Attack of the Fanboy

Bulletstorm Review

by William Schwartz

Bulletstorm’s array of distinct skill shots produces unprecedented levels of frantic gameplay. The skill shot system rewards players for laying waste to enemies in the most imaginative way possible. The more insane the skill shot, the more points players collect to upgrade and unlock weapons, which in turn allows them to execute even more inventive moves and exaggerated skill shots.

If you’re like me, you visit plenty of gaming sites on the internet.  Getting different perspectives, reading reviews, and other articles, opinion pieces, and rants.  First person shooters have become wildly popular over the past few years.  The Call of Duty franchise and its huge commercial successes have pushed many developers to strive for games that are derivative of that series.  Leaving the looming complaint that the genre has been bogged down with boring clones that show little to no innovation.  In all honesty it’s understandable.  With millions of dollars on the line when games are developed, often times the safest approach is the one taken.  Now, after putting Bulletstorm through its paces, I am firmly convinced that this game is the most innovative First Person Shooter on the market, and quite possibly the most fun first person shooter I have ever played.

We have all been there.  Six levels deep in a game that has gotten so repetitive that we’re ready gouge our own eyeballs out.  Bulletstorm is not that game.  As you may have heard, there is a twist to this first person shooter. It’s a route that hasn’t been taken before.  Well, at least a route that hasn’t been realized as well as it is in Bulletstorm.  Basically, it’s the incorporation of a couple of gameplay mechanics and the ability to paint a picture of carnage in any number of colors over and over again.  By this I mean options.  Weapons options, Environmental Aids, A “Leash” to grab enemies from cover, and power-ups that offer even more variety to the mix, are all used in a number of different manners as you see fit throughout the game.

Even a hardened FPS vet will start out Bulletstorm much like any other shooter.  Aiming down your sites, popping off a few heads, it’s not much different huh?  That is, until you have your first whoa crap moment.  It will come early in the game,  by mistake you’ll trigger a huge kill and rack up a bunch of points.  Curiously you’ll start browsing the combos menus and attempt a few. Then you’re completely sucked in. The whole game is built around this mechanic of using new and creative ways to kill your enemies.  For this you will earn points, points will be used to buy weapons, ammo, and power-ups, so that you can you do more spectacular kills, it’s a vicious cycle of good times. The gameplay is executed extremely well in Bulletstorm.  So well, that the story becomes almost secondary to scouring your environment for new and innovative ways to dispatch your enemies.  The problem with a lot of games like this, which incorporate many special moves is they don’t do a very good job of forcing the gamer to use them.  Bulletstorm however, does.

Far and away, it’s the star of the show here.  The gameplay, fun factor, and replay value are huge in this game.

It’s very rare that a FPS have a campaign mode that is worth it’s weight.  For the reason I explained above, most are these repetitive shooting gallery type experiences that are peppered with on rails sequences and a few big set pieces that may or may not be impressive.  Make no misconception about what Bulletstorm is, it is a highly charged, over the top experience. This comes complete with a bunch of cursing, a wholly unbelievable story line, and as much machismo as Gears of War if that is even humanly possible.  There’s a great balance of things throughout the campaign.  There are your on rails sequences, your core gameplay of scoring points through skill shots, and others.  Alongside the skill shot stuff, this “other” comes into play in a big way.

For example, we’ve all at one point or another been tasked with operating a turret gun, on a vehicle, shooting enemies.  It’s one of those sequences that finds it’s way into just about every first person shooter.  Does it get old?  That’s up for debate.  But Bulletstorm really threw in some cool pieces to spice up the gameplay.  For example early into the game you get a 50 ft tall Robotic dinosaur type thing that shoots laser beams out of it’s face, you control it to dispatch your enemies and it’s just fun.  It’s the same principle really, it’s a power thing.  The power that you get from mowing down your enemies with a turret is the draw.  The power that you get from mauling and annihilating your enemies with a remote control dinosaur, not only gives you that same feeling, but it’s just creative.  This is just one example of the many truly unique experiences that are littered throughout the campaign.

What I also found with Bulletstorm is the shooting mechanics are spot on.  There are going to be many times when you are just in a straight up fire fight. Using your standard rifle to pick off enemies as you would in any other game,  Bulletstorm does surprisingly well at this.  You almost expect that it has to, when you take into consideration some of the intricacies and accuracy required for some of the skill shots.

It’s not the norm for a first person shooter to ship without a competitive multiplayer component.  Then again, this isn’t the same old first person shooter that we’re accustomed to.  What Bulletstorm does come packed with are a couple of gameplay modes alongside the awesome campaign.  The echoes mode, will have you backtracking through campaign levels with the sole intention of racking up points and competing for leaderboard spots and bragging rights.  If you played the demo, this is what was offered.  In the full game there are quite a few echoes however.  Now the multiplayer, is Bulletstorm’s take on the Horde mode that Epic made popular years back.  You will be teaming up three other players where you will be trying to rack up a certain amount of points to progress through increasingly harder waves of enemies.  This mode is much deeper than it appears at first glance.  There are some pretty cool moves that require a good amount of teamwork to pull off.  Juggling enemies back and forth, volleying them into the environmental hazards, and these also increase in difficulty as you progress through the waves.  The thing is, you can’t progress if you are just shooting these enemies.  You have to get creative to make the required number of points to progress to the next wave.  It’s a different multiplayer experience.  But fun nonetheless.

Bulletstorm is good looking game.  There are many times when the game opens up into these huge sprawling vistas with beautiful views and lots of color.  It does equally well, the dirty looks of an underground passage.  Frankly, it does alot of things really well in the visual department.  But there are some times when it doesn’t.  This could easily be attributable to the fact that the game I was playing before this was Killzone 3.  So, with two games coming out at exactly the same time.  One widely renown for it’s graphics and the other I would say will go down as known for it’s gameplay.  It’s hard not to be a little underwhelmed by the graphics.  That’s not to say they are bad.  But if there is a measuring stick, I can’t say that Bulletstorm hits the marks in all areas like some other First Person Shooters, now I can’t wait to see what this looks like on the PC.

I think in the end it came down to a bit of inconsistency in the graphics.  Some things looked really really good, and others half assed.

Of some of the minor issues that I didn’t like about Bulletstorm the ones that come to mind most prominently are that of the AI.  The ally AI is horrendous.  Your teammates won’t always do the best to watch you back.  At times they will take down an enemy with a single shot, but it always seems to be at a time when you really didn’t need it.  When the shit hits the fan and your knee deep in lunatics hacking you to death with machetes, your teammate will stand there unaware of your impending demise.

And until getting used to the controls, you will likely find yourself sliding instead of vaulting.  The A/X button is used for both.  A/X will vault over an object, but if you are trying to do it in a hurry you may hit it twice, which will initiate a slide.  It takes a bit of getting used to, and it requires some self control.  I didn’t start getting it until about halfway through the game.

And last, I have had the ally AI completely fall off the track, not to be seen until the next level began.  It was an odd level when we hit an elevator sequence without one of the party members and instead of populating back into the screen, I just didn’t see them until the next level began.

The cover system or lack thereof is strange.  The game constantly prompts you to get to cover, which is not an exact science.  In my opinion, there should have definitely been some sort of wall hugging mechanic.  The enemies do it.  They are constantly ducking in and out of cover, and eventhough you can leash them and pull them out of it, there are some sequences when it would have been nice to be able to latch on to, and peek out of cover during some firefights.  This is especially true towards the end of the game when the difficulty gets taken up a notch.

I just find it kind of strange that Epic wouldn’t suggest some sort of cover mechanic knowing how popular it made the Gears franchise.

Bulletstorm is an awesome game. I dare say it’s a great game, I think it’s one people will look back on as an example when trying to innovate in the genre going forward.  It’s comparable to what Project Gotham and the Kudos system did to racing games ten years ago.  Actually after playing this game for review, I was expecting something completely different as a total package. What I got was a much deeper game than I expected, a game that didn’t take itself as seriously as it’s marketing suggests,  and one that is ultimately fun above all else.



  • Available On: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
  • Published By: Epic Games
  • Developed By: People Can Fly
  • Genre: Shooter
  • US Release Date: February 2011
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "Bulletstorm is an awesome game. I dare say it’s a great game, I think it’s one people will look back on as an example when trying to innovate in the genre going forward."
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