Kill with Skill
The First-person shooter genre has become a bit dull just lately. It is not that their is a lack of decent games out there, but the vast majority of them take themselves far too seriously. They are realistic, and when they are not realistic they are gritty and grim, and when they are not gritty and grim, they are just plain boring. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a first-person shooter that just revolved around having fun?
As if answering a prayer, along comes BulletStorm from People Can Fly. Now, I am not talking about the kind of fun that can be had during a family barbecue here. Think more along the lines of a same-sex holiday to one of the more adult-based resorts. This is grown up stuff and most certainly not for the little ones. Why? Because the game contains more expletives than the average Gordon Ramsey cooking show and more flailing limbs than River Dance, except these limbs are not attached to bodies, if you know what I mean.
The player takes on the role of Grayson Hunt. Although he has a name that has seemingly been stolen from a lawyer or doctor, he is in fact a hard-as-nails man’s man. He also happens to be the leader of a assassins (well, a team that goes around killing people, calling them assassins does suggest a certain amount of finesse that just doesn’t seem to apply) who discover that their crazed commanding officer has been using them for his personal errands. At this point the team, known as Dead Echo, go rogue.
We then jump forward in time a bit to see Hunt and his crew dealing with yet another bounty hunter intent on claiming the reward for their heads. But, as luck may have it, the opportunity arises to take revenge on their former commanding officer on board his flagship. Following a small amount of space combat and some rather bad decisions made under the influence of alcohol, both Hunt’s and his former commander’s ships crash onto the surface of a planet.
Things then just go from bad to worse as the planet they have crashed onto is a former resort planet built by slaves who now basically run things, Hunt’s crew is dead with the exception of Sato who has been haphazardly repaired and is now more machine than man, and Hunt’s former commander is still alive, damn him! Players will now have to take Hunt through the seven chapters of the single player campaign, facing off against psychotic gang members and a variety of local wildlife.
So far, you may be thinking that this doesn’t sound like fun, but instead sounds just like every other FPS out there, albeit with an interesting story and over the top setting. But what really raises this game in the fun stakes is the Skillshot system. In the run up to the games’ release, the phrase “Kill with skill” has been thrown around a lot, and with good reason. Players are encouraged to think creatively as they go around killing their adversaries. Shoot someone in the head? Unimaginative. Kick someone into the air, turn and shoot another enemy in the head, then spin back to finish off the guy still flying through the air? Much more impressive.
Early on in the game, the player comes across a handy piece of equipment that resembles some kind of energy lasso. This item can be used to grab enemies, or items, from some distance away and launch them towards you, all in slow motion. Using this, the player can trigger many of the Skillshots and will find themselves trying all manner of ways of killing their slow moving enemy to find them all. There are over 100 different Skillshots listed, some of which the player can see and aim for, others are hidden and will be found through experimentation.
Achieving these Skillshots will see the player rewarded, although repeated use of the same Skillshot will yield lesser and lesser rewards. The rewards come in the form of points that can then be used to purchase upgrades, extra ammo and the such.
Whilst this is a huge draw during the single player campaign, and certainly handy during times of scarce ammunition, the Skillshot system certainly comes into it’s own in one of the other two modes, Echoes. In this mode player are given a small section of any given level and challenged to race through it as quickly as possible, whilst racking up as high a score as they can. This is then uploaded to a leaderboard where players are able to compare scores and earn bragging rights. It is in Echoes that the player will find themselves planning their Skillshots to achieve the maximum number of points, simply to get one up on their buddies.
The other mode in BulletStorm is Anarchy, which is a four-player co-op affair that has a lot in common with Horde mode from Gears of War 2. In Anarchy however, the players can play around with the Skillshot system and are able to indulge in some high scoring co-op Skillshots for an added edge.
The eagle-eyed of you may have noticed that BulletStorm is missing what has become a staple amongst first-person shooter games, the Deathmatch mode. Whilst this is certainly a surprising omission and the other modes included don’t really scratch that “shoot my buddy in the head” itch, it would not surprise me if this mode were added through DLC in the future, and until then there is certainly plenty to be getting on with.
BulletStorm is unlikely to win any awards for subtlety. But in a time where FPS games are so damn serious, being able to let loose and see your enemies ripped limb from limb is surely welcome. The lack of Deathmatch is a shame, but finding all of those 100+ imaginative ways to kill an enemy is what will keep the players coming back. BulletStorm is a breath of fresh air and a worthy purchase for any fan of shooters or mindless violence.