In a self-created storm of hype, 'Epic Games' and Polish developer 'People Can Fly' introduce Bulletstorm, the first big shooter of 2011. With the tag line "kill with skill," we shall see if Bulletstorm's aim is dead on, or if this is just another causality of early year hype.

Right out of the gate Bulletstorm pulls no punches, showcasing that it wants to be put in a separate pile from the other big shooters like 'Call of Duty' and 'Halo.' In rebellion or simply to be an alternative to the more serious shooters, Bulletstorm provides an unique blend of narrative driven story telling along with over-the-top arcade based shooting. Thanks to the online media prior to its release, I expected Bulletstorm to be a “Serious Sam” rip-off with more action than brains... and in Bulletstorm's core, this might be true. However, Bulletstorm is more than a “lights-off” shooter. There is a method to its madness and even though it's not groundbreaking, the storytelling and gunplay are effectiveness woven into an enjoyable thrill ride.

In Bulletstorm you follow 'Grayson Hunt' and his Black Ops future soldiers labelled 'Dead Echo.' The story is set way in the future, the 26th century, and with too much set-up you are quickly shuffled into the action. Without spoiling too much, you will be fighting “the man” in a tale of revenge and redemption. Searching out the Confederation's commanding officer, 'General Sarrano,' Grayson (and friends) will have to over come several hurdles in this giant sized tale. The storytelling is effective, enhanced by elaborate set pieces and quick witted writing by comic book guru, Rick Remender. Surprising I found myself interested in the story, even if it was a little black-and-white. In its own way, Bulletstorm is refreshing and knows its role among drama, humour and action.

Although effective in it's pacing and storytelling, I found that Bulletstorm tries too hard to always have that big moment. The narrow escapes “are we still alive?” events really lose value when they are so frequent. In almost every act, Bulletstorm would try to trump itself, and even though they succeeded, it is a little much. Still, it is a ride after all, which is invigorating in its own right. Really, you half to admire the dynamic scale Epic and 'People Can Fly' pulled off in their “action thrill ride” adventure. Bulletstorm has some magnificent milestones to overcome filled with giant (and I mean giant) events. For example, see the picture below. It's the one with the giant wheel hurling towards your player, as you fight off enemies in an exciting escape sequence.


All this “big-ness” is put together in a solid, throwback styled shooter package. The niche feature, skill shots (tagged “kill with skill”.) A point reward system for shooting up your enemies in intelligently crafty way is a sophisticated way to add value to what would have been your average shooter. Shooting with skill is one of the driving factors in Bulletstorm, and thanks to its intuitive integration you will always find new ways to kill your enemies. While it's not so over-the-top that it's ridiculous like some other shooters of the past, 'Ride of the Triad' comes to mind, it is still adventurous for a modern shooter.

Even more unanticipated is they actually explain the logic behind the scoring system in the narrative. It's not the most plausible explanation, but it works with the confines of this extravagant world. The wolf in sheep clothing is one way to look at Bulletstorm. I was pleasantly surprised at the detail added to make this a cohesive, strong shooter.

Aside from the weapons (that are sadly unoriginal for a game of this nature,) you will be doing most of shooting in slow motion thanks to the auto-slow down that breaks down the action when use your leash (an electrical lasso of sort) or kick an enemy. This allows you to move around them to deliver a well aimed shot, or another kick, usually into an object of death (ie wall of spikes.) In another slight, yet notable disappointment, I wished I could have directed the enemies in any direction via the leash. The leash simply grabs a hold of an enemy and flings them towards you. Then you follow up by punting them in a direction, like I just stated. I believe it would have been much more fun if you could have leashed on to the enemy and flung them around by simply flicking the analog stick. No matter how much I played the game and instinctively tried this, it didn't work, and is a missed opportunity for more mayhem.

The controls in Bulletstorm are silky smooth, returning to the standards except for a nice double tap slide/run button that is usefully to quicken the pace, but is rarely needed (think 'Mirror's Edge.') Still, it's fun to slide and kick your adversary all around the map. One qualm with all the action is the lack of a jump button, which is fine, but oddly omitted. Jumping over objects happen with a single button press, which can cause some problems when you're in some of the bigger fights and want to jump over an object to find cover. With all the innovation Bulletstorm tries to bring, a jump kick, or more mobility would have been worthwhile. Oh well, there is always the sequel.

Aside from the single-player excursion, where you probably spend most of your time, you can check out the 'Echo' and 'Anarchy' modes. The 'Echo' mode is a leaderboard style competition based on excerpt from the single-player campaign. The more levels competed, the more will be unlocked in this mode. On the other side the 'Anarchy' is the online portion of Bulletstorm, and is a four player wave bashing event with goals that need to be achieved to progress. This takes teamwork, something that is hit and miss online. Still, if you get the right group it can be lots of fun. However it is unfortunately that Bulletstorm didn't expand on its online presence, because the core mechanics are so varied from the other online games, this one could have been a real “year long” hit.


Lastly, Bulletstorm is a thing of beauty that clearly gets some influence from two of Epic's franchises 'Gears of War' for its character and antagonist design set in a 'Unreal' from its visceral landscapes and ambition. However, Bulletstorm takes it to the extreme with huge backdrops, vibrant colours, and robust detail. Simply put, this game looks astounding and must be experienced in HD on a large screen to be truly appreciated. The sound in no slouch either with an impactful design in its effects, voice work, and thickly driven soundtrack. Really, this is what game making in 2011 is about, big, beautiful and impressive. Bulletstorm truly deserves the high production scores we granted the game, it's clearly one of years early best.

Bulletstorm wanted to be the new kid on the block, the one that isn't quite like everyone else, and in that regard it succeeds. Differentiating from your everyday shooter, Bulletstorm is more "action thrill-ride" with an emphasis on stylized killing, edgy dialog and extreme set pieces, a change of pace from the overly dramatized shooters that usually dominate the top of the charts. If you're of age (this one's obviously for the Mature) Bulletstorm will please shooter fans looking for a little less seriousness and a little more throwback fun. While the lack of online modes, short campaign and ultimately shallow combat holds it back from being a landmark shooter of this generation, it is still a welcomed addition and a breath of fresh air.

  • surprisingly, the story is actually interesting
  • arcade FPS with an interesting stylized kill mechanic
  • amazing visuals, large environments full of colour
  • something different from all those sick of the “war” shooters
  • if you're jiving, the echo mode can provide hours of fun
  • tries too hard to have big moments, dulling after a while
  • while the gunplay has variety, it still feels shallow
  • online features could have been deeper
  • wanted more control over the leash
  • no jump for you!
Quote: "Differentiating from your everyday shooter, Bulletstorm is more "action thrill-ride" with an emphasis on stylized killing, edgy dialog and extreme set pieces, a change of pace from the overly dramatized shooters that usually dominate the top of the charts. "
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 03.01.11

Similar Games: Serious Sam HD: The First Encounter (8.0) | Borderlands 2 (8.4) | Gears of War 2 (9.4)




Epic Games
People Can Fly


US Release
February 2011


PS3, X360

Players 1
Online MP 2-4
HD 720p-1080p
5.1 surround