Bulletstorm – Preview

Epic Games are renowned for two things: fantastic level design and bro-tastic, fist bumping, testosterone fuelled gameplay. People Can Fly are renowned for creating Painkiller, an FPS game with a spectacular flair, a cheeky grin and a body count in the thousands. Imagine what the two of them could do together. Right now, you’re imagining Bulletstorm.

A far cry from the po-faced, modern shooters we’ve been fed for the past three years, Bulletstorm is set on a distant planet, populated by terrifying plants, thuggish renegades and, as this is a game produced by Epic, giant phallic monster things.

Powered by the ubiquitous Unreal Engine 3, the game is a delight to behold, and a far cry from the browns and greys the videogame industry seems to have been drowning in for a while. From what little we played at the Eurogamer Expo last year, it seems that Bulletstorm is all about blue skies, green vegetation and red, red blood.

Unlike other FPS titles, Bulletstorm isn’t just about slaughtering everything that moves, it’s about slaughtering everything that moves in a super cool fashion. Extra points are awarded for chaining together attacks and disposing of your opponents in the most gruesome way possible.

The cooler and more unique your method of dispatching a foe, the more points you earn. You can spend these points on upgrading your character and your weapons, opening up new moves with which to turn living creatures into red smears on the masonry.

Arcade style leaderboards let you compete with your friends to see who can hone the art of killing with style, adding an extra incentive to your far from mindless blasting. This adds to the retro-tastic feel of the whole product – Bulletstorm is decidedly old school in its outlook, and that’s no bad thing. In fact, it’s oddly refreshing to know each kill is not only wiping the floor with an enemy, but a friend too.

You perform your gratuitous acts of murder with a variety of weapons, chief amongst them your whip and your size twelve space-face-stompers. Your whip allows you to grab enemies and fling them around like rag dolls, while your large boots are perfect for giving them a good old fashioned kick in the face once they get up close and personal.

The whip-boot combo is just one of many available to you. You can also create shock waves to blast enemies into the air, slide yourself towards them using your feet as an offensive weapon, and a whole raft of other options.

Of course, your arsenal also includes a huge number of guns as well, from pistols to carbines via machine guns and the ever popular space shotgun. Bulletstorm, as the title suggests, provides you with everything you need to dish out steaming spoonfuls of tabloid-baiting destruction.

Your weapons have alternate fire modes too, which create far more havoc and have to be refilled with skill kills once you’ve used them up. It’ll be interesting to see how these additions go down with a game playing public more used to standard machine guns.

Bulletstorm’s return to the core values of the FPS looks set to be a welcome one, banishing the drab real world for a fantastical setting, and placing the action front and centre. It harks back to Serious Sam, and obviously People Can Fly’s own Painkiller, and that’s no bad thing. Those games set far more store in carnage than realism or accurately represented military hardware, and were the richer for it.

This being a game that Epic are closely involved with, the main protagonist, Grayson Hunt, is a well built, well armoured chap with a gravelly voice and a fine line in post death quips. You’re also joined by a foul mouthed female and a cyborg sidekick, because gaming on your own is awfully lonely.

Whilst there’s a story about space pirates, betrayal and mutants to play through, the game also includes a variety of high score modes and challenges, as well as the sort of all encompassing multiplayer experience that we’ve come to expect from current-gen shooters.

In a nutshell then, Bulletstorm is all about perfecting the art of murdering things in as exuberant a way as possible. A mix of arcade-style high score chasing, gorgeous visuals and ridiculous weapons, it’s a title that demands attention, whether you like it or not.

Of course, the game is going to be up against a fair bit of competition in the coming months. With the likes of Crysis 2, Brink and Homefront on the way, the FPS genre is looking more crowded than it has for a good long while. The question is, will Bulletstorm’s over the top action, high score tables and tongue in cheek sense of humour be enough to set it apart from the crowd? Only time will tell, but the signs are already looking good.

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