The game is part of the small but growing 'post-apocalyptic sci-fi craphole first person shooter' genre, along with games like Fallout 3/New Vegas and Rage, so it's in good company at least. It came out for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows, but I'll be playing the PC version, as it is superior for two very important reasons: I own a copy and it's easier to take screenshots of it.
First though I'm going to link to the theme music as it's surprisingly epic: youtube link. Stick that on while you read to make the next few paragraphs seem even more intense.
(Clicking pictures will likely show you a clear higher res version.)
Aside from the annoyance, this is kind of a big problem as Games for Windows Live is getting shut down on July 1st this year, and no GFWL means no GFWL online account. Unless this DRM crap gets patched out, in a few months I will no longer be able to play my copy of Bulletstorm ever again.
Can you guess what came next?
This is my first experience using an online account on this service and I already get why people hate GFWL so much.
WEEKS LATER (SERIOUSLY, I STARTED THIS AT THE BEGINNING OF JANUARY).
The heroes are a little drunk though so they make a tiny mistake during the interrogation that ends up blowing a rather large hole in the side of their vessel, but other than that it goes pretty well. Plus all this new wreckage in between them and the door gives me an excellent opportunity to relearn how walk and duck under beams (okay Gray is very drunk right now).
Gray has literally just finished off every last drop of alcohol on board ship however, and he's thinking that he can win this fight through sheer ballsiness. Though he does give his crew a fair chance to mutiny before ordering them to open fire.
See that tiny blue light about two thirds of the way across from the left, then halfway down? That's actually the engine glow from Gray's ship.
There's a bar at the top and a bar on the bottom left and I honestly don't know which of them is my health, but they both seems to be emptying at roughly the same rate so I'm not sure it matters.
As things get desperate and the pirate ship suffers catastrophic damage, Gray crawls over to the controls, quotes a few lines from a classic novel (Treasure Island, not Moby Dick for once), and sets ramming speed for a bit of mutually assured destruction in the name of revenge.
AN INDETERMINATE NUMBER OF YEARS AGO.
They're wearing gravity boots by the way, in case you're wondering how they can stick to the wall like this. If you're wondering how they can stand upright at 90 degrees to the ground... well I guess that's the gravity boots too. Or maybe they just have really strong ankles. Either way it was worth doing just for the view.
All I know about the target is that he's called Bryce Novak, but the fact that the military sent their top assassins to kill him gives me the impression that he's probably a grade-A asshole with his dirty fingers in some very evil pies.
It turns out that Gray's elite team has actually been an illegal murder squad tasked with killing anyone that gets on General Serrano's shitlist. He's not entirely happy about finding this out and they decide to call the General up then and there to confront him about it.
The others aren't quite so impressed with how Gray just made a massive group decision for them, but there's no time to argue about as soldiers burst in and he dives over to take a bullet for his buddy Ishi.
PRESENT DAY: THE FUTURE.
But I can't help but notice something now that I have a bit of freedom to move around... I do not have a jump button; there is no jumping whatsoever in this first person shooter. It's a bit ironic for a developer called People Can Fly to make a game where you can't lift your feet off the ground perhaps, but I don't think it's a cause for concern. If it's good enough for Doom it's good enough for this.
The Ulysses didn't end up crashing anywhere near here, but the ship's escape pods did and we soon found one which contained the battery we need. Well that was fast, I guess we go back to the ship now. Man there's a lot of story in this before I'm allowed to start playing.
This planet is occupied by intelligent life, but unfortunately for us they're all first person shooter enemies, so communication is out of the question. They wont stop coming until they get what they want and all they want is to kill us.
Fortunately I picked up an energy leash around the same pod that I found the power cell, and this thing is really handy for dragging anti-social crazy people out from cover and into these metal bars. As soon as they touch the spikes they're dead, instantly.
SOON, BACK AT THE PILE OF DEBRIS I'M STILL CALLING THE SHIP.
Man they'd better not kill Rell off; the guy's got an awesome beard, a dry sense of humour, and most of the good lines so far. What is it with stories that set up likeable characters only to kill them off at the start? At least Ishi's probably safe.
SOME DRAMA LATER.
Luckily for Gray he gets a last second reprieve as they pick up a distress signal from a Ulysses crash survivor. If they can get to her, they can find a way off this planet. "If I expire you have failed your last bid for redemption," CyberIshi concludes.
The story was written by acclaimed comic book author Rick Remender, around the same time he was writing up the Frankencastle arc of The Punisher, so I guess he was in a 'hero gets blown up and rebuilt with pipes sticking out of them' kind of mood at that point. I'm not rolling my eyes at it this time though, which is a good sign.
Really what I should've done here is either leash them out of cover one by one, or kick a barrel over and shoot it. Running right up to enemies may be something I can get away with, but the game rewards me when I use a bit more ingenuity than that.
Using my stolen Confederate leash on one of these Confederate dropkits uploads my combat data into the thing so that it can grade me on my performance.
Man I never thought I'd see 'shoot an enemy in the balls and kick his head off' in a game as a bonus objective. Video games have come a long way.
Yep it's taken a while, but I have finally reached... the actual game! I don't blame the developers for having a slow start though, as they've both set up the characters and thoroughly drilled into me the importance of kicking and leashing instead of shooting from cover. The game has regenerating health instead of health kits, but that's no excuse to be cowering behind walls. It's just a shame that there's no indicator to let me know which direction I'm taking damage from.
It really does remind me a lot of id's Rage, released later the same year, except without the tedious dialogue scenes between levels. The cutscenes in this get to the point and then they get out of my way, and they are all skippable.
Kicking them into spikes is a unique skillshot, kicking them into a cactus is a unique skillshot, kicking them off the level is a unique skillshot...
It's a combat system that rewards screwing around and trying something new over playing it safe, and while 'kick enemy into a thing' is often my ultimate goal, I find that achieving this often presents opportunities for improvisation.
RoboIshi runs over to the generator to charge his power cell up, there's a bit of drama, and then ten seconds later I'm back into the game. By the way the guy is always right next to me, but he's more of a straight man for Gray's jokes than a sidekick. Sure he helps out in fights, but it seems that I do most of the work and he's immune to death, so he may as well be a voice on the radio as far as I'm concerned. This is not a complaint.
This guy wasn't so bad in the end, though he was a bit of a grind. I popped out of cover, shot him a bit, ran behind a wall to heal etc. I've been in much more frustrating fights before so I can't complain. Plus I got a gun out of it!
By the way, there are enemies in this shot if you look carefully. They're a lot easier to see in motion, I promise. Also the game occasionally gives them a bit of a blue glow if they're in shadow, which is a nice touch.
Spectacle is one of the game's strong points and that definitely helps when the gameplay goes and leaves me on a train for a minute or two so it can sneak off and take a break. I'll just keep shooting trucks then shall I? Okay then.
Okay I admit, I just wanted to show off the view. It seems that we've left the desert behind now and we're moving towards the city. Though that does remind me about how the game actually bribes me with skill points to look at certain things at times, like set piece or a miniboss showing up. I can see how this could annoy people, but I appreciate how it's still my choice on what I want to focus on, instead of it automatically yanking my head around.
I'd say she seems like she's basically the female version of Gray: all swagger, hostility and violence, but that's not entirely true now that I think about it. Gray has actually lightened up a lot since the intro and has been joking around almost constantly to try to keep morale up and save Ishi from going full-robot.
EVEN LATER STILL.
Man, Steve Blum sounds like he was having the time of his life in the recording booth for this. This would be half the game it is without Gray constantly coming out with dumb comments. In fact I think I've actually played that game... and it was called Rage.
By the way this room gets a lot more amusing with the gore turned off:
The game also has a language filter to turn off all the swearing, so it is possible to remove all the of the 'dicks' if that's a concern. Sadly they just cut out the offending words instead of dubbing over the lines like in an action thriller on afternoon television. Yippee ki-yay... Mister Falcon.
It's risky, but I could also try a running slide right into the group of enemies. My slide's got a massive range on it, so I could probably catch that guy on the left with it from here and send him flying with one hit. The risky part of this is that it puts me right in the middle of the enemies, and the game really doesn't like it when I move too far ahead too fast. Several times I've ran through a group of enemies, only to instantly keel over because 'you were shot in the back'. Suuure I was. I'm just glad the checkpoints are so fair, considering that there's no quick saves.
The game has a fairly standard arsenal including the machine gun, pistol, sniper-rifle, shotgun etc. but they often have a twist to them. The shotgun has four barrels, the sniper-rifle fires bullets I can steer etc.
Speaking of only carrying three... I can only carry three guns at once! That might make sense for a military shooter filled with near-identical assault rifles, but when the guns are different I should be allow to bring all my tools out into the battlefield.
Bulletstorm provides a disturbing glimpse into a dark possible future... where digital download services have shut down and we've lost our library of games forever. I mean seriously Epic, announce that you're going to patch the DRM out already so I can relax. I don't want to sound like I'm against companies protecting their product from piracy, as long as it's through sensible non-intrusive means, but when the DRM leads to a situation where piracy is the only way to play a game we've paid for... well it's not encouraging me to buy their next game that's for sure.
But what about the actual game? Well it's basically a straightforward action game, where the only choice comes from how you want to engage each group of enemies. There's no alternate paths, there's no decisions to make, there's no dialogue choices, there's no exploring the levels, there's no feet when you look down, there's no puzzles or problem solving, no illusion of freedom... you just kick and shoot at everyone until they're dead. To be honest though, they've made that work for me. The focus is on getting a high score by doing things that are fun, and the more interesting you make combat for yourself, the more bullets and upgrades you're given to play with in the next level.
There's even another mode called Echoes that lets you play through levels without cutscenes or dialogue, just pure score-attack gameplay. Oh by the way, did I mention that the game has a level select? There's no deathmatch multiplayer but there is a separate co-op arena where you can team up with other players against waves of enemies.
It's got a slow start for sure, but I think that's been justified by how much I care about the characters now. Gray is a drunk who makes everyone around him suffer from his mistakes and Ishi is a pissed off cybernetic robot man who mostly just threatens and berates him, but I care about them so much more than the average FPS protagonist because the game took the time to give me a reason to. The story gets right everything Rage got wrong, focusing on the protagonist, giving him a strong antagonist, and keeping the plot moving instead of dragging it down with endless mission briefings and side quests. The story hasn't spent much time dwelling on the mystery of the fallen utopia that the heroes are trapped on so far, but there's been enough hints thrown around to make it seem like there'll be a pay off to it as well.
Basically the game's very close to being the best at what it does, so I'm compelled to recommend it.
Just don't get the PC version until Epic have assured people that it'll still exist in four months.
If you have anything you'd like to add about Bulletstorm, my painfully longwinded article, my site, DRM, GFWL, etc. then you are officially invited to leave a comment in the message box underneath.