Brave a planet full of mutants and gangsters in a mad dash for revenge.
PC Release: April 7, 2017
By Ian Coppock
When most gamers think of titles that deserve an immediate remaster, Bulletstorm is probably not at the top of that list. When it first hit shelves in 2011, Bulletstorm made waves with its crude humor (players can get bonus points for shooting an enemy in the testicles) and fast-paced gameplay, but was a flop for developer Epic Games. For PC gamers, having to go through Windows LIVE was a nightmare, and that DRM stuck around even after Windows LIVE folded, precluding additional sales. Despite these issues, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition has crotch-kicked its way onto store shelves and onto this page six years after the original version’s release, and just in time for this evening’s review.
As previously mentioned, Bulletstorm was originally developed by Epic Games and published by Electronic Arts, but was a commercial failure, leading a potential Bulletstorm franchise to be shelved indefinitely. The property was eventually snatched up by Polish studio People Can Fly, a frequent Epic Games collaborator, and remastered under the auspice of Gearbox instead of EA. Though EA and Epic Games didn’t think so, it’s possible that Gearbox sees franchise potential in Bulletstorm and is testing the waters with this remaster. Or they just want to bring back the joy of flinging a mutant onto a cactus. One of the two.
Anyway, Bulletstorm is a sci-fi first-person shooter starring Grayson Hunt, a former black ops agent-turned-alcoholic space pirate. Though he now spends his time drinking, looting spaceships, and drinking, Grayson and his crew used to be covert operatives in the employ of General Serrano. When Serrano casually admits that the purported terrorists Grayson’s been killing are actually innocent civilians, the entire team goes AWOL and spends a decade on the run. Bulletstorm opens as Grayson rams his ship into Serrano’s, causing both vessels to crash-land on a quarantined world called Stygia.
Grayson’s rash decision to shoot his ship through another ship kills everybody on his crew except Ishi, a sarcastic cyborg who regularly chastises Grayson for his drunk driving. The pair want to deal with Serrano but also need to find a way off-world immediately. Why? Well, it turns out that Stygia is crawling with gangs of marooned humans as well as hives of mutants. Neither party seems intent on helping Grayson on his mission for revenge, which suits the space pirate’s bloodlust just fine. With gun in hand and potty-mouth at the ready, Grayson sets off into the wilds of Stygia to exact revenge on General Serrano.
That exposition is about as complicated as this Bulletstorm‘s narrative gets. Aside from that premise and a plot twist that can be spotted from miles away, this game’s writing is an ocean of such memorable gags as “what the dick?!” and acquiring a pet robot dinosaur named Waggleton P. Tallylicker. That juvenile, crass humor is one of two elements that Bulletstorm sold itself on. The jokes are hit-and-miss, with some feeling forced but others provoking genuine belly laughs, like when Grayson is accused of being a sunbaked a**hole and responds by insisting that’s actually the name of Ishi’s cologne.
Even though some of Bulletstorm‘s jokes evoke that cringing feel of high school bathroom humor, the game never sold itself as a serious space odyssey. Bulletstorm succeeds in honestly presenting itself as a source of crass humor and sticks to that message from beginning to end. The humor also provides some levity against the hordes of blood-pissing mutants and the devastated post-apocalyptic landscape that players spend 6-8 hours shooting through. (As an aside, it’s easy to tell that Bulletstorm was originally made by Epic Games, because like the characters in Gears of War, they all have blimp-sized biceps and have to wear shoes that are size 20 both lengthwise and crosswise).
Despite itself, the writing does allow for a few moments of seriousness and even packs in some light character development. Grayson realizes what his quest for revenge has turned him into over the course of the game, which alters the balance of his relationship with the unimpressed Ishi. Eventually, Bulletstorm unmasks a very different, broken person behind all of the bathroom jokes, which is more eloquent than one expects of a game that encourages players to push bad guys into cacti. It doesn’t excuse a few eyebrow-raising moments though, like when Ishi suddenly becomes nice to Grayson, or the abundance of spelling and grammar errors in the subtitles. For Epic Games’ information, it’s spelled “smoothie”, not “smoothy.”
And speaking of pushing bad guys into cacti, it’s time to discuss the other element Bulletstorm sold itself on: violent and chaotic first-person shooting. For anything that can be said about Bulletstorm‘s approach to story, its arcade-style gameplay and moving at the speed of DOOM make it a lot of fun. In fact, one might say Bulletstorm recaptures the thrill of first-person shooting that Call of Duty and other mainline series have forgotten how to evoke. Coming from someone who never played the original Bulletstorm, the Full Clip Edition is one of the most fun FPS games released since last fall’s Shadow Warrior 2.
Bulletstorm does a lot more than provide tons of bad guys and guns to shoot them with (though it does those things quite well). The game’s main novelty is the energy leash, a bullwhip-like device that allows Grayson to grab objects and enemies and pull them toward him. Conversely, the leash can be used to send enemies flying into one of dozens of conveniently placed traps, including but not limited to: cacti, live electrical wires, air intake fans, vats of acid, giant flytrap plants, unexploded bombs, and precarious ledges. Grayson can also force enemies toward these things with a solid kick. In fact, why not use the leash to bring an enemy toward Grayson, step out of the way, and then kick that enemy into a nearby wind turbine? The possibilities are endless!
Between being able to fling enemies around like ragdolls and all of the guns lying around, Bulletstorm‘s gameplay has a lot of variety to offer. It’s a ton of fun to experiment with different killing methods, like pulling an enemy toward Grayson and then using the sniper rifle before aforementioned gravity-defying enemy careens too far away. Bulletstorm gives players points for creative kills, and since the only currency for ammo and upgrades is points, it pays to be an artiste on the battlefield. Bulletstorm provides equal versatility with its level design, shunting Grayson through a riot of different environments laden with various traps and obstacles.
Bulletstorm also does a great job of scratching that fast-moving arcade itch. The game stomps its foot on the gas pedal about five seconds after the title screen rolls and almost never lets up. Grayson’s in for a nonstop roller coaster of huge gun battles, falling buildings, and a marathon of explosions that put Michael Bay’s entire filmography to shame. Anyone who yearns for the days when shooters were a non-stop series of massive explosions and over-sized ordnance is in for a real treat with Bulletstorm. The only pause players will find in this game is hitting ESC for the menu.
Bulletstorm‘s gameplay stands the test of time, but it’s not a new product of the Full Clip Edition. All of this was available in the original 2011 release. With that in mind, what does the Full Clip Edition of Bulletstorm offer to shooter fans new and old? Well, for a start, the Full Clip Edition doesn’t require the now-defunct Windows LIVE system to operate, and for that, People Can Fly deserves an angelic choir at their front door. No Windows LIVE, no heavy-handed DRM that takes hours to circumvent… this edition of Bulletstorm is completely free of all that gobbledygook.
What about changes to the actual game? Bulletstorm‘s textures have been sharpened up quite a bit, but nothing else, including the characters’ stiff facial animations, seems to have been touched. The game runs well on PC sans occasional lag and has a decent options menu, but these things were true of the original Bulletstorm as well. The biggest changes the Full Clip Edition seems to make are support for modern resolutions and the addition of a new campaign mode, which can seem pretty paltry for a $50 price tag. It’s also quite glib that the Duke Nukem campaign mode Gearbox toted as a major feature of the remaster is a separate DLC and not, y’know, a major feature of the base game.
Jokes about a**-kickery and referring to mini-bosses as Mr. Butterdick Jones are all well and good, but Bulletstorm‘s main value proposition lies in its gameplay. Too often, first-person shooters these days get strung up on repetitive, underwhelming gameplay, and trying to cater to a watered-down audience with reduced viscera. Bulletstorm isn’t interested in pandering. It’s only interested in seeing how many mutants it takes to make a mutant-and-cactus sandwich. It possesses an uncommon amount of courage in telling the world exactly what it is and with pride. Perhaps it’s a good thing that People Can Fly didn’t do a whole lot to change the game other than make it accessible again, though that also makes the $50 price tag a bit high.
In the end, any player who likes moving through gorgeous environments at the Doomguy’s clip and spending hours bloodily murdering mutants while yelling “chunky style!” will want to get Bulletstorm. The main campaign has a lot of replay value packed into its admittedly short length, while the game’s burgeoning multiplayer community is coming back to life. Get the Full Clip Edition of Bulletstorm and experience a game that is unabashedly proud to own what it is, and in so doing, produces an experience more memorable than most of its bigger-name peers.
You can buy Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.