Features & News

Demo Impressions: Bulletstorm

January 31, 2011, Author: Michael Charge

People can Fly’s latest game, Bulletstorm, looks, thanks to its various trailers, to be an irreverent in-your-face first person shooter all about killing enemies in as gory and brutal ways as possible to gain points. After playing the demo, I can confirm that this is all true. Unfortunately, it also has one or two gameplay issues that stopped me from finding it as outrageously fun as the game thinks it is.

The demo takes a single section from the single player game and puts it into “Echoes” mode, which is basically a score attack mode. After a brief intro video narrated by the main character and introduces you to the basic concepts of both gameplay and story, you then leap into the level itself feet first.

At first glance, it’s a standard first person shooter. You run, shoot and slide your way through an abandoned area of a city, hanging far above the planet’s surface. The scenery is full of rubble and many of the skyscrapers have fallen on one side leaving a rather different selection of corridors to fight through. You’re given three weapons to play around with; the basic assault rifle, the revolver which can fire flares and the remote detonation grenade launcher which wraps itself around a target’s body part before you press the trigger.

Each kill you get gives you points. The basic kills are worth 10 points, headshots 25. The main way to earn points though is to be clever with your kick ability, your leash and your imagination. Drag a guy towards you, kick them away and then blast him in the head gains you 250 points. These however are the least interesting. When you fire a flare into someone you’ve knocked into the air, he’ll go flying off into the sky granting you the bonus “Fireworks” skill bonus and a big stack of points into your total. Each area is littered with extra little environmental features that add to the points total such as when you nail a guy to the wall with a quick kick to the face.

This, Sir, is my boot. Let it show you the door.

My main problem with this system is it requires a certain finesse to be totally successful at it. I understand the need for a learning curve but when the trailers are full of the crazy skillshots, it kind of seems like it should be the norm. This is more of a personal thing but I still think it’s worth mentioning. I also experienced a couple of issues with your partner AI interfering with your attempts to get your skillshots. Several times I’d be kicking guys off ledges only for my associates to get a shot on him and I only receive the ten points I’d get for standard kill despite losing a chunk of health. It gets worse if we include the alternate fire modes for each of the weapons; you receive three per area which, if they are wasted by the reckless AI or by your booby-trapped foe being caught on random bits of scenery. This happened a bit more often than you could accept as a little bug.

The level progresses through a series of areas filled to the brim with spiked walls, exposed cables and other nasty things to kick people into. This all leads to a confrontation near an elevator which can be activated to come screaming horizontally towards a group of guys, giving you an extra boost of skill points from crushing some bad guys into the wall. Apart from this special part, the rest of the demo is moving through an area, killing the guys you see with as much skill and style you can, which can get a tad repetitive.

This is what happens when you don't take the lift.

In terms of the graphics and sound, the game is classic Unreal Engine 3. It looks pretty good, especially as it is lacking the amount of brown and grim you’d normally expect from a game released by Epic. It has some exceptional backgrounds but if you’re spending too long looking at it, you’re doing it wrong. I have no problem with the voice acting, which is as crass as you’d guess from all the trailers. The weapon sounds are pretty good and there are some satisfying splats when you rip a guy in half.

I want to like Bulletstorm but this demo is unfortunately a bit of a turn-off for me. I hope it’s just the choice of level and limited selection of weapons in the demo that give me the issue. It’s worth your time as a bit of fun but I’m going to wait for the game’s release before I consider buying.