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April 19, 2011
Bulletstorm - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
25/2/2011EA GamesEA GamesEpic Games
People Can Fly
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Bulletstorm has a wide range of characters.
Gruff space pirates with a heart of gold are hardly a rare sight in the entertainment industry; from Han Solo to Captain Mal Reynolds (of Serenity/Firefly fame) the world loves their rascally yet lovable pirate hero. People Can Fly have opted to build on this science-fiction archetype with Grayson Hunt, the star of Bulletstorm, who struggles to go ten seconds without cracking-wise, and less than half of that without killing something. Bulletstorm is a wild, over-the-top first-person shooter, but is it worthy of your time and money? Read on…

Grayson Hunt was the leader of Dead Echo, one of the most elite military squads in the confederation of colonies, until he was betrayed by his boss, General Sarrano. Never known for his moderate temper, Gray takes the betrayal personally and commits what is left of Dead Echo to a life of space piracy as he seeks retribution against General Sarrano. We join the game when Dead Echo once again cross paths with General Serrano, with Saranno holding all the cards given he's currently cruising along in a state-of-the-art warship, while the Dead Echo lads are on a comparatively tiny Class-D Spectre (think Millennium Falcon vs an Imperial Battlecruiser). However if the general thinks that is going to stop Gray, he obviously doesn't know Gray very well. Needless to say Gray charges head-first into battle, with the upshot being that both ships crash land on the run-down resort planet Stygia, now inhabited by cannibal maniacs, mutated beasts and flesh-eating plant life. If they want to live, Gray and the remnants of Dead Echo are going to have to find the General and hijack his escape ship, killing anything that moves in between.

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Expect plenty of blood and gore.
In Bulletstorm you have an entire planet of hostiles to kill and no shortage of weapons to help with the task. It's worth noting that simply killing enemies isn't enough to ensure your survival, rather, as the back of the box states, you need to ‘kill with skill'. You do this by performing skill-shots that reward you with points and the points are then used to purchase ammunition as well as weapon upgrades. Needless to say if you don't perform enough skill-shots you're going to run low on ammo which is not going to end well. It's survival of the fittest down on planet Stygia, but on the plus side, many skill-shots are easy to pull off (like booting goons into cacti or electricity) and all of them are entertaining.

The controls in Bulletstorm will be familiar to anyone who has played a first-person shooter before; L1 targets, R1 shoots, triangle changes weapon, holding ‘x' makes Gray run, while holding L3 will make Gray crouch and duck for cover. Gray has a few unique moves up his sleeve too; circle kicks and double-tapping ‘x' sends him into a power slide that speeds you towards enemies. Both the kick and slide move send enemies flying, in slow motion no less, when they connect. These few moments of slow-mo provide the perfect platform for you to line up head/throat/groin skill-shots as well as giving you an extra moment to assess the battlefield. Early on in the game Gray comes across a leash weapon, which is like an electric whip, used to grab enemies and pull them towards you. Like the kick and slide moves, using the leash on an enemy slows down time. Understanding when to use the leash, the kick and the slide becomes an important part of your success not only in killing enemies, but in racking up skill-shots. Gray can also re-load when kicking and sliding, which gives those moves extra tactical advantages.

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Yes this is an in-game screen with HUD showing.
In terms of weapons Gray is spoiled for choice. There's the trusty Peacemaker Carbine (an assault rifle) which forms the backbone of his arsenal, along with the Screamer (a high powered revolver), the Boneduster (a nasty shot-gun), the flail-gun (which sends out two grenades attached by a chain which wraps itself around enemies), the Head Hunter sniper rifle (you get to steer the bullets to their target), the Bouncer (a bazooka which shoots bouncing bombs) and the Penetrator (which shoots self-motorised drill bits). If that wasn't enough you can also pick up miniguns around the place, which have unlimited ammo for the short time their battery lasts. All in all this is a killer arsenal that will see you blasting, exploding and drilling your enemies to bits in no time.

There are three game modes to play in Bulletstorm; campaign, Echoes and multi-player. Campaign mode plays out over seven acts, with each act taking around one hour to complete. Echoes mode takes some of the most action-packed moments from the campaign, strips away all dialog and tasks you with scoring the most points you can via a combination of skillshots and time bonuses. There are fourteen echoes to play through initially, plus another six once you activate your online pass (which comes with the game, or costs $16 online if you buy the game second-hand). Drop-shops that are used to purchase ammo and weapons in campaign mode will re-stock all of your weapons (for free) in Echoes, ensuring you're always well-supplied and ready to kick some mutant butt. Echoes are short, taking between three and eight minutes to complete. Your score for each of the Echoes is recorded and rated against all other online players giving you incentive to replay them and improve your standing. All of the Echoes are entertaining, though the six you gain access to via your online pass are definitely more action-packed. I've seen Echoes mode referred to as a multi-player mode, but really such a claim is tenuous at best seeing as the only multi-player aspect is comparing scores via the leaderboard which automatically shows you your friends' best scores.

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Weapons are big, and powerful, in Bulletstorm.
The other multi-player mode is Anarchy, where you and up to three friends have to defeat waves of enemies in the highest-scoring way possible. Each wave has a score target you must reach – do so and you get to play the next round, fail to reach it though and it's game over. Like the other modes you earn points for skillshots, which can now be done collaboratively. Team skillshots earn far more points than going solo so there is a definite premium on teamwork in Anarchy. Occasionally there are opportunities to earn big points by defeating an enemy in a particular way and this can be the key to your success or failure in any given round. Any enemy that will earn these big points is surrounded by a blue light, and the skill-shot objective will be displayed in the top-left corner of your screen. Between rounds you have the chance to use your points to re-stock weapons and purchase upgrades for the next round. As you play through Anarchy a meter builds up, and when it's full you can activate Blood Symphony. When Blood Symphony is active your leash and boot both earn major point bonuses, and enemies spray even more blood than normal when hit. In my time with the game the online experience was mixed. It commonly took a long time to find a game, and once the games got underway they were often laggy. On the other hand there were times when it all worked perfectly and ran smoothly, which suggests that the issue may have more to do with individual users' internet connections rather than the game itself.

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Kicking someone over the edge.
As much fun as I had with Bulletstorm, it does suffer from a couple of issues. Firstly the game is rather short, with the campaign taking around seven hours to complete. Other first-person shooters have seven-hour campaigns (I'm looking at you Modern Warfare 2), but usually they make up for this with extensive online modes. While Bulletstorm does have Echoes and Anarchy modes to play online, neither of them offer the kind of longevity you want given the short campaign mode. Furthermore the story becomes a lot less entertaining and enjoyable once General Sarrano appears in act five. While Grayson whips out coarse witticisms at will, he at least, has a moderate amount of charm. Sarrano on the other hand has no such charm to soften his rude, cruel and foul-mouthed comments. He is very obviously the villain and has few redeeming features, but this is taken to such an extreme that the story suffers. It is possible to turn off the ‘mature language' on the main menu, (though you can't do it from the options menu while playing) which is a nice addition to be sure, but the reality is that the banter between characters falls flat once Sarrano is in the picture, with or without the mature language.

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Bulletstorm looks, and runs, superbly on PS3.
Another issue I had is that your allies have a tendency to get in the way too often. They frequently steal the only piece of nearby cover, forcing you out into the open for extended, and often deadly, lengths of time. Aside from taking your valuable cover spots, they also block you from performing your slide move, which comes to a complete halt when you run into an ally. It's a pain, especially in cramped spaces.

For the most part Bulletstorm looks great, especially outdoors and when viewing objects from a distance. Up close you'll notice that the texturing isn't as defined as it could be, but for the most part you'll be moving too quickly to worry about that. Planet Stygia looks great, with vibrant greens for the plant-life and a lot going on at any given time. You'll come across waterfalls, beautiful views, and have buildings fall apart around you as you move. Skillshot effects look impressive too, with no shortage of gore (which can be turned off if you're squeamish) regardless of whether an enemy is shot, thrown onto a cactus or kicked into helicopter blades. Both the Kreeps and Skulls gangs look like they've been taken from Mad Max, with their leather outfits and crazy haircuts. The game does occasionally chug along, particularly in Echoes and Anarchy modes, when there is a lot happening on-screen, but it's nothing too significant.

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Another in-game Bulletstorm headshot.
In terms of audio, the sound effects are great; always beefy and frequently nasty-sounding. Enemies squish their way onto cacti and metal spikes, there is a solid thudding sound when Gray's boot meets their face, and they explode in a number of satisfying ways. There isn't a whole lot of music in the game but what's there works well enough. The voice-acting is good but not great, and although the script is probably more at fault than the actor, General Sarrano is a pain to listen to. One small annoyance occurred whenever a particular mini-boss appeared. This mini-boss can only be hurt by destroying his back-pack first, and from the front it's a tricky shot, but your teammates (who are frequently in perfect position to destroy the backpack, but inexplicably don't) will tell you to destroy the backpack seven or eight times in thirty seconds… It's a small thing, but it got annoying quickly.

Overall Bulletstorm is a game that places fun and reckless abandon above all else, particularly length. The pacing of the game is great, with new and improved enemies appearing often enough that the difficulty curve increases at just the right pace. The skillshots are a heck of a lot of fun to pull off, and even at the end of the game you'll still be unlocking new ones to try out. Aside from the last couple of acts when General Sarrano appears, I had nothing but fun in the time I played the game, but now that it's complete I'm not sure I'll spend much more time with it. In closing, if you're in the market for a game that is a lot of fun but a little on the short side Bulletstorm is well worth your time. On the other hand if you want a game that is going to keep you busy for months you're probably better off looking elsewhere. Overall Bulletstorm is a very good game that falls just short of being a must-have purchase in what is a crowded first-person shooter market.

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSExtremely colourful and particularly gory, Planet Stygia is an impressive-looking place. There is occasional slow-down when things get hectic, but overall it looks very good.
SOUNDThe sound effects are great, the music is suitable, and the voice-acting is solid but not outstanding. I'll be glad if I never hear General Sarrano’s voice again.
GAMEPLAYIf all-action shooting is your cup of tea then Bulletstorm is the game for you. The skillshots are as entertaining as their names are funny – plenty, that is.
VALUEThis is where Bulletstorm suffers due to a short (seven-hour) campaign mode and limited online modes. It is fun while it lasts though.
OVERALLBulletstorm is a wild, over-the-top shooter that is fun from the start almost all the way to the end. Alas the end comes a bit too quickly, and that drags the score down a bit.

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