Blog 438: Bulletstorm

I was the first person to buy this game on PC from Game on Sauchiehall Street. Since it was nigh-on closing time on a Friday night, I found this somewhat unexpected.

It’s also a limited edition, which apparently gives me some palette-swaps in multiplayer. What’s the point in a limited edition if there isn’t even a standard edition on sale? I didn’t really have a choice.

Since this game is all about combo-killing and points-whoring (something I have gleefully shoehorned into all my Warcraft maps since the RDZArena), I decided to go for it.

This blog has no screenshots because a) Bulletstorm is a dirty console port with no screenshot button and b) I always forgot to take them with print-screen because I was too busy having a blast.

Games For Windows Live

The Windows Live gaming system was a terrible mess when I first brushed with it trying to patch Fallout 3 years ago, and it looks like it hasn’t changed. Fine, I need a Windows Live ID to sign in — but you just asked me to close the game to install an update, but I can’t get to the main menu to hit exit without signing in.

Several control-alt-delete shutdowns of the game later, it finally let me get to the damn main menu.

The advantage here (after all that kerfuffle) is that I can play offline when I’m offline and still use my Windows Live ID — look at that, StarCraft  II you motherfucking cunt-bag of arse biscuits from shit town — and it’ll synch my achievements up next time I sign on. Fancy that!

The Intertubes seem to hate GFWL, but it seems to actually be pretty cool once it starts working. A neat little flip-down interface with all my achievement magic, though there is a strange graphical anomaly where its brightness changes up and down as the mouse moves. And maybe the menu layout is a little awkward in places.

My gamer tag is Rao Dao Zao, in case you want to hook up for some skillshottery of an evening. There are co-op achievements to grind!

Life Is a Rollercoaster, Just Gotta Ride It

The game is a collossal rollercoaster ride, from start to finish. Every level throws another giant, insane pile of batshit at you — being chased along on a train by a giant wheel, using a theme park robot to blow everything up… And every chapter seems to end with everyone surviving some stupidly massive catastrophe. It’s gloriously, beautifully, daftly over-the-top.

I also think it’s what Borderlands could have been. There are a lot of axe-wielding maniacs floating around, and kicking them into a cactus (and getting bonus points for it) is a lot more fun than shooting them with an acidic uzi an infinite number of times until they are dead. The skillshot system adds so many options; of course you can just shoot things, but that way (like playing Deus Ex as a straight shooter) you’re kind of missing the point.

It is also full of wonderfully filthy language. Everywhere. All day every day. Every giant set-piece is accompanied by either you or your team-mates saying something brilliantly foul. So if you notice my language taking a turn for the worse, you can blame video games.

The Need For Speed

Most of the game is spent running. Things collapse everywhere — caves, ruined buildings — no matter where you are, you’re never far from a giant explosion or two that’ll tear everything down around your ears. And then combat proceeds at break-neck speeds (literally, for the bad guys, hurr hurr).

Which is sometimes a shame, because you don’t get much time to admire the sprawling scenery that surrounds you. It’s a very tropical, jungly world, a ruined and over-grown holiday resort gone wrong. Very pretty. Almost… Unreal.

And the game does remind me of Unreal quite a bit. It’s got the same grand scale (albeit with far more detail), then the skillshot stuff is a very natural progression of Unreal Tournament‘s sprees and combos (though, funnily enough, while there are some skillshots that multiply by the number of enemies immediately affected, there aren’t any bonus points for dropping a lot of enemies in quick succession).

While the singleplayer game is rather short, it’s not so much of an issue here because, unlike most other games, there really is no down time. Everything is running or fighting or running and fighting. Naturally, the door is left open for a sequel, so hopefully some singleplayer-expanding DLC will emerge sooner or later.

Weaponry

The game’s major new weapon is the Leash. It’s a whip that draws people towards you… So you can kick them. Or shoot them harder. Or both.

Now, concept artwork produced early on in the game’s development implied more whip-like characteristics than are actually present. Once you hook somebody (or something), you’re pretty much direction-locked until it’s been pulled towards you. I was hoping that by flailing the mouse around madly, I could swing people around for additional cactus-smashing fun. Alas, no.

The rest of the weapons range from normal to crazy. Your loadout consists of the generic machine gun, a “left” weapon and a “right” weapon.  The left/right weapon thing is a bit confusing and annoying; you can only have the machine gun and one of them equipped for quick swapping. In order to change the left/right weapon, you have to hold the weapon swap key and then hit an arrow key (which is obviously a bit of  a bummer in very mobile combat situations).

Basically: I don’t mind having a two- or three-weapon limit, but I do mind the switching system being needlessly awkward.

Luckily, the left and right weapons can be a pistol with a flare gun, a quad-barreled shotgun (the Unreal quadshot that never was?), a strange explosive bolas firing thing, a sniper rifle that allows you to steer the bullet (not just curving, proper no-foolin’ Redeemer steering (albeit with slowed time)), a gun that fires bouncing cannonballs, and a gun that fires drills (pinning enemies into the floor, ceiling walls or each other).

Not the largest selection ever, but since you can only ever have three with you at a time, they are quite enough.

Echo Mode

Once you’ve soaked up the singleplayer campaign (you probably have in the time it’s taken you to read this), there is a series of time-trial cut-down versions of the singleplayer levels you can do for shits and giggles. These are accompanied by some kind of online ranking system, not to mention a star rating for your own satisfaction.

To continue the Unreal theme, these are pretty much standard botmatches. You fire up the game of an evening, have a quick blast at a few levels trying to beat your own scores. Or, to go back to the Games for Windows Live thing, trying to beat the scores of your friends.

Echo mode would also be an excellent arena for custom maps, though no editor is currently evident (as always, we live in hope, but will no doubt be left unsatisfied — can’t have dem XBawkzers complaining about all the custom content they’re missing). Or, in this world of micro-transactions, we’ll probably be able to buy the editor later.

Overall

It’s short, yes. It is missing jump, yes. It shows in letterbox mode on a 4:3 monitor, yes. It has regenerating health, yes.

But it’s great fun. Can I recommend it? Yeah. Maybe not as an instant-full-price purchase, though.

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