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Hands-on: Bulletstorm's horde-like 'Anarchy' mode

8:00 AM on 12.08.2010 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
  @CTZ

Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 -- they're all enjoyable in their own ways. It wasn't until I played Bulletstorm though that I remembered how pure stupid fun FPS games used to be. You know, games like Doom, Quake, Unreal and it's ilk. Shooters of yesteryear held one thing above all else: What type of ridiculously overpowered stupid ass guns could be included to offer the most fun ever?

People Can Fly's Bulletstorm takes a page from the old school shooters but there's so much more as you're constantly rewarded for being a clever girl. There's so many ways to kill and the more creative you are with your depravity, the more points you'll earn for bigger and badder weapons.

Bulletstorm (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Previewed])
Developer: People Can Fly, Epic Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
To be released: February 22, 2011

First the bad news: Bulletstorm won't have a versus-style multiplayer of any kind. Instead, we'll be getting two other competitive modes: "Echos" and "Anarchy." "Echos" mode is the single-player experience without any of the story elements. Instead, you'll just be trying to rack up as many points as possible as you compete with your friends and on a global scale through the leaderboard system.

It's a shame there won't be a real versus mode, but it's not a deal breaker for me. Games like Pac-Man Championship Edition DX and Zuma Blitz have shown me that there's something more gratifying (and frustrating) when you're constantly reminded how you stand against your friends.

It would be silly of the house of Unreal and Gears to exclude multiplayer completely, which is where "Anarchy" mode comes into play. This is the game's equivalent to a "Horde" mode, where waves of increasingly harder enemies attack and up to four players can work together to not only survive, but to also get as many points required to reach the target score.

You can't play "Anarchy" like you would a standard "Horde" or "Firefight" match. Points matter and the only way you can get the amount of points needed is with teamwork. There are even moments when the game highlights a random enemy giving you a chance to score more with a team attack. For example, one player sends an enemy up into the air and the rest of the team shoots the guy to pieces. Failing to reach the target score will result in the team repeating the same wave until the score is reached. 

Points also go into building up a player's weaponry and skills. You start off with the default assault rifle and after every wave, you'll be able to use the points to purchase new guns, upgrades for weapons or increase attributes. This preview build of Bulletstorm only had a few guns to play with, including the hilarious Flail Gun and the quadruple-barrel shotgun. Each gun also offers an overcharged alt-fire that will evaporate an enemy in one shot. Note that with the exception of the main assault rifle, you'll need to purchase ammo for the other guns you've unlocked after a wave.

Along with the guns, players make use of an electric whip which causes enemies to go into slow motion as you reel the enemy in. You'll be able to shoot their defenseless body, perform a sliding kick or kick them away with your boot (boot attacks also send enemies into slow-mo) and send them flying off into a death such as a wall of spikes.

Only one whip upgrade was available during the preview, letting you launch enemies -- and everything that's not nailed to the ground -- into the air. Baddies, explosive barrels and whatever else that was caught in the special whip attack blast are all going in slow-motion making for a good skillshot opportunity.

Just one of ten maps (not a final number) was available to play on and the maps themselves will play a part in scoring big. Spiked walls, man-eating plants, short-circuiting power stations littered the map "Dead Rock" and at the center of it all was a gigantic electrical tornado. It all kind of reminds me of a theme park, except all of the attractions kill you. My favorite of the traps was a giant dinosaur-like skull which snap its mouth closed when enemies are kicked into it and results in the "NOM NOM NOM" skillshot.

Visually, the game looks great. The environment and characters are pretty detailed and killing a person is just so gory! I also love how the cheesy the phrases like "Deep Penetration" and "Shocker" are as they appear on the screen after you perform a skillshot.

If I have one minor complaint from what I've experienced so far, it's that I'm not a fan of the control layout when it comes to running. Gears players will be at home with the A or X button being the run button, but I'm totally used to running associated with the left stick. I feel like I'm losing precious seconds after I stop running, but then again, I'm only fighting the A.I. and there doesn't seem to be a real penalty for dying anyway. If you die, you'll remain on the ground until a partner literally kicks you back up.

It's obvious the market is saturated with serious first-person shooters. With the exception of the Serious Sam games and Duke Nukem Forever (finally), there just hasn't been a shooter that was this balls-to-the-wall insane. Bulletstorm is easily going to be one of my favorite, if not my number one, FPS of 2011.

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