For a game about an abrasive and hard-to-like drunk and his ragtag team of soldiers, Bulletstorm has had a surprisingly long shelf life. After first releasing on consoles in 2011 to relatively great reviews but lackluster sales and some controversy, Bulletstorm managed to remain popular enough that only five years later a remaster, Bulletstorm: Full Clip was released. Now, nearly eight years later yet another update to this cult classic is being released for VR, allowing players to experience Grayson Hunt’s revenge mission up close and personal in all of its vulgar and violent glory. Unfortunately, despite a valiant effort by the developers, Bulletstorm VR never shakes the weight of being a 13 year old console game and the update to VR dulls what was once a brilliantly fast-paced and stylish shooter.
I’m not going to spend time rehashing the rather basic story as it is merely a backdrop for ridiculous action sequences and the story was never the game’s defining feature. What made Bulletstorm stand out was its style. A game as violent and vulgar as Bulletstorm could have easily been ignored or treated as merely a product created for shock value (and to be sure, some people did come after the game for exactly that) if it weren’t for how fluid its combat was and the uniqueness of the game’s skillshot reward system which encouraged experimentation.
To this day, the skillshot reward system remains a creative way to lure players into attempting to utilize all available methods of destruction to decimate their enemies. As you defeat enemies, you gain points based on how stylized your kill was. A simple straight forward take down may only award you ten points, kicking an enemy into spikes may award 100 points, while kicking an enemy into an exploding barrel and causing a chain reaction which takes out an entire line of enemies may award you thousands. These award points can then be used to purchase weapon upgrades, ammo, new weapons, and more from hubs scattered throughout each level. Combined with the fast-paced movement and shooting and a wide range of fancy ways to pull off trick kills, the skillshot system may have ultimately been the cause of why this game has endured for so many years.
Bulletstorm involves a ton of shooting, so appropriately there are a variety of weapons at your disposal. While you begin the game with only a basic assault rifle, you’ll quickly gain access to a bevy of unique weapons, each of which boasts its own play style, reloading mechanism, and charge shot. In VR, Bulletstorm allows you to dual wield two weapons at once, with one being stored on your right hip and the other over your right shoulder. It is quick and easy to swap weapons and thankfully you do not need to fear dropping a weapon as you fumble about in VR as whatever you have equipped will always spawn when you reach for its designated slot on your belt or back.
Reloading can be as simple or complex as you’d like, with Bulletstorm offering three distinct reload styles: button, semi-immersive, and fully-immersive. I choose to go with the semi-immersive style which allows the player to reload by simply reaching into your ammo pouch located on your left pocket and slotting it into your gun. Those who prefer more authentic loading techniques will want to choose fully-immersive, while those who don’t want to worry about reloading should simply choose the button option, which allows you to reload instantly without any VR mechanics.
Aiming in VR feels decent; at least once you get accustomed to the duck and cover based brawls you’ll encounter at every turn. You can one arm a gun, but it will quickly become unwieldy during prolonged shooting, or you can use two hands to stabilize your aim for more accurate shots. Aside from your arsenal of weapons, you also have a leash mechanism which is attached to your left glove. The leash comes in extremely handy during your missions, allowing you to move large obstacles quickly and easily. In VR, the leash offers two styles of use, listed as hand and head. Hand allows you to aim with your left hand and then hold the correct button and pull, while the head option has the aiming reticle in the center of your view and you can use the leash by simply looking at what you need pulled, holding the appropriate button, and pulling back with your hand. Both methods are simple to use and really come down to personal preference.
A VR game, but especially an FPS where precise movement and aim are essential, tends to live and die based on its movement and fluidity. Unfortunately, this is where Bulletstorm VR falters, but where its console version excelled. Let’s start with the good: Bulletstorm VR offers an impressive assortment of movement options, including snap angle turning, smooth motion, and teleportation. No matter your preferred method of VR traversal, odds are Bulletstorm VR includes it. Despite being fairly well versed in VR at this point, I do sometimes get hit with nausea, especially when first picking up a new title, but Bulletstorm VR’s movement never gave me any grief. For my playthrough, I found the smooth movement and snap turn to most fit my play style.
Now to the disappointing. Bulletstorm’s entire gameplay premise relies on quick and stylish kills, which on console were easy to execute but on VR can be quite aggravating and complex to pull off. The switch to VR makes it more likely that the player will just hide and shoot, hoping to not get overwhelmed, rather than fluidly run around the battlefield sliding and kicking enemies and executing ridiculous headshots and violent kills. Some players may adapt better than others, but I found that anytime I attempted to be stylish I just ended up flailing about and missing my target and eventually settled into staying back and shooting from afar. The game can still be fun, but losing that free-flowing carnage or at least making that carnage much harder to pull off, really dampens the experience.
Unfortunately, there is little else VR related in Bulletstorm aside from a few quick climbing sections and, for better or worse, it is the same game you may remember from the 2016 remaster. The graphics are outdated, but do a serviceable job, though you’ll never be wowed by what you are experiencing. Unlike other VR titles, you can’t pick up random objects and play around with them aside from specific instances where the game hands you something. Most disappointing though are the cutscenes, which pull you out of the VR experience and play on a large screen, which is quite pixelated due to the original video quality not being made to be blown up to such large sizes. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it does kill the immersion, especially due to the sheer amount of short but intrusive cutscenes which occur during each level.
The biggest surprise with this release is the inclusion of two brand-new campaign levels based around Trishka Novak, who is able to dual-wield energy blades. Fighting with the energy blades proves to be a much appreciated change of pace from the standard arsenal Hunt utilizes and forces players to adapt to a much more in-your-face style of play that is better suited to VR. Two levels alone may not be reason enough to pick up this release, but may be enough to entice some die-hard fans to come back one more time.
Bulletstorm VR still has the kernels of a good game hidden within, but does little to justify why a VR version of this cult classic was needed. As it stands, the entire time you play Bulletstorm VR, you’ll be acutely reminded that you are playing a 13 year old console game and will often wonder why you didn’t play the remaster on PC or consoles instead.
Richard Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various publications. When not writing for Gaming Trend you can find him covering theatre for Broadway World, movies and TV for Fandomize, or working on original stories. An avid retro gamer, he is overly obsessed with Dragon's Lair. Chat with him via @thricetheartist on Twitter and @richardallenwrites on Facebook and Instagram.
Bulletstorm VR unfortunately fumbles where it matters most – the gameplay. For a game originally based around fast-paced and easy to execute stylish kills, Bulletstorm’s jump to VR does the title no favors, making it much harder to pull off anything aside from straightforward shooting. There’s still a fun game hidden within Bulletstorm VR, but there’s little reason to pick up the VR version instead of the much better Full Clip console release.