Bulletstorm has landed on a fairly quiet marketplace, so there has been a lot of anticipation, and scrutiny, over the latest game from the folks over at People Can Fly and Epic. A lot of the controversy lies in a short single player campaign, the prolific amount of swearing in the game, and publisher EA’s decision to cut most of the multiplayer from rental and/or used game sales. I’m only going to cover the content provided on-disk and accessible to all people, even though there is included “DLC” available within the release- assuming you’ve purchased the game new or paid the 800 MS points for a license. With roots in Unreal, Gears of War and Painkiller, how does the latest marine shooter hold up to its pedigree? Let’s take a look.
I know a lot of gamers who had grown tired of seeing space marines and ship corridors, myself included. Then the world went to hell in a hand-basket and the standard fare shifted to post-apocalyptic landscapes with war torn urban centres with bombed out vistas. Bulletstorm goes the same route – after striking out for some well-deserved revenge against the military commander you once worked for, you and your crew crash land on a world whose indigenous society has collapsed upon itself. There are several different factions who are involved in a gruesome turf war, which interrupts your mission of vengence. You won’t find any interaction with the locals, unless you consider kicking people into deadly environments and pulling the trigger as interacting with them. Pretty much everyone in the game is out to get you (including one of your subordinates).
One of the ways People Can Fly differentiated their shooter was including a leash – basically a psychic lasso that allows you to grab enemies and pull them towards you. While they are in flight, they are slowed down for a second to allow you to decide in which vicious way you’re going to end their existence. You also have several kicks that effectively are the reverse – enemies are pushed away with an initial slowdown period before they go flying. Initially I was concerned that the leash and the kick were gimmicky, and one that would bore me quickly.
PCF put in dozens of challenges per weapon that require one or both leash and kick functions, most of which I found fun and helped bring out some gameplay depth. Combat experience is tied to creativity and skill, so accomplishing the different combat challenges meant more ammo and upgrades from the supply pods. What I found was that the varying kick and leash attacks became intuitive to the entire combat experience and I enjoyed unlocking new challenges to complete for each of the different weapon types. The combat was faster than Gears of War (by a country mile) and since the combat itself used the many different fatal environments that it kept fresh for almost the entire campaign.
If I had one complaint it would be the charged shot – they are prohibitively expensive so I found that I didn’t bother with them except to complete challenges. If I had my druthers, I’d prefer that I could just use a bunch of ammo rather than maintaining two separate pools. I also think that having a “switch” rather than just a separate button to fire it makes more sense and given the combat style it would have made more sense to just let us fire it off instead of changing combat modes.
While the single player campaign was engaging (and not nearly as offensive as some would have you believe), there is a significant amount of potty-talk. If there was one character that went over the top it was General Sarrano, who is the big bad guy. Everyone else is pretty tame by comparison. Frankly, this game shouldn’t be played by – or near- children. The dialogue is a footnote compared to the violence, so I don’t get the uproar this game generated. Most of it is well done and adds some personality to the characters. Don’t expect Oscars though. After all, they are space marines.
Bulletstorm is pretty enough and the environments vary so I have no complaints in the audio/visual department. It holds its own against most shooters, and the dialog was never dull or repetitive. I got through the single player campaign in less than 7 hours on normal. There are still reasons to go back though, such as finding combat moves, several collection achievements, and satisfying the twitchy little completest in me who goes so often unfulfilled.
The one big drawback is the lack of co-op for the campaign; having someone play it with you would have gone a long way to give this more legs.
On the flipside, the multiplayer is handicapped by EA’s new license model, where you need to buy the full game or buy a “license” online to get anything more than the single room co-op mode where you face round after round of escalating combat. The license thing I think is fair, as it hampers used games sales and rentals while leaving their new-purchase customers happy.
For most games, when you can buy new or used, and used is $10 less, there isn’t a dime from the used sale that gets back to the makers of the game. Since there is no content difference, why would people spend $10 more? By the same token you wouldn’t want to alienate those who rent and/or buy a used copy down the road, so giving folks the option to “upgrade” isn’t bad.
The one thing that bothers me though is that there isn’t enough in MP to actually get your money’s worth.
With 6-20 hours of gameplay (several run-throughs), and a single game mode, it doesn’t score well in the replay value. While the DLC may add two different game modes, there are less people playing it by the very nature of this new model, so it may cause an early retirement for Grayson Hunt.
There were also a couple of buggy sections that bothered me, mostly with a level involving a dam, and once my leash got stuck on the tower in the middle of the multiplayer map and wouldn’t release without exiting from the session entirely.
I guess the question really comes down to whether Bulletstorm is worth your hard-earned gaming dollar. If you’re a single-player campaign person, there is a fun and engaging story to be found. If you’re into the multiplayer scene, I’d highly recommend getting the full version (you may want to calculate your new cost vs. used cost + 800 points). It is definately worth playing … the question you need to answer for yourself is whether it’s worth owning.