Game Review: Bulletstorm

Amongst other things, I also try and find the time to play games.  Often a little slowly, but hopefully thoroughly, and I can share the thoughts of my labours with you all. So, Bulletstorm, a review.

You know what moment sums up Bulletstorm? Well there is a level set in an abandoned amusement arcade, where the loading scenes show you facing off with a Giant Godzilla monster in a model city. And sure enough, there is a model city, and you get chased by a Giant Robot Godzilla monster. But here’s thing – at a certain point the game pokes you, and says “hey, this is being remote controlled by this guy, and you kill this guy and grab the remote control. And then spend the next section of the game wielding the remote as your pet Giant Godzilla Monster rampages around, shooting lasers from its eyes, and generally causing Giant Godzilla Monster Mayhem.

This is a pretty smart game playing pretty dumb.

Rarrrrr. Giant Dinosaur make reviewer happy.

I won’t bore you with the details of the games’ plot, because really, the game doesn’t seem to want to either. Theres you, and your mate, and you’re stuck on this planet that used to be nice but now isn’t and is infested with mutants, and you’re trying to kill some guy you hate and get off world and really thats about it. Really Bulletstorm is rooted in it’s mechanics and giving you novel playgrounds to mess about with those mechanics, and thats where the dumb-smart thing really comes in.

The main mechanic of Bulletstorm is points-for-kills. You shoot, throw, punch, shoot, explode, etc, and the more inventive the kill, the more points you get. Points mean weapon upgrades, ammunition resupplies and so on. I think it’s important at this juncture though, before this sounds too shocking, to talk about tone.

First-person shooter gaming, whether you like it or not, is pretty much all about killing. A lot of games give you disposable enemies – aliens and zombies are pretty popular, nazis too, and where these are not available faceless fascistic goons, or evil(tm) mercenaries of questionable ethnicity are presented for your gaming pleasure. Try not to think about it too much, these games say. And i’m fine with that – after all the game isn’t about killing these things, it’s about saving the world, or disarming the bomb, or escaping the city.

But Bulletstorm seems to recognise that actually, shooting things is the point of FPS games and puts that right at the heart of gameplay. The game is all about getting those bonus point generating kills, throwing hapless mutants into spikey plants, or off cliffs, or making them blow each other up. The game encourages inventive slaughter, making them only a threat in large groups, giving you chances to fool around with your death dealing. You get a weapon called a “leash” which lets you drag your victims around and into obstables, and you can “kick” with your mighty boot enemies into the air to be casually dispatched. All of which earns you points and acheivments.

Just writing it out this dryly makes me think that anyone enjoying this game must by totally psychotic. But I really enjoy it. Oooops.

This is me not being a psychopath. Honest.

Having pondered it, I think the game is pretty much a “gamers” game. As I already mentioned, you play a few FPS games and enemies are pretty much just person-shaped destructible scenery and Bulletstorm really doesn’t pretend otherwise. They don’t have character, they don’t have motivation, you certainly couldn’t mistake them for anything approaching realism, but the familiarity with gaming conventions is what makes that possible. Its curiously metatextual, deep down, underneath the Giant Robot Godzillas and drunken smack-talking protagonists.

So, I guess the bottom line is that Bulletstorm is a riotously fun game, taken on it’s own terms. It’s very crafted, slick and very well designed, with a lot of variety in it’s looks and the sort of crazy stuff it makes you get up to. It also goes to great pains to disguise this under a sheen of destructive amoral mayhem, that describing to your non-gamer freinds will make them look at you like they need to keep you away from the sharp cutlery…

More from the world of Geek Syndicate

%d bloggers like this: