Bulletstorm is a great game, and one I think didn’t receive the kind of praise and note that it should have at the time of its initial release. It was released at a time when the idea of an eight-hour shooter campaign on its own (because, let’s face it, who the hell was playing the multiplayer?) was still kind of acceptable. However, it differed from its contemporaries by delivering completely over the top violence, a somewhat unique (for its time) mechanic in the leash, and utterly irreverent humour. If I had to liken it to anything, I’d call it Super Castlevania in space, if the Belmont family were alcoholic, gun-toting rednecks. Indeed, it’s a game I remember fondly and still mostly enjoyed in this remaster – so, of course, Gearbox and People Can Fly found a way to screw it up.
It’s okay, Ishi, it’ll be over soon.
Let’s start with the good, which is the game itself because the virtues of this game cannot be extolled enough. Players control Greyson Hunt, former-black-ops-turned-pirate with a chip on his shoulder for the Confederacy that he once worked under. He and his crew, also former black-ops, are on a drunken mission to screw with their ex-employer (i.e. the ruling government in the galaxy) by causing as much damage as possible to their operations. By chance, they run into the ship of General Sarrano, the man who put them in their current situation, then literally run into it until everyone crash lands on a planet below them. Now, Greyson is out to kill Sarrano before the slippery shit-prick can escape off-world. There’s more to it than that, but what little plot this game has doesn’t exactly run deep, so anything else runs the risk of entering spoiler territory.
Narratively speaking, the game isn’t anything special. What makes it so good is how that narrative is presented, which is through the bleary eyes of a foul-mouthed pirate, sounding off at other foul-mouthed ne’er-do-wells. Much like Shadow Warrior 2, your level of maturity needs to be exceptionally low to enjoy this, and, for me, that’s just fine. Even its most serious moments can’t pass without someone making a dick joke, or calling someone else a motherfucker, or just throwing out some ridiculous sounding nonsense in the heat of the moment. It’s also worth mentioning that Sarrano may just rival Handsome Jack for my favourite villain of all time. There’s no moral ambiguity with this guy, he is a dyed-in-the-wool villain that revels in the evil shit he does in ways that might be considered sex crimes. He is an awful human being, and I love him for it.
If you think that sounds like I’m negatively portraying the game, maybe Bulletstorm isn’t for you.
It’s easy to see how far game design has come in just the last few years by playing this game again so long after its initial release. Bulletstorm is the epitome of linear corridor shooters; huge, elaborate set pieces with only one path to follow, lots of firefights, and very few objectives beyond the primary goal. This focus on staying the course with what the FPS genre was built upon is actually one of its core strengths, as it allows the Skill Points system to flourish. Throughout the game, you’ll be tasked with killing enemies in a variety of ways using your entire arsenal and the surrounding environment. These goals are entirely optional but pursuing them is rewarded with points, which are used to upgrade your weapons and in turn allows you to kill more dudes. Destiny it ain’t, but it works.
Bulletstorm isn’t overly complicated, it isn’t designed as a vast, sprawling world to be explored ad nauseam, coaxing players to seek out lists of collectables and hunting down countless side-missions. It’s more like an adults-only carnival ride, serving you copious amounts of booze and encouraging you to vomit on spectators below whenever you reach the ride’s peaks. Every side goal and reward reinforces and perpetuates the core design, which is commendable even by today’s standards. It does feel a little dated compared to more recent offerings in the same style; Wolfenstein: The New Order is certainly an example of a linear style shooter that can offer more with its design. The fact that Bulletstorm can be re-released now and still compare, however, is absolutely a feather in its cap.
Or a rocket powered spike in its face.
There are few moments while playing the game where nothing happens gameplay wise, and those moments are more often than not inserted for comedic effect. There isn’t a huge variation in gameplay beyond the different methods of killing bad(der) guys, and when it tries, it doesn’t do so well. Moments that require getting across gaps and large holes are little more than low-effort quick time events. In the same vein, while the leash is used to rip highlighted environment elements away to carve your path to the next area, the leash could have been used to greater effect in getting around. These aren’t deal breakers, they don’t make the game bad in any way, they’re just parts of the game that had less thought put into them than the weapons system and could have been improved.
That said, Bulletstorm’s commitment to making murder fun is excellent, and it isn’t too concerned about how that’s achieved so long as the player is enjoying themselves. Some sections ignore the game’s own rules about ammo limits because running out of ammo during those parts would have been boring. Yeah, the game is entirely about perforating the faces of your enemies with as many projectiles as possible, but it tries to find interesting ways of doing so besides just being a pair of boots on the ground. You control a robot dinosaur at one point for Christ’s sake, and it’s exactly as awesome as that sounds. The crude, curse-laden jokes, one-liners, and back and forth between characters while this is all going on is just icing on the cake.
Dick jokes. Dick jokes everywhere, and they’re great.
This would normally be the part where I talk about the game’s presentation as a whole, but there are a few things I want to say about this “remaster” in that regard, so I’ll just quickly talk about the voice acting. It. Is. Perfect. Every single character is given a thoroughly enjoyable performance by their respective actors, really hammering home what could have otherwise been written off as juvenile garbage. In particular, Steve Blum does a stellar job with Greyson Hunt, adding the surly, incorrigible vulgarity that’s often missing from your usual “hard-cut space marine” character types. If you don’t know who Steve Blum is then you can think of him as an integral part of your childhood and your gaming life in general. He was certainly a part of mine. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition is itself perfect, so allow me to extol its imperfections in a manner befitting General Sarrano.
A very sloppy apology.
Since this isn’t a remake, the fact that the models and whatnot still look a bit off can be easily forgiven. The textures’ resolution has only been increased, and 4K support has been added for anyone that can use that. What I don’t understand is how shit like this shining beacon of failure can happen multiple times during my playthrough:
What in the name of Jesus’ holey, serviceable hands is going on in my GOD DAMNED GAME!?
What you’re looking at there, dear readers, is a glitch that caused every surface in the room to become a light source, completely blinding me and preventing me from continuing until restarting the mission. That particular screenshot was meant to be in a cave, I should add, so I’ve no idea where the light was even coming from. This isn’t the only visual glitch, with video artefacts randomly appearing and disappearing on the sides of the screen throughout the game. There were also framerate drops whenever the action really picked up until the game itself completely lagged. These are all technical issues that I never encountered when I initially played the game on the Xbox 360. Whatever chimps People Can Fly dug up out of the dumpster fire to work on this project should be flung out into space.
The online aspect of the game may as well not even be in there, either, since no one is actually playing. I know this isn’t necessarily a fault of the dev team, but the fact that the new echoes were touted as being some of the “new content” for the game makes this sting like my festering, herpetic ballsack. They could have added in local co-op, they could have added in any number of things to make this worth the asking price of a full release instead of an online mode that was basically DOA. And this is to say nothing of the Duke Nukem DLC – an attempt to cash in on a Gearbox licensed character so shameless that it would sweatily masturbate in front of its own grandmother if it felt the need. I’m going to say it anyway, though.
The “rewritten” dialogue to suit Duke’s part is so obviously shoe-horned in, that is to say when it’s actually been re-written and doesn’t just use the same lines as Greyson’s. No one else’s dialogue has been re-written or voiced to reflect the change, so the whole thing just feels really out of place. And no, Gearbox, having everyone act like Duke is Greyson then having Duke act confused about that isn’t actually funny, though your presumption that it would work kind of is. None of this would have been as big a problem as it is if it weren’t for Gearbox’s staunch refusal to even offer a sodding discount on the game for previous owners, like so many recent re-releases have done already. One can only assume that with how tight-fisted they’ve been that their greasy fun boxes are so coated in callouses they might as well be gold plated.
“Hail to the Kings of milkin’ it for all it’s got, baby.”
Seriously though, Gearbox, enough of these shit-eating shenanigans. You better not pull something like this in Borderlands 3 or I will personally sire a real life Sarrano, raised with the singular purpose of hunting down and wound-humping anyone who had a hand in its creation.
Bulletstorm on its own is a fantastic game that knows exactly what it is – a juvenile romp through the blood-soaked tulips while calling said tulips a pack of cum guzzling c****. Considering this came from the last generation of shooters, carrying many of the design tropes and problems with it, it’s still a lot of fun to play even today. Uncomplicated and uncompromising, its only concern is making sure that the player has a good time with some laughs along the way. It’s just a shame that, under Gearbox’s direction, People Can Fly managed to leave a tarnished mark on what was otherwise a cherished memory for me. Introducing new technical problems and slapping some pointless online content in there does not justify pushing it out the door at full price. If you’ve got no other way of getting hold of a copy, this is still worth playing for the experience of Bulletstorm. Otherwise, just borrow it from a friend or find a cheap old-gen copy online if you can.