Bulletstorm Review - Kill with Skill
The first DLC (called Gun Sonata, naturally) for Bulletstorm just came out recently, so it's a good time to finally take a look at this title and see what's what. When I first heard about Bulletstorm, I admit I was mostly sucked in by the hype put out by Epic Games. Kill with Skill! Yeah! Then I played the demo and had a blast. The voice overs were over the top, but I kept my fingers crossed and hoped that was just a marketing tactic.
With Disc in Hand
When I finally got my hands on the actual disc, I actually enjoyed the game more than I thought I would and found the voice overs to be just fine. Story takes a back seat to gameplay here, but it did manage to pique my interest for more. It's basically a revenge tale. You are Grayson Hunt, a government assassin turned space pirate. Grayson and his old boss General Sarrano end up stranded on the planet Stygia with their respective crews, or what's left of them after their space battle above the planet.
Stygia is a former resort planet that has been overrun by mutants and monsters, so hilarity ensues.
The central mechanic of the game is the skillshot. What this means is that, yes, you can aim down the sights of your rifle, pistol, etc. and unload on your enemy or you can slide or kick them into various environmental hazards for more points. You can also go for the strategic crotch or head shot for more points. You also get an energy leash that functions as a lasso early in the game that lets you grab hold of enemies and fling them around the map for more skillshots. There are literally hundreds of skillshots in the game and part of the fun is discovering them all.
What's the point of these skillshots, you may ask? Well, with the points you earn executing skillshots you can buy bigger and better weapons and ammo at the dropkits left around the world by your enemies. It's a vicious cycle; if you don't execute skillshots, you can't unlock more weapons and ammo to perform even more skillshots.
Where's the Co-op?
The single experience is great, but by and large you are always accompanied by one or two characters controlled by the AI. You have Ishi, the brand-spanking-new angsty cyborg, and Trishka, the over-the-top, gun-toting, requisite hot girl. This seems like ripe territory for an online co-op campaign experience, but for some reason this was left out. Sure, there are some areas in some levels where it wouldn't work, but these areas hardly seem like make-or-break areas that could not have been reworked for co-op.
Instead, we get AI partners that run in front of you in the middle of a firefight when you are trying to pull off a difficult skillshot and screw it all up (friendly fire is always on, though you can't kill the AI characters). I can't tell you how many times I wrapped a flail bomb around Trishka's head because she decided to trot in front of me as I was aiming at an enemy. The image is etched in my brain.
Echoes of the Past
When you get done with the campaign, you can try your hand at the Echoes, which essentially are snap shots of the various levels from the campaigns. In these snap shots, you are given the appropriate weapons and told to go at it. You are aiming to get the most skill shots you can for the most points. The Echoes are fun, but I must admit the only reason I ground through them was to get the trophies associated with them.
Unless you are a trophy hunter like me or are looking to get a top spot on the leaderboards you probably will get bored with Echoes pretty quickly.
The only multiplayer mode available on Bulletstorm is Anarchy Mode. In Anarchy, you and three other players actually play as the antagonists of the campaign mode as members of General Sarrano's Final Echo squad. It's a Nazi zombie/Horde-type mode in which you and your friends are pummeled by wave after wave of enemies. The difference here is that you have to work together to not only survive, but to unlock the next wave of enemies by virtue of your skillshots and the points you get by executing them. You can also execute team challenges for even more points.
Anarchy is fun overall, but the main problem will be communication, or rather, the lack thereof. If you are playing with random players that don't communicate you will be lucky to make it past wave 8 or so. I've gotten lucky and been paired with good players that will cooperate and we'll make it into the teens, but at that point you have to make every skillshot count and you simply must communicate. Playing with random people gets really infuriating really fast. It seems at times that people are really trying to screw things up - and maybe they are, especially when it comes to the team challenges. So find some friends to play with.
Another problem you will have with Anarchy is the connection issues. If you aren't disconnected outright, you will often have to run around with the text "BAD CONNECTION" glaring at you in the middle of your screen for the entire match. Is this really necessary?
This will usually happen when you are playing with people on other continents, and it is really annoying. Sometimes the lag that comes with such a message makes the game unplayable.
Innovative? Yes, but There's Room for Improvement
Bulletstorm is a game that I continue to pop in every once in a while months after it's release. I've become pretty jaded with the standard shooter these days, so I find it refreshing. I'm not the biggest competitive shooter gamer out there, and I can see how the skillshots would make a versus mode impossible, so I give Bulletstorm a pass there.
On the other hand, in this day and age co-op gaming is becoming more and more popular so I don't get why this was not included in this game. Anarchy mode is fun, yet repetitive, but the developers need to get the connection issues ironed out before the game hits the market.
In the end, I would recommend the game to people that aren't looking for more of the same and I'm really looking forward to further titles in this vein. When does Bulletstorm 2 come out anyway?
Article by - Brett Huffman
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