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Bulletstorm is the 'Burnout of shooters'

8:00 AM on 05.13.2010 // Hamza CTZ Aziz

First-person shooters are saturating the market. As a fan of the genre, I take no issue with that fact. Every new FPS tries to be more s erious and epic than the last, as they all vie to be the next Hollywood-like blockbuster. But whatever happened to FPS games that were just about having stupid fun?

That's what People Can Fly's Bulletstorm wants to bring back. "Bulletstorm puts the fun back into the first-person shooter," said Cliff Bleszinski at a recent press event showing off the game. "Not that other FPS games aren’t fun. What I mean by this is that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has all sorts of explosive carnage and mayhem, but does it with a little bit of a wink, a smile and a nod, and its kind of pulpy roots."

Cliff best describes the game by calling it the "Burnout of shooters with a little bit of Duke Nukem and a little bit of Firefly/Serenity." Read on after the break to see just what Cliff means.

Bulletstorm (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Developer: People Can Fly
Publisher: EA Partners
To be released: 2011

People Can Fly is working with acclaimed comic book writer Rick Remender to deliver the story of Bulletstorm, which follows Grayson Hunt, former leader of the elite mercenary squad Dead Echo. Dead Echo was involved with peacekeeping missions for the Confederation of the Galaxy, until the day Grayson found out that the Confederation was manipulating them for their own greedy purposes. Grayson is forced to make the decision that exiles Dead Echo to the depths of space in order to save their lives. 

Years later, Grayson and his group are meandering as space pirates, plundering and pillaging anything they see. One day, while traveling space, Grayson and his team come across the most prized ship in the Confederation's fleet, the Ulysses. This ship represents everything Grayson hates about the Confederation, and he does what any logical space pirate would -- he attacks it. Keep in mind that Grayson's ship is like a Millennium Falcon compared to the Ulysses' Death Star-like presence.

The ensuing firefight damages both ships, and they get pulled into the gravity of the nearby planet Stigia, where a majority of the game takes place. Once a tourist paradise, Stigia was created for the sole purpose of pleasure before a disaster left the planet inhospitable, filled with feral and mutated life. Trapped, Grayson needs to find a way to save his friends, get off the planet and exact some revenge along the way.

After telling us the premise, Tanya Jessen, producer on Bulletstorm, jumped into the game. We watch Grayson's cybernetic squadmate getting devoured by a gigantic plant monster. He's still alive, though, and is able to give off a tracking signal that the player needs to follow.

Shortly thereafter, Grayson comes across some enemies, and this is where we get to see how Bulletstorm is really separating itself from the rest of the pack. Think in terms of a fighting game's combo system. A headshot is like a Hadoken, whereas making a guy fall to his knees after shooting him in the crotch and then kicking him in the face is like an Ultra. Your enemy is dead either way, but you get more points the more involved the "Skill Shot" is.

Epic is taking the scoring system they originated with the Unreal series (double kill, killing spree, etc) to the next level: these points will go into upgrading your main character and weapons. Tanya sums it up best by describing the "Skill Shot" system as "you do cool shit, you get cool shit, so you can do even more cool shit."

Grayson's main weapon is the Peace Maker Carbine assault rifle. After earning some "Skill Shot" points, Tanya upgraded the PMC with the "Charge Shot," an alternate fire option that unleashes 100 compressed bullets all at once. "A storm of bullets," as Tanya so cheesily put it. Another gun we saw was the Flail Gun, which shoots out two grenades tied together by a chain. The weapon wraps around enemies, immobilizing them, and it explodes after a few seconds. The grenades double as a remotely triggered proximity mine, since they can stick to any surface.

On top of the guns, Grayson has his mighty boot for melee combat. Kicked enemies move in slow motion (indicated by a blue light around their body), while everything else in the game continues at normal speed. Grayson can also perform a Mega Man-style slide kick as a means of attack, or for faster travel.

Cliff stated during the preview event that Bulletstorm will have the "most unique weapons you've seen in a first-person shooter to date," and Grayson's energy leash is a prime example of that. The whip-like weapon is able pull enemies and intractable objects towards Grayson. The leash is also upgradeable; one addition was the Thumper move, which sees Grayson slamming the ground with the leash, launching enemies into the air and putting all those affected into bullet time.

On top of the human enemies, you'll have to deal with the mutated plant life all around the planet. There were a number of giant Venus Flytrap-like creatures that would grab anything that moved near them with their frog-like tongue. There were also giant cacti littering the level; enemies can be kicked into them.

Tanya ended the demo by going up against the plant that devoured Grayson's buddy. What we saw of the plant at the beginning was just a small part of the gigantic monster. The ensuing boss battle against the Tyrannosaurus-like plant went off in phases as Grayson shot at various weak points all over the creature. 

What we got to see of Bulletstorm was just a small taste of things to come. The environment and level design was just simply gorgeous. There were so many bright and vibrant colors throughout the level, which is especially noteworthy, since Epic/the Unreal Engine is usually known for browntown.

Epic wasn't talking about the multiplayer or the possibility of a co-op mode, but E3 is right around the corner, so we should be hearing more about Bulletstorm then. There was also no UI/HUD on display during the demo, but Cliff said there will be something in place that will be similar to Dead Space's HUD system in order to give a more immersive experience.

There are plenty of first-person shooters on the market, but Bulletstorm looks to offer the one thing that's been neglected: pure psychotic fun. The game wants to be a celebration of your inner sadist, and so far Bulletstorm looks to be on the right track.  

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