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I remember being somewhat excited for the original Bulletstorm because it had an actual focus on single player and some kind of crazy scoring system. When I would look at pre-release screen shots, I remember thinking the weapons and environments looked cool, the leash thing was interesting to me, and for some reason this game just stood out among the rest at the time. Developed by both People Can Fly and Epic Games, the same developers that brought us Gears of War, and published by Electronic Arts, the original Bulletstorm was released for PC and last gen consoles in February, 2011. For this review, I played the Full Clip Edition which was published by Gearbox Software and released in April, 2017 for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. The Full Clip Edition includes a bunch of new stuff including support for 4K resolutions, new Echo maps, a new campaign mode, and even the ability to play as Duke Nukem.
In the campaign you play as Grayson Hunt, leader of Dead Echoes, some kind of special squad, originally under the command of General Sarrano. Ten years prior to the events of the game, Gray and his crew discover Sarrano has been using them to kill innocent people. After discovering the truth, Gray wants revenge and is dedicated to killing Sarrano. The story begins with the Dead Echo team flying around in space and they soon discover Sarrano’s battlecruiser, the Ulysses, and attack it. Both ships end up crashing on some foreign planet. Soon afterward, Dead Echo is attacked and one of the squad members, Ishi, is severely wounded. During the surgery to patch him up, they’re attacked again and this time only Gray and Ishi survive. Ishi is now half cyborg or something. His brain is patched with a robot’s bioprocessor, he claims to be constant pain, and the AI is always trying to take over. After all of this craziness, Gray and Ishi set off to find Sarrano. Along the way they meet up with Trishka, a Final Echo soldier, who reluctantly agrees to accompany them. The voice acting is decent, nothing special. The characters like to use profanities all the time which apparently can be censored or turned off from the main menu if that kind of stuff offends you. However, if you play as Duke Nukem, you cannot censor profanity and in all honesty, his inclusion just seems unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool to see Duke but it seems like he was only added in to sell more copies. On a positive note, Jon St. John returns to voice Duke. Duke will sometimes spout his famous one-liners, because fan service, and Duke’s dialogue does differ slightly from Gray’s. Unfortunately, it sounds like the developers didn’t have Jon St. John re-record everything because whenever the character grunts or gets attacked, you can clearly hear that its the voice of Gray. Now from what I remember, the original game did not perform as well as expected when it released so that might explain why we haven’t gotten a sequel which kind of sucks since the story ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger.
One could say Bulletstorm is an arcade shooter. It’s a first-person shooter with a scoring system. The fun really begins once you acquire the Energy Leash and gain access to the Skillshot database. The leash not only aids you in combat but you also use it to navigate the environments by pulling down large objects create walkways or to activate things from a distance, stuff like that. Now the arsenal includes seven weapons and they can each be upgraded with a charge shot which is basically a very powerful alternate fire mode. You start with a carbine rifle which is the ideal weapon to fall back on if you run out of ammo for the others. You eventually acquire a Pistol, Boneduster shotgun, Head Hunter sniper rifle, Bouncer cannonball launcher, Flailgun, and the Penetrator which fires drill bits. You can even pick up and fire chainguns but only for a limited time. You can always carry three weapons, one of which is always the carbine, but the others can manually be equipped and swapped. Weapons are either dropped from fallen enemies, found in the environments, and you can also equip them at dropkits. Dropkits is also where you can spend Skillpoints to purchase weapon upgrades and buy ammo. One of the coolest things about Bulletstorm is that encourages you to think of new and creative ways to obliterate your foes. You can grab an enemy with a leash and pull him into a wall of spikes, maybe you want to kick him into a cactus, or use the leash’s thumper upgrade to bounce enemies off the ground and into the sky, or maybe they’ll splatter on the ceiling. Although, some enemies can be too fast for your leash and you’ll always have to think on your feet. The charge shot for each weapon is always powerful and opens up even more possibilities when it comes to killing enemies. The Penetrator fires drill bits that can send enemies flying and twisting through the air before impaling them to a wall. The charge shot allows it to be used as a melee weapon and you can even control the drill bit manually when it’s inside an enemy. When using the Head Hunter sniper rifle, you must guide the bullet manually. However, the charge shot allows you to manually move the target around once the bullet makes impact and you can even detonate the bullet. The Bouncer fires a cannonball which will bounce as long as you’re holding the trigger and detonate when you let go. The charge shot allows the the cannonball to bounce repeatedly on its own. Another unique weapon is the Flailgun that fires two grenades strung together. You can manually detonate them and, yes, you can tie up an enemy with a flail which is always ideal. The charge shot fires the same thing but with a heated chain that can rip through multiple enemies. All of the weapons are fun to use but it’s really fun to combine kicks, sliding kicks, leash attacks, and different weapon combinations for brutal kills and higher Skillpoints. Now not only can you upgrade each weapon with charge shots but you can upgrade their ammo capacity as well. I can honestly say that each weapon does feel satisfying to shoot and no weapon ever felt useless. You can also utilize the environment to your advantage and to obtain skillpoints. You can kick these pod things that stick to an enemy’s head and then explode it. You can send an enemy flying into electrical equipment and watch him fry to death. Sometimes you can kick an obstacle they’re using as cover so it slams them into a wall turning them into pancakes. Bulletstorm is all about options and there’s plenty of them.
Killing enemies always rewards you with points and unique kills, otherwise known as Skillshots, reward you with Skillpoints. Yeah, you can just blow an enemy’s head off with the Boneduster shotgun but you’ll get more points for blowing his legs off. Whenever you use the leash to pull enemies towards you, thump them, or even kick them, they launch through the air in slow motion for a brief time which is great if you want to launch them in certain directions or experiment with different weapons and attack combinations. But your not limited to just kicking and pulling baddies, you can do the same to explosives. For example, you can kick an explosive into a swarm of enemies to kill them all at once. Some of the upgrades can get pricey and the entire upgrade system encourages you to try new things. Every time I would kill an enemy, I was hoping to see the word “new” appear next to the Skillshot name. It’s just satisfying to be rewarded for unique kills. But you’re also rewarded points just for mundane actions. If you’re quick to press the appropriate button during a quick-time event, you can easily get up to five hundred points. Destroying the newsbots and drinking from bottles also reward you with points. You can see all of the Skillshots you’ve completed within the Skillshot database and you’ll want to complete them all because after completing the campaign, you unlock the Overkill Mode. Overkill is just the campaign except this time all of the weapons are unlocked from the start, you can carry them all at once, and if you’ve performed every Skillshot for a specific weapon, you unlock infinite ammunition for it. Once you’ve acquired infinite ammunition for weapons, it becomes super fun just causing mass destruction with your overpowered arsenal acquiring hundreds of Skillpoints during each encounter. Sadly, there’s nothing left to purchase at that point but it’s still fun.
Nowadays I’m never too impressed with scripted sequences in games, I guess because they’re so rampant. However, I will admit that several of the set pieces here are fun and exciting. Mainly because I didn’t feel like the game was holding my hand during these events. You get to ride on some train car thing while being chased by a massive grindwheel, getting attacked by enemies in cars, and even Gyrocopters will be shooting at you. One of the most memorable sequences in the game has you controlling a miniature robotic Mechaton with a remote. It can smash objects and fires lasers from its eyes because that’s awesome. There are some less exciting sequences like when you ride a raft while engaging enemies and hop onto a Gyrocopter to escape a giant monster but all of them have you at least doing something which usually rewards you with Skillpoints in one way or another. With all of that said, the story may not be that memorable but several set pieces are.
One of the things I love about Bulletstorm is the environments. And I’m not talking about level design because this is a straight up linear experience. No, I mean, the actual world or planet you’re on. I’m a sucker for tropical and sunny environments and Bulletstorm is chock full of beautiful vistas, waterfalls, palm trees, there’s even a desert and some caves. You traverse through a somewhat destroyed urban area at one point and there’s one sequence where you need to avoid the electrical storm outside. Send an enemy out there to see what happens. Speaking of enemies, I enjoyed the enemy variety in Bulletstorm. There’s two actual gangs you battle throughout the campaign, the Skulls and Creeps, and you don’t get a lot of backstory on these gangs but they are filled with crazy dudes ready to kill you on sight. The enemy AI isn’t exactly intelligent but because of the game’s arcade style, it doesn’t need to be. Enemies will run around and get behind cover but they do the normal stupid shit, too, like standing out in the open and running towards you, even under heavy fire. Some guys have melee weapons, others fire flares, some wield Boneduster shotguns, and some enemies fly aircraft known as Gyrocopters. Late in the game you encounter these mutated creatures known as Burnouts and you have to shoot their pus sores to kill them. None of the standard enemy types really pose a threat. It’s the miniboss enemies that you need to watch for. They usually wield chainguns, Bouncers, or Penetrators. Some are large mutant creatures that can be defeated by utilizing environmental hazards. They’re bullet sponges but can easily be taken down with the right combination of attacks or constant gunfire. Now I would say there’s only one real boss in the game and it’s some kind of mutated venus flytrap. You run or slide around it and shoot its weakpoints. There’s another encounter with an actual giant Mechaton but it’s a scripted sequence and not that challenging but if you want to call it a boss battle then okay.
In addition to the campaign is the Echoes game modes. There’s the standard Echoes mode and the Ultimate Echoes mode. The goal of Echoes is to acquire the best possible score and acquire up to three stars on each map. Most of the maps are just campaign segments but there are some maps that are exclusive to this mode. Before starting each map you can choose what weapons you want to equip and you do have limited ammo and charge shots. Accessing dropkits will automatically refill all of your ammo. You want to beat each map as fast as possible for a time bonus that applies to your Total Skillpoints but you’re graded based on other things as well like kills, skillshots, unique skillshots, highest scoring kill, and things like that. However, not every map is unlocked from the start. You can only play one map to start and unlock the rest by acquiring stars. Ultimate Echoes mixes things up. Once again the maps are locked behind stars but to unlock stars you must first complete a map’s challenges and after successfully completing the challenges, you can compete for stars and a leaderboard ranking on that map. That challenges can be tough requiring you kill enemies or do something in specific ways like completing the map within a time limit, only equipped with the Boneduster shotgun or maybe you must complete the map without using a weapon to directly kill an enemy. After you unlock the ability to compete on a map, once again the goals is to try for a high score and acquire stars to unlock more maps. However, this time you can earn bonus points for performing promoted skillshots. I personally prefer the standard Echoes mode just because it’s straightforward and I don’t like my gameplay limited but Ultimate Echoes is great at forcing you to learn new ways to kill enemies with limited equipment.
If there’s one downside to the game it’s the visuals. Not that they’re bad but they just don’t seem to be a big improvement over the original game. At least not from what I remember. The textures look pretty good, foliage is detailed, but there’s nothing that really stands out to me as eye popping, at least when comparing it to the original. However, it’s visuals do still hold up in many ways. Bulletstorm is a very vibrant, colorful, and visually appealing game. Explosions will send enemy body parts flying, some areas are littered with dead bodies and covered in blood, rocks, rubble, and metal structures are the results of destroyed parts of buildings, the leaves of palm trees sway in the breeze, and there’s just so many things about the details in combination with the beautiful and colorful environments that make this game very pleasing on the eyes. When it comes to the audio design, the music is okay, none of the tunes stand out and with the audio on the default volumes, I found that the sound effects would drown out the music. Your gunfire in particular sounds great, especially the Boneduster shotgun which just sounds beastly when fired. However, the gunfire for allies and enemies don’t sound nearly as powerful which is odd since they’re using the same weapons as you. From a technical standpoint, the game runs smooth overall. I noticed some brief frame rate dips in some spots and the game crashed on me once. I didn’t notice any bugs or game breaking glitches so I would say it’s a solid performer. I should mention that Bulletstorm is clearly designed with a controller in mind. For example, you’re forced to navigate the Skillshot database with a keyboard and even when equipping weapons. Now I’m not a PC master race person and I’m not one of those people that despises controllers and only use a keyboard and mouse setup. In general, they each have their ups and downs. I played with both control schemes and the controller was definitely more user friendly, at least when navigating in-game menus. Luckily, I had no issues with either during actual gameplay. I don’t remember if the original was like this but it feels like this was designed as a console game first and PC game second. This may matter to some people I guess but the game is still more than playable no matter which control scheme you choose.
Now I don’t know about you but I play games for fun, to be entertained, to have a good time. I’m a fan of action games, shooters, science fiction, dinosaurs, vulgar language, and, of course, Duke Nukem. Bulletstorm delivers on all of these. It’s got plenty of action, I would say it’s a science fiction shooter, it’s got dinosaurs or monsters, whatever they are, the characters swear a lot because why the fuck not, and it has Duke Nukem, because Gearbox likes to make money. But the most important thing of all is the gameplay and that, too, is fun. Bulletstorm is a fun game. I love the Skillshot system, I love how it encourages you to approach each situation differently, and the gunplay, itself, is satisfying. Utilizing your weapons, leash, kicks, and environmental hazards to decimate enemies is all part of the fun and, actually, without the Skillshot system, this would probably be a very generic shooter. The Skillshot system is the driving force behind the experience and thankfully it delivers. With the campaign, Overkill, Echoes mode, and even multiplayer which I didn’t try, there’s plenty of reasons to return to Bulletstorm. These are the kind of shooters I like. Simple to pick up play, there’s some depth to it, there’s not a huge focus on multiplayer, and it has a good amount of replay value.
So you may be wondering if you should buy the Full Clip Edition if you already own the original game. Maybe if it’s on sale. I double dip and even triple dip all the time, but even with the additions here, I still waited for a sale. They can’t fool me, this is not a Duke Nukem game, and the new Overkill mode, while fun, does not make it an immediate must-buy. Now if you never played this before then, yeah, I would say its worth the purchase. You got guns, giant dinosaur monsters, and you can acquire points for shooting a dude in the balls with a sniper rifle. Would I say this is the best shooter ever? No. But it’s a very good one. It reminds me of Wolfenstein 2009 in some ways because it just seems very underrated. It’s fun, it’s action packed, there’s plenty of replay value, and in my opinion, it contains some really gorgeous tropical environments. If you’re a fan of shooters or action games, definitely check this out.