Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition PS4 Review
For some reason I never got around to playing Bulletstorm when it was first released, even though I was quite excited about it. It looked like so much fun – laser whips, big guns, and insane shootouts! Unfortunately though, after just 6 years, it has become a perfect example of the fast-paced nature of video game development and its evolution as a media because Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition feels clunky and often empty throughout. Every one of my friends remembers it fondly, though, but I just can’t see it the same way, seemingly due to the lack of nostalgia goggles. Although it’s still a fair game, all I see is a generic cheese-ball protagonist with little mobility, a serious lack of challenge or innovation, and an overall design that brings back sad memories of when brown-hued FPS games ruled the market.
Normally, we play as Grayson Hunt – a revenge-driven drunk who can only be described as a cross between Marcus Fenix and Duke Nukem. In his recklessness, Hunt manages to take down a massive warship, lead by the guy who ruined the lives of Hunt and his men, but becomes shipwrecked in the process. With his last comrade, Ishi (who isn’t all that stable, what with an AI trying to take over his mind), they must pursue General Serrano across an alien planet full of monstrous lunatics. Eventually a love interest is met and they are all forced to work together in order to survive and take down Serrano etc etc, generic plot devices ensue. Maybe it’s just me that finds it a little strange that Grayson has so much damn fun slaughtering his way through the crowds of enemies, when the whole revenge mission began when his team was tricked into killing people. Even against lunatics it’s certainly a stretch to try and make a character seem even slightly caring when he’s screaming “It’s a murder party starring me!” as he shoots a fella in his nethers and boots him into lava.
Of course, you don’t have to play as Hunt – Duke Nukem is fully playable in the Full Clip Edition, although I have no idea why you would. Wasn’t it Duke himself that said “I’m here to chew gum and get haphazardly plastered onto this game so poorly it’s almost as if Bulletstorm was parodying itself…and I’m all out of gum”? It’s a complete abomination! All that has happened is Hunt’s model was replaced with Duke and all of his voice lines were changed. Nobody else acknowledges Duke’s existence – nothing changes. In fact, every time they call him ‘Hunt’ or ‘Grayson’, Duke has to reply with ‘The name’s Duke!” or something to that effect. I couldn’t handle it, it was embarrassing to even witness. After the first couple of missions I restarted the game and played through from the beginning, playing as Hunt instead otherwise I would have had to mute it.
Combat-wise Bulletstorm is fun. There’s a small variety of guns from the standard rifle all the way to a terribly fun rocket-propelled drill launcher. The hook, though, is the Skillshot system that is constantly rewarding the player for killing enemies in all manner of different ways. This is Bulletstorm’s saving grace and there are a ton of explosive achievements, such as kicking an enemy into a cactus; ‘Pricked’, drilling someone’s head; ‘Root Canal’, and obviously there’s killing an enemy by shooting them right up the backside; ‘Rear Entry’. Some are general and some are based on the primary and secondary abilities of each weapon. Plus, it’s only through this scoring system that one can purchase ammo and upgrades. The better the player does – the more creative they are, the more they have to spend in the shop. It’s a fantastic system that is hindered greatly by the lack of interesting upgrades, making the points accumulated mostly ammo-fodder. This, combined with the old-school feet stuck to the ground unless there’s a Quick Time Event to jump over a fence control system, holds back potentially masterful shooting mechanics. All I could think of was wishing something like this for the next Doom title or the upcoming Quake, where a player is truly challenged and not just at strafing left and right, in and out of cover.
What about the energy leash?! Everybody who has even heard of Bulletstorm knows about that! Well, it’s basically a whip that accomplishes the task of furthering the game with ‘press a button to progress’ events, allows access to the ammo/weapons shop, and can pull in most enemies for you to shoot at point blank or easily plunge them into an instant-kill environmental hazard. It’s really more for show but along with the kick attack that knocks enemies back about 100 feet it makes for incredibly easy gameplay, even against the game’s tougher bad-guys. One shotting massive monsters by pulling or pushing them into a barbed wire fence one after another like a conga-line of death seems cheap until you realise just how many bullets the damn things absorb and still come at you like a bat out of hell. So, it’s either spend all my ammo running in circles only to probably die anyway or tap one button next to a cliff edge until I can move on. I know what I preferred.
Sadly, that’s a common problem for developers to confuse ‘difficulty’ and ‘how much health the enemies have’. It doesn’t require the player to learn the game more deeply or overcome anything – it means they just have to spend longer holding down the fire button. On the other hand, having almost every enemy die in a single hit doesn’t solve that problem either, leaving Bulletstorm often feeling unsatisfying. It’s not all bad, though. Bulletstorm is a nice little 8-hour time-sink where the player has to never think and can just go about blowing people to bits. Sure, it hasn’t aged well but the combat side works fine and there’s a bit of replayability if one wants to attempt to get every Skillshot, or try to see how far you can get with a couple of friends in the wave-based multiplayer mode. However, it is certainly a shame to see such little effort put into this new release even though it is perfectly OK. I mean, as long as you can get past the cringe-worthy dialog of having the only female character telling you she will ‘kill your dick’ and the throwaway plot, you might just find a good chunk of fun in there. It’s right next to the drill launcher.