Bulletstorm

Another fun little trifle. It’s bright and colourful. It’s well put-together. It’s got a great shotgun (note to developers: having weapon-hits trigger physics and animation is a great way to make weapons feel solid, and to provide the player with feedback.) The scoring system and environmental interactions encourage gameplay variation.

The weapons are generally great, though I don’t know why you can only carry three at a time, rather than four, seeing as down on the d-pad isn’t used otherwise. Between all the different guns and their alt-fires, there’s lot of interesting ideas.

I do have to say that the sniper rifle is just the worst. The system of letting enemies dodge the bullets as they’re steered isn’t fun. Because bullets are tied to single targets, trying to direct the bullet at, say, an environmental explosive, is unreliable. It’s frustrating, and hard to get a lot of points with, but there just isn’t another effective counter-sniping weapon, so there are a number of places in the campaign where it’s all but mandatory.

The economy felt pretty well-balanced. Rifle ammo is always plentiful enough that there’s never a concern of running out of bullets altogether. With most of the other weapons (sniper rifle excluded), I felt like I was being point-neutral, generally, provided I was using them effectively, or a little bit point-negative if I wasn’t using them well. And then the copious environmental kills provided a surplus of points with which to purchase new weapons and upgrades.

I’m ambivalent about the narrative and characters. Ishii is a genuinely interesting character. It’s just not that often that you see a character at war with his newly-installed cyborg half. Trishka is entertaining and, at least, saves our protagonist at least as much as he save her. (On the other hand the game only has one female character. Not merely one named female character. One female character. Period. Shouldn’t we be past that?) Grayson is delightfully dumb at times (especially in the godzilla section), though making him be so blandly chivalrous beneath his gruff exterior is not a choice that I like. It’s uninteresting and archaic and I really with the game would call him on it more than it does. Likewise, having the villain be even more of an obvious dick than our heroes is not a very interesting choice. That said, I do enjoy me some creative, nonsensical cursing, and the game provides that in spades.

I tried the Echoes mode a little. I didn’t care for it. Getting points is highly reliant on using a variety of skill-shots, and hitting a bunch of enemies with a skill-shot all at once. And that requires a fair amount of luck. I just don’t have the patience to make sure I get a throat-shot and a head-shot in the same run. It’s funny, since the mode is, conceptually, not all that different from the challenge system in Mirror’s Edge. But Mirror’s Edge relied much more on refinement and precision, whereas I felt like Bulletstorm required a lot more trial and error, and then no lack of tedium in making sure all the different skill-shot boxes are checked.

So, on the whole, I had a good time. It’s got a pleasant look. It’s got a distinctive personality. The skill-shot system brings enough variety to keep things interesting, even if the enemy variety doesn’t. And I appreciate a game with good slide and kick moves.

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