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In case recent shooters just haven't been shoot-y or explode-y enough for you, People Can Fly have created Bulletstorm, the most explosive first person gaming experience of the year so far. It is published by Electronic Arts (or simply: EA) and uses 'Games for Windows Live' as DRM. It is rated '18' under the BBFC, and 'Mature' under ESRB. It contains frequent strong, bloody violence and language.
Now on to the actual review
Bulletstorm's gameplay is fast and ferocious. It uses a system known as 'Skillshots', essentially text-based rewards and reminders for what you just did to an enemy. These words are generally sexual innuendos, which stirred up some controversy recently: these skill shots include such things as 'Gang Bang' for killing multiple enemies with a grenade and 'Rear Entry' for shooting bullets into a poor persons behind.
The entire gameplay, much like shooters of old, revolves around shooting dudes in the face, followed by shooting dudes in the face, followed by... you guessed it, shooting dudes in the face. This is a lot like People Can Fly's previous insanely macho game, Painkiller (the original, not the atrocious sequels).
There are three game modes that you can play - the campaign, which is essentially a mode designed to tell a story. There is some really hilarious dialogue in the campaign and it's not a bad storyline. A lot of it is really fun to play, and at times it is incredibly intense and spectacular. The only occasional bad bit about the gameplay is when the gameplay mechanics become repetitive, and there have been no newly revealed skillshots in a while. Also some uninteresting segments with a minigun: however, the rest of the campaign is awesome.
There is also the 'Echo' mode, where you play a segment of the game against a timer, competing for the best times and the best scores. This is the mode that was featured on the Bulletstorm demo, and one of the most interesting features on it is the fact that it allows the PC and Xbox 360 scoreboards to come into contact without any handicap, meaning that 360 players may find themselves harshly beaten by the PC players, seen as their skill level may be seen as higher. The actual gameplay in the 'Echo' mode is almost identical to the campaign, but there is a considerable focus on haste as well as skilful killing.
The last element is the multiplayer. A difference from the current trend in video gaming multiplayer, there is no competitive mode. There is a cooperative mode that actually requires a fair bit of teamwork. The mode boils down to a 'wave' based system, where enemies come and beat you up, and you've got to kill them in the most point gaining method you and your team can perform to advance to the next round. It's a nice idea for a game, but when executed, it's nothing special. If anything, it feels as if it was a very last minute addition to add an extra feature to make the price seem just that little bit more appealing. The lobby system also takes an age to find a game. When it does work, though, it can be a fair amount of fun.
Running on the Epic Unreal 3 engine, it is beginning to show its age a little amongst other games such as Crysis 2 and the upcoming Battlefield 3. That doesn't mean that the graphics are downright awful though, as they are still equal graphics to an average console game. It has a variety of shadowing effects and some decent looking character textures, as well as some nice weaponry design. The graphics aren't top grade standard, but they're definitely eye-candy enough for the game, as the gameplay is endlessly more important.
For those who don't know, optimization is how well a game is made to run on a computer. On a mid-high range laptop, this game managed to scrape an approximate 30fps (which is about right) for the most part at a resolution of 800x600 and medium-high settings. This is by no-means to say that the game is well optimized though. If your resolution of choice is not divisible by 8, and you're running an Nvidia graphics card, your game will find it hard to sustain a reasonable framerate: a major bug that Epic will likely fix in time.
The game is generally stutter free, and if the game does have slow down, it's not jumpy, it's sustained slowness for a certain amount of time, and it will eventually smooth out to a higher framerate.
I'd give the optimization three out of five, because it's better than some PC development efforts, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops, but it could have been so much more scalable to older systems, especially with its somewhat dated graphics.
Games can be made or broken by their usages of sound and voice acting. Bulletstorm takes particular advantage of this. Throughout the game there are some genuinely hilarious pieces of dialogue, and some really quite good pieces of ambience and music used throughout the game. The sound worked and sounded great on the systems that I had tried it on, with a variety of different headsets, both USB and Audio Jack. The audio at times is hilarious; the voice acting is by far my favourite part of Bulletstorm. The dialogue saves the game from being simply 'good', and pushes the game into regions defined only as 'excellent'.
Value for Money/Longevity
The game isn't really that long, but it will certainly give you more fun for a buck than recent, bland shooter games. This is one of the few decent and recent games that have been released this year, and it definitely deserves every cent of the money it asks for. It has a variety of modes, and all of it can be great fun for quite some time. The singleplayer campaign is akin to that of the fantastic Painkiller, and it will keep you replaying it for quite some time, even if the initial thrill may be a little bit short.
The longevity is also extended by the somewhat interesting multiplayer modes and the leaderboards, where you will fight your friends to get the top scores on the Echo mode. Once again, Bulletstorm is certainly worth your money.
This is a game that is extremely scalable in its levels of difficulty. There is several difficulty settings ranging from a breeze of a game, where you can stroll through casually shooting your weapons while intoxicated with one too many down the pub and there is a 'hard-core' mode where only the toughest of gamers will survive. You can play these levels of difficulty progressively (starting easy an getting harder) and it means that everyone will find themselves suited in this first person shooter. There's even auto-aim for people who can't aim very well, but hard-as-nails-players can turn it right off. This game is as difficulty as you ask it be, from no challenge to maximum challenge.
DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. Some may know it as 'copy protection'. The main purpose of DRM is to protect the game from being pirated, but at times it does it in a way that may be intrusive to the user.
Bulletstorm's DRM may be counted as intrusive. The game will not allow you to play the multiplayer or singleplayer modes without creating an online or offline Games for Windows Live account. The main problem with Games for Windows Live is the clunky interface and bad approach to multiplayer lobbying. Of course, the multiplayer element is not where the game shines, and Games for Windows Live isn't that intrusive once you've bound the game to your Windows Live ID (your Windows Live Messenger address).
Bulletstorm can be intrusive with its DRM, especially for those with little or no access to their router networking (it may require holes to be poked in your firewall), but it is better than the Ubisoft approach of DRM where it forces you to be on the internet consistently during play.
Bulletstorm is a game that earns its 'Mature' sticker. It also stirred a little controversy in the media just before its release. Here's why.
This is a very violent game, there are constant firefights throughout the game. There is a scene when a man is violently stabbed, there are moments when you see a chunk blown out of a mans head.
Some of the skill shots have you perform violent moves such as kicking someone into a cactus.
There is glorified violence during assassination scenes. It often plays out in slow motion.
Kicking people results in them flying in slow motion, where you can shoot them in the head to make it explode.
When characters are shot, they are regularly bloodied all over their bodies. It's not particularly graphic.
Shooting a male character in their (covered) testicles will cause them to keel over in pain, groaning.
Explosions cause characters to be exploded/dismembered.
There is constant language in Bulletstorm. There are many uses of strong language such as 'f*ck' or 'sh*t'. There is almost constant usage of 'c*ck' throughout conversations. Swearing is generally out loud and proud. The characters are not subtle with their language whatsoever.
There are several suggestively named skillshots. These include such things as 'Gang Bang' when a group of characters are blown up with one explosion. There is also 'Gag Reflex' for when you shoot an enemy in the throat. Another semi-sexual name is 'Rear Entry' for when you shoot an enemy in the backside. These caused quite a stir, but would have been perfectly acceptable at '15'.
The start of the game has you interrogate a bounty hunter. Some may find the scene tense. There is no particularly brutal violence during this scene, although it is implied that you are going to hurt him, you don't see the characters demise.
The game is certainly not intended for kids to be playing, although it is not really as bad as the media has made it out to be. I'd give this to a fourteen or fifteen year old, should they be mature enough to handle the sexual innuendos and language as well as the violence. I really highly doubt that a teenager would have any problems with this though, especially since it has comical dialogue consistently all the way through and feels rather immature, due to the nature of the jokes.
This is a game that actually has an emphasis on being incredibly fun, and stupendously stupid. There are no restraints for People Can Fly here, and they have made that incredibly clear. This is a high octane man-shoot that would satisfy any shooter fan. I'd recommend it to anyone. It's a really good game, and I'd recommend it to anyone that is bored with the current trend of generic shooters, hell, even if you're not you should give it a go.
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
OS: Windows XP (SP3), Windows Vista (SP2), or Windows 7
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon X2, or equivalent, running at 1.6 GHz or greater
RAM: 1.5 GB
Hard Drive: 9 GB Available
Video Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible, 256 MB of VRAM; NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GS, ATI Radeon HD 2400 Pro 256 MB, or greater
Soundcard: DirectX 9.0c compatible, 16-bit
Disc Drive: 16X CD/DVD Drive
Other: Network Internet (TCP/IP) connection
The computer I was playing on exceeded all of these specifications by considerable margin.
I give Bulletstorm a four out of five: the optimization should've been better.
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