(***NOTE: This post was originally written on my other blog at the SA Current website on February 25th, 2011. It is under the name “People’s Gamer”. I am reposting here for my personal blog to maintain all of my work for personal use. In any case, hope you like it.)
At 11:45 pm Monday Night, at a nearby GameStop at 410 and San Pedro, I was struck with a personal dilemma. I had reserved Killzone 3 and Bulletstorm with the intention of playing both games, but I was surprised when I failed to notice that both were debuting at the same time. With only enough cash to purchase one, I kept wavering between the two. On the one hand, I knew Killzone 3 do be a dedicated FPS game with stunning graphics, impressive AI difficulty and an already-storied plot. On the other, the impressive marketing campaign done by People Can Fly studios certainly caught my intrigue and played up a fascinating new FPS game cornered on coming up with creative ways to dismember your opponents. With time growing short, I knew I had to make a decision. Ultimately, after doing some high level calculus and biochemistry to scientifically weigh each game against one another, one detail emerged from Bulletstorm that sealed the deal—the name of the protagonist is Grayson.
Hold on a second…You guys are using my name? In a video game?!
Call me self-centered, but considering the plethora of games that use common names (or worse, let you choose whatever name you prefer), seeing your own name as the main character isn’t a common experience for me. I agree it was a bit of a risk to purchase a game based on such an insignificant detail, but this time it payed off rather well. As a whole, Bulletstorm turned out to be a creative, albeit shallow action shooter with a special zest of charm that makes the whole experience far more entertaining, yet never completely satisfying.
The game introduces us to Grayson Hunt years after he and his deadly colleagues went AWOL after finding out their commander, General Sarrano, had been contracting them to kill innocent people. After looking for answers at the bottom of countless bottles, a drunken Hunt decides to take on Sarrano himself by careening his ship into him. Ill-planned and even worse executed, Grayson and Sarrano crash land on nearby planet Stygia with only one chance of escape. Accompanied by a newly “modified” shipmate Ishi, the two crewmates set off across the gorgeous landscape to pursue Sarrano and escape the planet.
If all of Bulletstorm could be described in a single word, it would undoubtedly be ridiculous. From plot, to dialogue, to combat and to environment, the developers at People Can Fly set off to crank every facet of their shooter to eleven. While some of the concepts benefit from this amped level of pinash, several other features fail to shine and actually suffer from such graphic entertainment. Grayson’s (that never gets easier to write) constant barrage of cliché kill phrases and attempts of cruel humor are smirk-worthy at first, but quickly overstay their welcome and just become annoying. I understand Hunt’s perspective is loose and uncaring when it comes to near-death situations, but I do not need to be reminded every 5 minutes.
The graphics, however, take center stage in this title, as the clashing environments on Stygia are breathtaking and quite florid in design. Lush, tropical jungles and cliff sides clash well with machinery and urban sprawl to create a varied adventure between the two. Grayson and Ishi get to see both nature and mechanical in various stages throughout the game, and one can easily see the high level of scrutiny put into each chapter by the designers. Moreover, the combat mechanics also turn out to be a fresh, though slightly sadistic, look in an otherwise bland array of FPS games. With each new weapon Grayson acquires, there is a list of “skillshots” that the player can attempt to pull off for more experience points. These points are then turned in for ammo and various upgrades. The skillshots vary wildly in terms of difficulty and creativity, with some occurring dozens of times and others you’ll be lucky to trigger even on accident. It is a simple, yet shrewd mechanic that behooves the player to try out every weapon for a decent amount of time, instead of making quick judgment calls on otherwise bland weapons. I quickly identified which weapons would become favorites (as they are blatantly overpowered), but the joy of discovering the dozens of different skillshots kept me switching weapons at each checkpoint.
Unfortunately, the last third or so of the campaign suffers in terms of pace and relative enjoyment. Having acquired all of the weapons and accomplished most of the skillshots, I started to feel the drag and lost the entertainment of shredding bad guys in different ways. By the end, I was playing the game to simply beat it instead of enjoying it. Even more frustrating is the game’s ending, which stands out as one of the most blatant and infuriating attempts to set up a sequel I have seen in quite a while. Although the game provides a wildly unique FPS experience, I highly doubt most people would want to see a second game be developed, other than People Can Fly of course.
When it’s all said and done, Bulletstorm is definitely worthy of playing all the way through. The enjoyment of performing all the many different skillshots does provide enough entertainment value to get you through the story, and some of the game’s action set pieces are equally entertaining. The excessive profanity loses its flair very quickly, and sometimes is just down right annoying, but it is not a deal-breaker by any sense. I am sure most gamers would agree that Killzone 3 probably wins the overall battle in the FPS wars for now, but I am happy I chose Bulletstorm instead, as it is much harder—and more rewarding—to experience something fresh and new in the midst of established franchises and storied science-fiction plots.
See you in the Next level,