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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Game Shelf: Bullestorm (PS3)

If you know me outside of this blog, you know that, when it comes to video games, I'm not a big fan of FPS (first-person shooter) games. It's not that I think the games are bad; aside from crap like Call of Duty and Battlefield (yes, I said it; screw you, I don't like them), I actually think a lot of FPS games are really cool, especially sci-fi story-driven ones. No, the reason I don't like most of these games is because, in all honesty, I really suck at them. I don't know what it is about these games, but I just suck, suck, suck when it comes to playing them. It's because of this that I was hesitant to pick up Bulletstorm, the subject was this review. However, after some pretty high praise from at least two Game Stop employees who happen to share similar game tastes to mine, I decided to pick it up.

I was not disappointed.

In Bulletstorm, you play the role of Grayson Hunt, the leader of a a secret black-ops team in the 26th century, going by the name "One Dead Echo". After realizing that they have been conned into most of the missions they've engaged in-many involving killing innocent civilians that were deemed terrorist threats-by their leader Sarrano, the team goes AWOL. Ten years later, the team's ship crashes with Sarrano's ship, the Ulysses, landing on the nearby vacation planet Stygia in the process. Hunt and one of his teammates, Ishi, survive the crash. Prior to the crash, Ishi suffers severe injuries and is able to survive after the rest of the team use bionics to rebuild him, more or less turning him into a cyborg. Hunt and Ishi-along with a another survivor named Trishka, who is looking for information on who killed her father-attempt battle their way off the planet, encountering various gangs of mercenaries as well as mutants, in hopes of simply surviving as well as finding Sarrano and stopping him before he releases a DNA bomb, which will kill every living thing on the planet.

While the game's story is mostly paper-thin, it's done this way on purpose. The game has an intentionally juvenile sense of humor-with profanities being peppered throughout a typical conversation in the game-and it's more or less a distraction from the real selling point of the game, that being the action. Bulletstorm's game play is ridiculous and over-the-top, which is exactly what it needs to be. The amount of guns you have access to is fairly limited (just over half a dozen), but the greatness behind the game isn't how many weapons there are; it's how you use them.

A typical skillshot set-up, this time using the flail gun.

The game features a function called "skillshots". There are literally hundreds of skillshots in the game, and taking these different shots earns you points, which you can trade in for upgrades to your weaponry as well as ammunition refills. The selling point behind the skillshot is to award you with more points based on how clever you get with your kills. The more rare or challenging the different kills are, the more points you earn. Many of these, you can actually unlock completely by accident. Although I didn't unlock all of them, I unlocked at least 50% on my playthrough, and most were completely by accident with me just basically throwing whatever I could think of against the wall and seeing what would happen. Needless to say, I unlocked quite a few and caused huge amounts of death and destruction in the process.

Although the weapons list is rather limited, Bulletstorm features one of the coolest weapons I've ever seen in a FPS: the energy leash. This is wrist-mounted leash that has an infinite power supply, and you can use it in order to whip enemies towards yourself. With this technique, you can bring them in closer to you (as well as temporarily disarming them in the process) in order to more easily blow them to bits or kick them into an environmental kill situation, of which there are plenty of opportunities. Not only that, but the energy leash can be used to move objects out of the way, create environmental kills, and refill your weapons at designated "dropkits".

I only have two real complaints with the game. The first one involves one of the weapon choices, that being the sniper rifle. Now, I pretty much hate sniper rifles in all FPS games, but the one used in Bulletstorm is especially frustrating. While it features a cool function that allows you to guide the bullet to your target, the fact is that the targets will move out of the way, and they will do it repeatedly. In some scenarios, it took me 10 sniper rounds just to off one enemy, where in most other FPS games, you can do it with one. Fortunately, the spots where using a sniper rifle is required are few and far between, but the few that they get used in really pissed me off. I couldn't wait to get away from them.

My second complaint is really minor, and that's the length of the game. The single-player campaign is terribly short, clocking in at around maybe 10 hours. Now, I don't need a Fallout 3-level game play time (which, depending on how you play that particular game, can last you over 100 hours), but I think another 5 or 10 hours could have easily been fit into it, especially when you consider how thin the story is.

One feature that might turn people off but I actually enjoyed is the fact that the 1-player game is very linear, meaning it's not an open-world/sandbox game. While I know some don't like this, I was perfectly happy with it. I'm not an FPS aficionado by any stretch, so when playing one of these games, I don't always need it to be open-world. Actually, in open-world FPS games, I tend to get very lost or turned around rather quickly, so it was nice to be able to go in only one direction for a change.

Overall, I really enjoyed Bulletstorm. If you're a hardcore FPS fan, you may be turned off by the linearity and lack of weaponry, but I still recommend giving it a shot if for no other reason than the great skillshot system. For more casual players like myself, I think you'll really enjoy it. The control scheme is very easy to learn and there are numerous skill levels you can play on. Even the easiest setting will give you a pretty good challenge, especially if you're like me and kind of suck at these types of games.

For pick-up and play shooting in a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, you'd be hard-pressed to find one better than Bulletstorm. I look forward to the potential sequel, which, judging by the ending (and the fact that the game was a critical and financial hit), seems inevitable.

I give it 4 out 5 stars.

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