadistic streaks to kill opponents in the most horrifically creative ways possible. Shoot a mutant in the throat and he'll stand there clutching the wound and gurgling while he suffocates in his own blood: Gag Reflex! If it's a particularly good maneuver, Grayson will say filthy things about it as an extra reward. Stringing together different attacks can net you more point: use the gravity tether to pull an opponent toward you, wrap a flail (imagine a stick chain with a grenade at either end) around his head, kick him back next to his buddies and push the detonator to get the Gang Bang AND Grenade Gag skillshots. If you drank alcohol beforehand, you'll get extra points for making your Gang Bang an Intoxicated one. Seriously. This is endlessly entertaining. And the skillshot amassment gets even better with friends (see our forthcoming multiplayer review for more on that).
Arterial spray and fragmented gray matter have never looked better. Bulletstorm has some fantastic graphics on display. This is partly because of the Unreal Engine doing its usual thing with animation and textures, but even more important is the design work. The game is open and colorful. Tropical greenery is all around. The sky is a crisp blue above you (and you can even see it most of the time!). Sunlight dances on the ocean in blinding highlights. For all the mayhem, there's a lot of prettiness in the game.
Of course, there's plenty of horror to be found in your opponents and their debased homes. My personal favorite are the subhuman Kreeps, some of whom cover their reptilian faces with masks made from human faces and who decorate their bases with butchered bodies. The attention to the details of the world of Stygia is impressive.
THE LAST WORD (which isn't "dick" but does involve weiners)
It may seem barbaric to admit to liking something as astonishingly violent as Bulletstorm, but I do. Unapologetically. It's juvenile and schlocky and excessive to an extreme, but it's also new and exciting and incredibly playable—and never takes itself too seriously. And neither should you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to trying to ram an enemy to death with a hot dog cart. Skillshot: Sausage Factory!
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.