Ever since Free Radical Design (now Crytek UK) delivered the final installment of their excellent Timesplitters series with Timesplitters: Future Perfect in 2005, the presence of humour in first person shooters has taken a pretty significant tumble into the realms of the basically non-existent. Granted, broad comedy would instantly derail the level of intensity in something like Modern Warfare, but with Bungie’s Halo and Insomniac’s Resistance series’ taking themselves increasingly (and sometimes absurdly) seriously, veteran gamers brought up on the likes of Duke Nukem will probably be thrilled to hear that EA’s Bulletstorm promises to, “put the fun back into first person shooters”.
Bulletstorm‘s plot and many of its characters will seem familiar to anyone who’s played almost any first person shooter at some point over the past decade, but although the story machinations are still shrouded in secrecy, some of the dialogue heard in the recently-released in-game footage suggest a rather vivid pastiche rather than just another tired re-tread. You play (of course) as part of a ragtag bunch of mercenaries who have been banished to an abandoned paradise planet called Stygia, and will need to inventively dispatch a seemingly endless horde of flesh-eating mutants, en route to exacting revenge on the (of course) heinously bent bureaucrats who banished you there in the first place.
The main selling point is the extraordinarily addictive-looking gunplay, all of it points-based, and all of it steadfastly encouraging you to perpetually execute more inventive and elaborate kills at every turn. In one instance that we saw demonstrated live, an enemy corpse was rigged with a set of explosive charges, before grizzled muscleman Gray (your character) booted the whole package into a swarm of the deceased one’s brethren. A buzz-inducing number of different skillshot point and multiplier sets flashed up on the screen, and the precision that’ll be required of you in the race to maintain both the score and the multiplier, could be the key to Bulletstorm‘s success.
Developer Epic Game’s Design Director Cliffy Bleszinski has said that Bulletstorm “makes Gears Of War look tame” and the action does seem to have been directly inspired by a recent selection of overblown action comics, in a much more deliberate fashion than Gears Of War’s slightly daft ultra-violence was. You get points for shooting your assailants in the genitals, you get points for multiple kills, but you get the most points for being creative, with shrewd usage of the environments (many of which feature some pretty nasty infected plant life than can be used to your advantage) being one of the most bountiful ways to elevate your skillshot tally.
Whether those skillshot points will enable you to do anything other than merely unlock more weapons (to thus garner even more skillshot points) isn’t yet clear, but as anyone who played Bizarre Creation’s terribly underrated points-and-multiplier-based shooter The Club will know, if the overriding compulsiveness of that core gameplay is impeccably maintained, then the other frills will dissolve into complete insignificance. Whilst The Club sensibly kept its threadbare plot to the cutscene-only sidelines, Bulletstorm‘s is to the fore, and whether it can maintain The Club’s same level of balance remains to be seen. However, all signs are steadily starting to point in the direction of the halls marked ‘classic’, and of all the first person shooters shown so far at E3, Bulletstorm is the most easy to get palpably excited about.
Watch the Bulletstorm trailer here…