You are given a wide variety of tools to pull off these skillful acts of violence in the form of both weapons and environmental devices. Items that would normally be chalked up as “expected scenery” in a post-apocalyptic world like Stygia, such as sparking wires or a jagged pole, are now intended to be your tools of the trade. There are a total of eight weapons in the game for you to use and two of them, the leash and the Peacemaker Carbine, will always be equipped for you to utilize. The leash is perhaps your most valuable asset as you will use it to position your enemies for the most rewarding means of disposal. You can pull them towards you, launch them into the air, and even throw them toward dangerous environmental hazards. It is a true tool of destruction. It is up to you to decide what other gun you will place in your third and final weapon slot; each gun has its own unique set of abilities and traits which will assist you in performing the various skillshots. I should also note that there are two modes of fire for each weapon as well, which helps to further mix things up. The more that you mix and match the various modes of attack of the weapons the more points you will be rewarded. Variety is the spice of life and in Bulletstorm, the key to success.
You will be given three separate modes of play within the game for you to wreak havoc upon: campaign, Echoes, and Anarchy. The campaign is pretty self explanatory and we talked about that at length above. You can wrap it up in about 7 hours, give or take, and it can be played across multiple difficulty settings which will vary the length a bit. Once you wrap the solo adventure up, the rest and majority of your time is going to be spent in the Echoes and Anarchy modes. Echoes is a single player mode that has players revisiting some of the more action packed sequences of the game in an attempt to rack up the highest score possible on short courses taken from the main game; your scores are saved and posted to an online leaderboards along with your friends and the rest of the world. Upon completion of an Echoes run, players are graded on a scale of up to 3-stars based on their total score, speed, and tactics used during a run. There are 14 levels in the mode, and an additional 6 can be unlocked if you buy the game new in the store by redeeming the included online pass.
I found the Echoes feature to be very addicting. A lot of players may be turned off by the idea replaying the same set of stages over and over with the same scripted events and enemies attacking each and every time through; it does get repetitive after a few hours. The courses are the same each and every time that you play them; it is possible to map out your plan of attack ahead of time and basically run through a script of actions to get the high score. Once you earn three stars on a level, and max out your personal scoring potential, there really isn’t a reason to go back and play them again. The remaining mode, Anarchy, attempts to alleviate that feeling a little bit by incorporating cooperative multiplayer into the game. Anarchy is the closest thing that Bulletstorm has to true multiplayer; up to 4 players can team up and face off against wave after wave of enemies with scoring benchmarks required to move on to subsequent rounds. This mode introduces the concept of team based skillshots, though there are only a few included in the game. While a lot of fun, Anarchy mode feels like an afterthought considering the limitations that exist in team skillshots. Considering the wide variety of solo skillshots included in the game, the small amount of team-based maneuvers is extremely disappointing. This mode does require quite a bit of strategy though as the further that you get into the waves, the smaller margin of error you are given for your team to hit the benchmark score(s). I usually find my teams struggling around the 9th or 10th waves if there is little communication and cooperation incorporated into our strategies. There isn’t any real penalty for failing to hit a score other than being forced to replay the wave. If nothing else, I found Anarchy matches to make good chat rooms and sessions just to mess around within the game’s engine.
Bulletstorm is a lot of fun, regardless of the mode that you choose to play, but unfortunately you are going to experience a wide variety of technical hurdles along the way that really detract from the overall experience. The game is riddled with technical flaws from the first moment that you fire it up. One of the first things that I noticed was an issue with the sound not syncing up with the animation from the opening credits and the Epic / PCF logo(s). At first I assumed that this was a onetime occurrence, but it still happens every single time I turn on the game nearly 2 weeks later. The sound issues are noticeable at other times in the game as well, when the dialog fails to match up with the characters at numerous times in the game. This becomes very annoying for the period of time which I attempted to follow the storyline; eventually I gave up and found myself fighting the urge to skip the cutscenes when possible just so I wouldn’t have to sit through the awkward dialog exchanges.
The audio department isn’t the only one with problems as there are numerous visual hiccups in the game as well. First off, I found myself trapped within invisible walls numerous times in my adventure. I am not talking about edge of the environment, but moments where my player was basically prevented from moving outside of a small place in the playing field. I was forced to pause the game and restart from the previous checkpoint on no less than 10 occasions during the campaign. This really breaks the flow of the game which usually moves at a break-neck pace. The game gets on some serious downhill rolls, with action ramping up and sucking you in, but it grinds to a halt when something technical like these issues forces you to literally stop your progress and take three steps back. Fortunately, neither of these issues seemed to occur in either the Echoes or Anarchy modes.
Another prevalent issue in the game occurred with the scenes that involved prompted environmental interaction. At many points in the single player story, you will be prompted to press X to jump down from a ledge or vault over a pile of debris; the game often requires you to be directly at the location of the prompt before it will register your input and complete the action. This makes sense on some places where the physical window of opportunity is small, but if I am looking at a guard rail that is the same height all of the way across, what makes a difference if I press it a couple of feet to the left or right? I would even have more tolerance for this had these been consistent throughout the game, but there were not. In my experience in replaying the various missions, there were times when I was forced to execute the prompt in a specific place and others where I was not. This became annoying as I never knew what the game was going to allow me to do, physically, in the heat of battle.
Bulletstorm is a lot of fun but seriously flawed. I wouldn’t go far enough to say it is a broken game, but there are some major issues that truly keep it from succeeding. The experience and gameplay is an absolute ton of fun, so much that I can almost overlook the technical issues that exist within the game. Notice that I said almost; the game is riddled with technical problems which hinder the flow of the action in many cases. Luckily for PCF and Epic, they have crafted a gameplay mechanic that overshadows them in the big picture and ultimately wins out in creating an enjoyable experience. There is a lot to enjoy in this package, but you are going to have to put up with a lot to get that enjoyment out of it. In the end though, I don’t think you will regret it... I know that I don’t.
I absolutely love Bulletstorm but can admit that there is a lot wrong within the game. An otherwise thoroughly enjoyable experience is riddled with technical problems and hiccups throughout a majority of the single player campaign. Thankfully, you will only be spending a couple of hours in that made; the other modes provide great spurts of intense and enjoyable gameplay with a new gameplay mechanic that is a whole lot of fun. The game isn’t for everyone though, just know that going in...
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