First Looks// Bulletstorm

Posted 20 May 2010 18:13 by
When People Can Fly's creative director Adrian Chmielarz took to the stage to introduce Bulletstorm, he summed up the action best as a ?blood symphony of carnage.? That was when I knew that this game, backed by Gears of War studio Epic, would very much be a symphony that I'd pay front row seats to watch. And I'd even buy the ice cream at the interval too."

In an age of 'serious' first-person shooters that involve wading through hours of storyline or having the fate of a galaxy resting on your shoulders, Bulletstorm looks like an incredible breath of fresh air. To say it's an action game that doesn't take itself seriously is an understatement ? in watching a demonstration of some hilarious environmental destruction and alien combo-killing, I had a feeling this game's concept and storyline was conceived after a two-week dope binge.

Just take a look at the scenery ? an abandoned paradise that's now crawling with space pirates and menacing aliens. The bright primary colours and the intricate enemy design all seems like something you'd find in a graphic novel. And it's not just for show, because the gameplay mechanics hinge on frenzied, fast-paced (and above all, humorous) death ? and you'll be using the whacked-out planet to your advantage, in what it being called the Skillshot system.

You see, everything you do to destroy enemies in Bulletstorm gets you points, and the more attacks you can string together in one go will rack up your points bonus. These points are collected to upgrade your character and unlock new weapons, which in turn offers even more Skillshot combination situations. Encouraging the killing of enemies in the most creative way is not only mandatory to level up and ultimately survive ? it looks awesome as well.

And the world is half of your weapon. Cacti-looking foliage provides an opportunity to become an impromptu impaling device. Huge mutant plants feast on enemies that unwittingly pass by to get close to you. And of course, destructible scenery means you can set up some brutal finishers from afar. As well as the usual space-marine issue assault rifle to mow down tens of opponents at once, your character can use some unique melee moves that can help string combination attacks together.

I saw two of these moves at this preview event - a slide tackle that allows you to quickly glide from one spot to another while kneecapping foes in the process, and a kick move that quite literally boots the bad guys in the face, sending them flying backwards and into a worse fate.

You're also armed with a special tool that works a bit like an energy whip. Grappling enemies will let you yank them in your direction, and as they fly towards you a gulf of blue energy surrounds them as time slows down briefly. It's a perfect chance to follow-through with a shotgun to the leg, or a boot to the stomach and across into a mutant fly-trap plant.

Some weapons have functions that you wouldn't traditionally see in a first-person shooter. The ammunition that fires from one particular gun involves two miniature bombs at the ends of a length of rope. As one bomb hits an object, the rope wraps around the rest of it until the second bomb makes contact. Then, boom.

Again, the potential for mutilation and enemy destruction is incredible, but one use can be to deal damage to those taking cover behind a convenient Gears of War-esque concrete block. As the rope comes around the corner of the structure, the second bomb explodes in the face of the cheeky sod taking pot shots at you.

I also saw what happens if you forego tactics and just use the weapon on a foe, face to face ? there's a perverse sense of wonder as alien super-beasts struggle to get out of the rope wrapping around them, until a split second later when their torso is no more. Lovely. The standard assault rifle has a mode where you can concentrate the power of 100 bullets and shoot them all in one body-crisping shot. You can see the effects of that in these screenshots too.

The story itself is almost like a futuristic Bad Boys, with added ridiculousness. Two members of an elite band of mercenaries known as Dead Echo ? Grayson Hunt and Ishi Sato ? end up betraying their commander after having an attack of conscience. While AWOL, Hunt and Sato become space pirates for hire, but when they see a huge confederation warship in local space, they do the stupid thing and attack it with their tiny spacecraft. That doesn't work, and the duo make an emergency landing on a long lost planet.

And that's where all the plant life, nasty aliens and human bad guys come into play. The demonstration showed Hunt getting sidetracked from his main challenge of survival to save Sato, who had been dragged off by enemy forces. With an unnamed female soldier in tow, you would imagine that the dialogue between these characters would amount to feminist jokes, f-bombs and constant yelling. Don't worry ? you'd be right. And it's great. Like a bad action movie starring Van Damme or something.

Ultimately, the two reach the source of Sato's kidnapping, and it happens to be a massive, ferocious plant boss. After killing the creature (which we won't spoil as it's pretty awesome), Chmielarz rounded off the presentation by saying Epic Games and People Can Fly want to create a game that ?puts the fun back in shooters.?

I'd say they're on track to doing more than a formidable job, but let's see whether the awesome presentation can be supported by equally awesome controls and gameplay consistency.

Bulletstorm is heading for a release on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2011.

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