Bulletstorm is a first-person shooter from the Epic Games studio, People Can Fly. It is set in the future, in the 26th Century, in a time when big burly marine-types stroll around alien planets armed to the teeth, blasting everything in sight. It sounds similar to another Epic Games production, but it is nothing like Gears of War. In fact, Bulletstorm is unlike anything you will play all year.
In Bulletstorm, the gamer must tap into different skill-sets from what they would normally use for other first-person shooters. This isn’t a twitchy corridor shooter, where you duck in and out of crates while trying to get through the level as quickly as possible; it runs on a skill-based system, which has you attacking enemies head-on, encouraging you to savour the moment.
In essence, if Bulletstorm was a meal, it would be the kind of meal in which you would couldn’t help but play with your food; instead of going for the head-shot, as you naturally would in other shooters, you may decide to shoot the crazed humanoid in the man-zone and watch it writhe before showing mercy. It sounds immature and juvenile, and it is, but do not underestimate the power of feedback.
When you perform a skill-shot, the game gives you its seal of approval by flashing an appropriate title on to the screen; for example, when you kick an enemy into a spiked wall, it will say “voodoo doll” in big red writing; and when you kick an enemy into an electric fence, you will receive the “shocker” title. During the hottest moments in the game, your screen will be covered in titles and +25s. The most satisfying moments in Bulletstorm are when you nail a new, wicked skill-shot. There are 135 in total.
The skill-shot system is not a novelty; People Can Fly has threaded it into the fabric of the game. You receive points when you perform skill-shots, and the more complex, sadistic and creative they are, the more points you get. These points are essential; they buy you ammo, weapon unlocks, upgrades and charges. Without these, especially the ammo, you will struggle to complete the game.
You need to sink in a lot of bullets to finish your average mutant and it won’t drop many bullets as a reward, but if you think creatively and skilfully you can kill it quickly and save yourself a lot of bullets in the process. You need to, to some extent, abandon what you already know about first-person shooters. You need to learn to think creatively.