Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition Review 2017-04-10 16:51:21
Rather than simply shooting everyone to death, Bulletstorm challenges you to off your enemies in increasingly imaginative and elaborate ways: kick them into fountains full of flesh-eating fish, lasso them into overgrown cacti, flatten them by bringing elevator cars down on their heads, and so on. There are well over 100 unique options in total, many of which indeed require serious skill to pull off.
For your efforts, you’re rewarded with points–the more creative the kill, the higher the point value. These points can be redeemed for weapon and ability upgrades at pods that punctuate the game’s various sections, but the skillshots are plenty rewarding in and of themselves. Seeing the “new” tag pop up next to a skillshot name after something cool happens on screen evokes the same giddy excitement of nailing a “gap” in the old Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. There’s a sense of discovery and accomplishment that’s refreshed with every new skillshot you uncover.
Skilled players can even check the skillshot menu and deliberately attempt to tick every box on the list, a challenge that transforms the entire game. Enemies are no longer threats as much as they are opportunities–each one could be the canvas for another skillshot masterwork. It’s an incredibly novel and gratifying hook, one that fundamentally elevates the standard shooter formula to something transcendently arcadey.
And this is all in addition to the fact that Bulletstorm stands as a strong shooter even without its point system. The core aiming and movement feel tight, and added mechanics like the “instinct leash”–which allows crass hero Grayson Hunt to grab enemies across great distances and yank them in closer–along with the Titanfall-esque slide-and-shoot maneuver keep the action feeling fast and dynamic.
Bulletstorm’s campaign also enjoys excellent pacing and variety. Recalling the gloriously ridiculous guns of ’90s shooters like Quake and Turok, weapons range from relatively standard to utterly outlandish: you can fire spinning drill bits into your foes, chase them with manually-guided sniper bullets, or just vaporize them with a quad-barrel shotgun. Your arsenal gradually grows as you progress, ensuring there are always new skillshots to try.
You also encounter new enemy types as you barrel through the campaign–some charge at you wielding explosives, others evade your leash with unexpected agility, but all offer some slight variation that helps keep the action from feeling too predictable. And of course, with every new environment come new hazards; it’s always fun figuring out that yes, you can kick enemies into that nearby turbine/chasm/hotdog cart.
Some elements of Bulletstorm’s campaign do feel stale, however. You’ll periodically encounter quick-time events, scripted set pieces, and on-rails shooter sections, and while none of these moments are bad, per se, they are design hallmarks of a game some years out of date. The campaign’s final chapters also become a bit of a predictable slog, diminishing your ability to be creative by hurling more and more obstacles at you.
Even with these highs and lows, the campaign holds up well–after all, its inventive skillshot system is a timeless idea. The story, on the other hand, remains an acquired taste. The script–which was almost certainly written entirely in all-caps–contains torrents of gratuitous swearing and some of the most painfully sophomoric humor ever to appear in a game. You may think you have an unlimited tolerance for dick jokes, but the only way to truly be sure is to play Bulletstorm.
What’s especially weird about all the cartoonish machismo is the fact that it comes wrapped in a relatively serious storyline about war crimes, personal responsibility, and moving beyond self-loathing in order to help those you care about. That juxtaposition is jarring, but in a weird way, it works. It’s a bit like The Fast and the Furious: if you’re willing to turn off your brain and accept the fact that you’ve signed up for a spectacularly stupid thrillride, you might just enjoy yourself (even if you cringe a few times along the way).
While the contents of the story and campaign have not changed since the original release, the multiplayer and visuals have both been updated. Even in 2011, Bulletstorm was a good-looking game awash in color, each area soaked in brilliant hues, perhaps as a reaction to Epic’s notoriously brown shooter, Gears of War. It’s no surprise, then, that Full Clip Edition also looks excellent.
Though it can’t compete with the splendor of current-gen titles like Horizon Zero Dawn, it by no means looks out of place on modern hardware. The colors are as vibrant as ever, textures appear crisp and detailed (until you zoom the camera all the way in on an object, at least), draw distances prove impressive, and the frame rate holds solid on both PC and PS4. I encountered a small handful of glitches–mainly dead bodies ragdolling through walls–but overall, this is a technically sound update. PS4 Pro and PC players can even enjoy the game in 4K.
The updates to multiplayer are less impressive. Full Clip Edition adds six brand new maps to the solo, score-driven Echoes mode and also includes the four additional Echoes maps, three cooperative Anarchy mode maps, and an objective-driven version of Echoes called Ultimate Echoes that were added as DLC following Bulletstorm’s original release.
Echoes mode in general isn’t all that exciting since each map is just an isolated snippet of the campaign–your score can earn you a spot on a leaderboard, but the gameplay, down the very last enemy, remains identical to how the section played out in the campaign. Consequently, the mode provides a convenient option for those who want a streamlined experience, but it doesn’t add much to the overall package. Full Clip Edition’s six new maps don’t change that.
The cooperative horde mode Anarchy is a far more engaging option, especially since each round forces you to exceed a preset score threshold. Often the only way to achieve the requisite score in later rounds is to successfully perform team-based skillshots, a mechanic that sets Bulletstorm’s horde mode apart from the rest of the…er, horde. Maps prove especially important in Anarchy since unique environmental hazards frequently provide the highest score boosts, so Full Clip’s inclusion of the old DLC maps was a smart move.
Finally, Full Clip adds two major pieces of fan service: first a “new game plus” option called Overkill Mode, which enables all weapons and skillshots from the beginning of the campaign. Annoyingly, you must beat the campaign before unlocking Overkill–a move that will surely irk returning fans looking to dive right in–but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless.
More interestingly, fans who preordered Full Clip Edition (or who shell out an additional five dollars) can play through the entire campaign as the king himself, Duke Nukem. In practice, Duke’s character model replaces Hunt’s in every cutscene and longtime Duke voice actor Jon St. John reworks many of the original lines to better suit his character.
But the rest of the content, including the other character’s reactions and responses, remains unchanged. Your AI companion Ishi even uses Hunt’s name on several occasions. It is, of course, kind of hilarious to see and hear Duke in this new context, but his presence doesn’t meaningfully impact the story, let alone the gameplay.