Monday, 7 March 2011

Game Review - Bulletstorm

Formats: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Every so often a game is released that blurs the line between video games and art, that brings people together in appreciation of subtle beauty no matter what the medium. Bulletstorm is not that game. In fact it is almost the polar opposite of that, a game which rends friends and critics asunder with its foul-mouthed and violent agenda. But did that stop Duke Nukem from being a great video game classic?

Set on the abandoned resort-world of Stygia, Bulletstorm follows the misanthropic misadventures of Grayson Hunt, a grizzled smack-talking space pirate (think 'Escape from NY' Kurt Russel, but in space). Accompanying him on his quest are Ishi Sako, a former team-mate turned robot killing machine and Trishka, a tough trash-talking military assassin. As you can already tell, Bulletstorm's story doesn't exactly play out like a Shakespearian play. The characters are established, betrayed, separated and redeemed with formulaic timing, with each one seemingly playing the tough-guy. Happily, the storyline isn't Bulletstorm's strong point.

The much-publicised 'Skillshot' system is the main focus of the game, and the developers at People Can Fly and Epic went to great lengths to create a gameplay mechanic that was both fun and organic. Using a combination of different weapons, skills and environmental hazards, the player is tasked not only with defeating the hordes of space-bandits and mutants that seek your destruction, but to dispatch them in the most creative and convoluted way possible. Why get a headshot when you could shoot your foe in the balls, wrap a grenade around his head and kick him into a crowd of his friends? The pursuit of new and more difficult skillshots proves to be the main drive of the experience, superseding any storyline or character progression. The different weapons on offer are for the most part unique and the Skillshot system is a innovative and satisfying mechanic, turning what could have been another by-the-numbers shooter into a genuinely fun game.

Serving as a backdrop to the quest for bigger and badder skillshots, the game's beautiful environments, in-game dialogue and set-pieces work well with each other to create a overall tone for the game, that being: Over the Top. The incredible vistas, hugely exciting dramatic moments and grossly inappropriate dick-jokes make for a game which leaves the player little time to be bored. Towards the end however, the set-pieces happen with less regularity, the vistas are replaced by repeated scenes of collapsing buildings and even the dick-jokes begin to dry up. All in all, Bulletstorm starts off stronger than it finishes, and I found myself less interested with the game once I had unlocked most of the skillshots.

While some may complain about its predictable story and cheesy characters, I feel that Bulletstorm could've been better with even less story and character progression. If Grayson Hunt had been a foul-mouthed and lovable rogue from start to finish, rather than suddenly growing a conscience halfway through, the story may have made more sense to me. Maybe I'm just a cynic.

Bullletstorm is, without a shadow of a doubt, a fun game. Although it has its shortcomings (the shakey story, limited co-operative multiplayer and weaker conclusion) and feels a little unfinished (check out the ropey lip synch during the cutscenes), Epic Games and People Can Fly have created something unique and special.

Lukao gives Bulletstorm 7 ducks out of 10. That's right, ducks. Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
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