Recently at the Eurogamer Expo 2010 I had the chance to get some hands on time with Bulletstorm, the score loving first person shooter from developers People Can Fly and Epic Games built on the beautiful Unreal engine. Announced earlier this year and demonstrated at E3 2010 Bulletstorm has yet to gain the following I believe that it deserves, especially when you consider that it’s a new IP from the minds behind Painkiller and Gears of War.
Story wise the game follows a lead character named Grayson Hunt several years after he had been exiled to the edges of the galaxy, in a bid to escape an abandoned paradise filled with mutants and gun wielding gang members. Once free you and fellow exile Ishi Sato plan to take revenge on the man that put you in this hellish situation. For the duration of the hands on preview of Bulletstorm the story wasn’t touched upon much, outside of being able to confirm that you are indeed placed upon a beautiful, beautiful, paradise.
There is no doubting that when Bulletstorm was first demonstrated that it was an attractive game visually, clearly etched from the same stone that brought us Unreal and Gears of War. It wasn’t until my hands on that I realised just how beautiful the game actually is, being a certain contended for the best graphical game I’ve seen to date sitting alongside the Crysises and Rages of this world. If this is what a flowery and sunlit Gears of War can look like, then we need to stop fighting against the horde for the planet and let them have it – there has to be a nicer local to live like the one featured here! It’s not only the world in which the game resides that is graphically stellar but also the character models, animations and particularly the particle effects from the continual explosions being set off all around you by your handy whip (if that’s what it can be called) that you can slash out before you at any time.
The gameplay is your standard polished shooter, once again relating closely to Unreal Tournament both in terms of controls and the game’s odd sense of scale giving you the largest most explosive guns you’ll ever see. This is also where a little bit of Painkillers design flares become evident, with exotic and deadly weapons that look like they have been made out of scraps littered around the world, but none the less appear extremely dangerous. It’s nice to see the experienced developers source from previous successes, especially ones which played as well as they did.
And this is the point where the game takes its extremely solid core experience and builds fresh and interesting gameplay mechanics upon them. Bulletstorm is a score based shooter, meaning that every action you perform can be chained together to create ‘skillshots’ rewarding you with a certain numerical value. This value will be with you as you progress through the level, and the then on for the entire game. In order to gain the largest score for a kill you need to perform exotic executions, string a chain of kills together or make use of environmental props. Score earned can then be spent on upgrading your character and unlocking new abilities, meaning you can repeat the process of gaining large score values only this time with more explosive manoeuvres in your arsenal. Are you still with me? Good!
The preview of the game experienced had me progressing through a short section of a level, killing a handful of enemies, avoiding a helicopter assault and then watching the game close on a frightful gigantic boss scene making me want nothing more than to play on. As I progressed through the game I quickly got to grips with the controls and found that I automatically moved on from the typical first person shooter kills of simply shooting for the head, to making use of my whip to bring in an enemy, generally kicking them in the chest into the air and then finally proceeding to empty an entire clip into their skull. Fans of mature gore filled gameplay will feel right at home as the blood will literally gush all over the screen as you decapitate enemies in slow motion slaughter.
As the preview came to a close my score for the session came up, giving me brief stats such as how many headshots and kills I managed along with my sessions overall score – something which I naturally challenge a colleague to beat (of which he did, blast him!). Throughout the whole playthrough I was in no rush to get through the experience, rushing from point to point but instead took my time to cause as much destruction at each segment as possible to work out as many points from the enemies and environment as possible. If handled correctly with satisfactory acknowledgement for a high score (such as well-balanced character upgrade or ability unlocks, or global highscore leaderboards) Bulletstorm could turn out to be a very rewarding satisfying game to play through. I’ll certainly be backing the game as being a huge hit when released in 2011, and will be putting my money where my mouth is and placing down a pre-order today.