BulletstormPublisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Xbox 360
, PC, PlayStation 3
UK Price (as reviewed): £38.89 inc. VAT
US Price (as reviewed): $59.95 exc. Tax
There's a move in Bulletstorm called the Fireball. It involves using the Thump attack from your telekinetic leash to toss enemies up into the air, then shooting a cluster of their suspended, flailing bodies with the alternate fire on the flare gun. Mid-air combustion occurs and you can then watch as your helpless foes are set ablaze, eventually tumbling to the floor with a few sizzling fleshy pops for good measure.
It's this level of creative slaughter that is Bulletstorm's raison d'etre; why it exists and why it's such good fun to play for the most part. It's all about, to use the vernacular, kicking ass and chewing bubble gum – even down to borrowing old Duke's big boot attack.
As Grayson Hunt, intergalactic ne'er-do-well with a troubled past, you find yourself stranded on an unfriendly planet with a part-robot ally and a feisty female commando, plus your nemesis and a whole legion of mutants, alien plants and strange, burnt creatures that like screeching at you.
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Thus begins an adventure to settle old scores and find a way off-planet – an adventure that takes Grayson through alien lairs, crumbling skyscrapers and into a nightclub where you’ll find chain-gun wielding mini-bosses and 70s disco funk. Groovy.
Irrespective of which platform on which you choose to play, some of the scenery is very impressive indeed, especially on the PC where the addition of proper anti-aliasing makes a big difference. Even on the Xbox 360 it's visually a cut above the rest, with vibrant colours and scenery. It certainly provides an entertaining backdrop for the blood-drenched action.
What really dominates your attention isn’t the variety of levels, though, but the number of ways to kill and maim the fodder that the maps funnel towards you. Combo-kills are Bulletstorm’s defining feature and the aforementioned Fireball is just the tip of the iceberg. Every weapon and device you can wield in the game has a primary and a 'charge' shot, which often offers a completely different attack. You’ve also got the telekinetic leash, which is a Just Cause 2-style tether that can drag enemies towards you or toss them in the air at your whim. Hunt's also got a mean kick to him, plus a sliding charge, both of which launch enemies into the air in slow motion.
Just with these basic weapons and attacks, there's plenty of scope for varying how you deal with enemies – and Bulletstorm encourages you to constantly search for new methods for your murders. Basic moves involve simply shooting your opponent, kicking and shooting him or kicking him onto some scenery, such as a cactus or off a cliff. Placing your bullets in certain areas, such as the neck and groin, will also bring a handy score boost.
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Developer People Can Fly has gone to great lengths to sprinkle all sorts of unique and varied death traps all over the place, into which you can boot your enemy. Electrified control panels, the gaping maws of hungry plants, sharp pieces of scaffolding – just a few of the environmental hazards you can use to add a little extra twist to each kill you make.
Then you've got all the other weapons, each with their two modes of fire and a large variety of unique skill shots associated with them. The Flail Gun spits out an explosive bolas that can wrap itself around enemies, or be used in charge mode to slice through foes before detonating. You could decide to wrap it around the legs of your enemy, or his neck, or perhaps tape his head to that lamp-post he's standing next to.
The possibilities aren't endless, but they're so plentiful that you almost certainly won't get bored with trying to discover new ones in just one playthrough. There are drill guns, one-off weapons that can be ripped from enemy corpses and giant Venus Fly Traps – of course you’re not going to get bored.